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Why not to boil frozen chicken?

Cooking frozen chicken can be dangerous if not done properly. Many people think boiling frozen chicken is a quick and easy way to cook it, but this can lead to serious health risks. Here’s why you should avoid boiling frozen chicken and what to do instead for safely cooked chicken.

What are the dangers of boiling frozen chicken?

Boiling frozen chicken can greatly increase your risk of food poisoning. Here are the main concerns:

Bacteria multiplication

Freezing chicken slows the growth of bacteria, but does not kill them. As the chicken thaws during boiling, bacteria that was present before freezing will start to rapidly multiply. This includes dangerous, potentially deadly, bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli.


It takes much longer to properly cook chicken than to thaw it. If you boil frozen chicken, the outside will be cooked before the inside finishes thawing. This means the innermost meat near the bone can still be undercooked when you remove it from the water. Undercooked chicken is unsafe to eat.


As raw chicken thaws and cooks in the boiling water, bacteria and juices will start to leak out. This contaminates the water, increasing the spread of bacteria in your kitchen and on anything the boiling water touches.

What temperature should chicken be cooked to?

Chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to be safe to eat. At this temperature, bacteria including Salmonella are killed.

Here are some key chicken temperatures to know:

Temperature Level of Doneness
165°F (74°C) Safe to eat
160°F (71°C) Slightly pink
150°F (65°C) Danger zone for bacterial growth
140°F (60°C) Raw

Using a food thermometer is the only reliable way to check if chicken has reached a safe internal temperature. Never rely on visual cues or cooking times alone.

Why is 165°F the safe cooking temperature for chicken?

Here’s why chicken needs to reach 165°F internally to be safe to eat:

Kills bacteria

Salmonella is killed at temperatures around 165°F. Cooking chicken to 165°F destroys almost all harmful bacteria that may be present.

Covers all thickness

Chicken breasts, thighs, wings, and legs can vary greatly in thickness. Heating chicken to 165°F ensures even the thickest parts reach a high enough temperature to kill bacteria.

Accounts for carryover cooking

The internal temperature of chicken will continue rising about 5-10°F after removing meat from the heat source due to residual heat. Cooking to 165°F gives a buffer so carryover cooking brings the chicken safely above the 140°F bacterial danger zone.

Recommended by food safety organizations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control all advise cooking chicken to 165°F minimum internal temperature.

How long does it take to boil frozen chicken?

It can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour to fully boil frozen chicken depending on the size and cut of the pieces. Here are rough estimates:

  • Chicken breasts: 30-40 minutes
  • Chicken thighs: 40-50 minutes
  • Chicken wings: 20-30 minutes
  • Whole chicken: 60+ minutes

Even when thawed, ensuring chicken reaches 165°F requires extra cooking time beyond just boiling. For food safety, you must use a thermometer to check internal temperature.

Why you should never boil frozen chicken

Now that you know how long it takes to actually cook frozen chicken and how boiling can lead to dangerous undercooking, hopefully it’s clear why you should avoid this shortcut. Here are the top reasons not to boil frozen chicken:

Undercooking risk

It’s impossible to determine doneness of frozen chicken by boil time alone. Boiling from frozen leads to a high risk of undercooking.

Bacteria multiplication

As frozen chicken slowly thaws in warm water, bacteria has time to rapidly multiply to dangerous levels before the meat cooks through.

Food poisoning potential

Undercooked chicken and uncontrolled bacterial growth means a very high chance of severe food poisoning. Salmonella is no joke.


Thawed raw chicken leaking bacteria into boiling water raises the risk of spreading pathogens around your kitchen.

Safe alternatives to boiling frozen chicken

Instead of the risky shortcut of boiling frozen chicken, use these safe cooking methods:

Thaw in refrigerator

Thaw chicken slowly in the refrigerator 1-2 days before cooking. Bacteria can’t multiply quickly at fridge temperatures.

Cook from thawed

Cook thawed chicken right away until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Cooking from thawed ensures even heating.

Use a thermometer

The only way to confirm chicken has cooked to a safe internal temperature is to use a food thermometer.

Try braising or stewing

For moist, tender chicken, try slowly braising thawed chicken pieces in a flavorful liquid like broth.

Tips for safely thawing chicken

Here are some tips for safely thawing frozen chicken before cooking:

  • Thaw in refrigerator: Place frozen chicken in fridge 1-2 days before cooking. Never thaw at room temperature.
  • Submerge in cold water: Seal chicken in a plastic bag then submerge in cold water. Change water every 30 minutes until thawed.
  • Microwave: Use the microwave’s defrost setting to safely thaw. Cook immediately after thawing.
  • Cook from frozen: bake, braise, or sauté frozen chicken completely until 165°F internal temperature.

How to tell if chicken is undercooked

The only foolproof way to check chicken for safety and doneness is to use a food thermometer. But here are some visual signs that chicken may be undercooked:

  • Meat is still pink or has red spots
  • Juices run pink when chicken is pierced
  • Meat near bone shows little color change
  • Fatty parts still look translucent

If you notice any of these signs, return the chicken to heat until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Do not eat undercooked chicken.

Can you get sick from slightly undercooked chicken?

Yes, you absolutely can get sick from eating even slightly undercooked chicken. Here’s why:

Salmonella risk

Salmonella bacteria can survive in undercooked chicken below 165°F. Eating chicken with active Salmonella can cause food poisoning.

Danger zone temps

Chicken between 140°F and 165°F is in the danger zone temperature range optimal for bacteria growth.

Foodborne illness

Undercooked chicken has been linked to Campylobacter infections and over 200,000 Salmonella cases per year in the U.S. alone.


Salmonella and Campylobacter cause diarrhea, fever, cramps, nausea, and vomiting starting 12-72 hours after eating undercooked chicken.

So yes, always cook chicken thoroughly to 165°F internal temperature!

What temperature kills bacteria in chicken?

Most dangerous foodborne bacteria are killed at the following chicken cooking temperatures:

Bacteria Temperature Killed
Salmonella 165°F (74°C)
E. coli 160°F (71°C)
Campylobacter 165°F (74°C)
Staphylococcus aureus 165°F (74°C)

Moral of the story: Cook chicken to 165°F internal temperature to destroy pathogens! This kills over 99% of bacteria that may cause foodborne illnesses.


Boiling frozen chicken may seem like a quick cooking method, but it poses a high risk of undercooking and bacterial contamination. Always thaw chicken safely in the refrigerator before cooking through to 165°F internal temperature verified with a food thermometer. Take the extra time to prevent food poisoning from improperly prepared chicken. Follow safe thawing, cooking, and temperature guidelines to enjoy chicken that is juicy, delicious, and most importantly, safe to eat!