~ Instant Pots do so many things really, really well. But can you cook frozen chicken in the Instant Pot? (And what about other meats?) Here’s what you need to know … with plenty of tips to ensure success! ~
Like lots of other people, you might be wondering if you can use your handy-dandy Instant Pot to cook frozen chicken (or other meats). Specifically, that breaks down to two questions:
1. Is it SAFE to cook frozen chicken in an Instant Pot?
2. And does it actually work well?
Yes! You absolutely can put frozen chicken in your Instant Pot. Not only is it safe, but it also works beautifully! Read on for all the details, tips and recipe ideas …
Because – seriously – how great is this?!?
No problem. That amazing pressure cooker there on your counter is ready and waiting with a solution!
Hey hey … grab up that bargain and turn it into a quick dinner! (In fact, you might wanna nab some extra frozen chicken whenever you see a good deal, and just keep it on hand in the freezer. Smart!)
So let’s break this down into what you need to know …
Is It Safe to Put Frozen Chicken in Your Instant Pot (Without Thawing)?
If you’ve read our super-popular article about whether it’s ok to use frozen meat in a Crock-Pot, then you know frozen meats don’t work well in every cooking application, without being safely thawed first.
The main issue revolves around how long the meat hangs out in the “Danger Zone.” That’s the temperature range between 40°F and about 140°F (according to the USDA) where bacteria can rapidly grow, multiply, and produce toxins that could potentially make someone sick.
If your frozen meat will take too long to move through the Danger Zone as it cooks, it can open the door for food-borne illness, since bacteria can double every 15-20 minutes in the Danger Zone.
Luckily (unlike other cooking methods such as your Crock-Pot) an Instant Pot cooks very quickly – which means it will rapidly get frozen meat to a safe temperature, past that dreaded Danger Zone.
The Bottom Line on Safety
Even the USDA agrees that it’s safe to cook frozen meats in an electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot.
Ok, but that brings us to the second question …
Does It Actually Work Well to Use Frozen Chicken in a Pressure Cooker?
Yes! It actually can work very, very well to use your Instant Pot for quickly cooking frozen meat – without any need to thaw it first!
There are a few tips that will help ensure the very best outcome – whether that’s a deliciously juicy chicken breast, easily shreddable chicken for your weekly meal prep, or just an easy way to adapt your favorite Instant Pot recipes so you don’t have to waste time with thawing the meat first.
Here are a few key tips to help you out …
Tip #1 – Your Chicken Will Take Longer to Cook.
It might seem obvious, but it’s important to remember that any recipe you’re cooking with frozen meat (rather than fresh/thawed meat) will need extra cooking time.
For just a pound or two of frozen chicken breasts, for example, I’ve found that adding just 5 extra minutes may be all you need (as with my recipes for Instant Pot Chicken Tacos and Instant Pot BBQ Chicken).
Note, though, that depending on the size and type of meat you’re cooking, you may need anywhere from 50%-100% more time for some meats.
You can find recipes that are tested and written specifically for using frozen chicken, so they likely will already have factored in that additional time for you.
Adapting Existing Recipes (Written for Fresh Chicken)
But, if you’re trying to adapt a recipe that’s written for fresh/thawed meats, you’ll need to figure out how much time you need to add. This varies by recipe and the quantity or type of meat. (But here’s a free, handy time chart that’ll give you a rough idea of timings, to get you started.)
In general, the main adjustment you’ll need to make to a recipe is simply the amount of time needed. You typically won’t need to make other changes – and will usually still follow a recipe’s directions about things such as selecting a high pressure setting, and about choosing a natural pressure release vs. a manual/quick release. You’ll also still need to add the amount of water specified in the original recipe to the bottom of the pot (which is usually at least a cup of water, chicken broth, or other liquid).
Tip # 2 – Your Instant Pot Will Take Longer to Come to Pressure.
Various factors can affect how long it takes for a pressure cooker to come up to pressure, seal, and then actually begin the cooking time. One of those factors is the temperature of the ingredients.
Not only will frozen meats require additional cooking time (as mentioned in Tip #1 above), but the colder ingredients mean that your Instant Pot will also take a little bit longer to come up to pressure and begin that cooking time.
In my testing with frozen Instant Pot chicken breast recipes, I’ve found that this is generally just an extra 4-6 minutes. But again, larger amounts or cuts of meat will likely need even more time.
Tip #3 – Smaller, Separate Pieces Will Cook Better.
I recommend starting with individually frozen chicken pieces. (Or smaller cuts or pieces of other meats.)
When chicken is frozen all together in one large chunk, it generally won’t cook very evenly or turn out as well.
If you do happen to have an enormous block of frozen-solid chicken pieces, I’d suggest gently and safely thawing them until you can break them apart.
Tip #4 – You Can Cook Any Part of the Chicken (and Even a Whole Frozen Chicken)!
Ok ok … I know I just said that smaller pieces of frozen chicken will work better than a big, frozen-solid hunk of meat.
But, if you think about it, a frozen chicken isn’t exactly a solid brick, since it has an open interior. Maybe that’s why recipe after recipe excitedly proclaims that you can, in fact, cook an entire frozen chicken in your Instant Pot (if your IP model is big enough, of course)!
From frozen chicken breasts to thighs, whole legs, tenders … even the whole chicken. You really can cook any part of a frozen chicken in an Instant Pot, without any thawing at all!
Grab pressure cooking recipes for virtually every part of the bird in our yummy collection of Instant Pot Frozen Chicken Recipes!
Tip #5 – You Can Always Check the Temperature with a Thermometer.
Nobody wants to eat raw chicken … and of course, it’s just not safe.
The best way to ensure that your frozen chicken has thoroughly cooked through is to use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the chicken has reached the USDA-approved temp of 165°F. (Remember to check in the middle of the thickest portion of the chicken.)
What if your chicken hasn’t quite gotten up to temp? You can simply nestle it back into your pressure cooker’s inner pot and restart the cooking for just a little bit of extra time.
Don’t Use Your Instant Pot’s Slow Cooker Setting for Frozen Chicken!
All of this discussion about cooking frozen chicken (or other types of meat) in your Instant Pot refers specifically to using your Instant Pot as a pressure cooker.
Just as it’s not safe to cook frozen meat in a Crock-Pot, it’s similarly not considered safe to use your Instant Pot’s slow cooker function for cooking frozen meats.
Always stick with the pressure cooker function if your meat is frozen.
Okay! So you’ve got that frozen chicken … and now you know all about how to cook it up beautifully in your Instant Pot. All you need now are some fabulous recipes.
You know I’ve got ya covered …
Instant Pot Chicken Recipes … From Frozen!
More Instant Pot Info and Recipes
New to using an Instant Pot? Or maybe you’re trying to decide which one to buy?
We can help with that, too!
Check out one of these helpful articles for more tips and information about choosing the right Instant Pot for you, what things it does well (like cooking frozen chicken!) and what it doesn’t, plus ideas about alllllll the things you can use your Instant Pot for!
~ by Shelley