The great free-range chickens I buy from Essex Farm CSA come frozen. Although I love roast chicken, I don’t always plan the defrosting part far enough in advance. Could I roast a chicken frozen? I wondered. So I tried it.
The results were wonderful —uniformly cooked and juicy throughout — for little effort and only about 50% more cooking time. Everyone I’ve told about it wanted to know how I did it. It seems many people have found themselves with a frozen chicken they wanted to roast.
It took three tries to get just the right sequence of prep/temperature/time. The third time was on-the-fly when I had just enough time to get the bird roasted before a meeting, so I salted it and threw it onto the pan untrussed (thinking that not having the legs held tight to the body would help the frozen bird cook more evenly). Then I haphazardly bundled it with the scraps of thyme and rosemary I had in my fridge. That’s when I had the inspiration to roast the bird breast-down for the first half hour, on the theory that the defrosting juices would stay in the breast longer.
One caveat: The only downside to this method is that you cannot salt the bird well in advance, as I usually do to make sure the seasoning penetrates through the flesh. To make up for this, I use a little more salt than usual. And I lightly salt the carved pieces.
Most o the chickens I encounter these days don’t have giblets. But if your do, read How to handle the giblets that may be in your frozen bird, at bottom.
Method: How to Roast a Whole Frozen Chicken
My down-and-dirty method for roasting a chicken is to salt it inside and out, place on a rack in a roasting pan and then strew the bird with whole sprigs of herbs that smolder in the oven and give the bird a lovely flavor. That said, after the first half hour of roasting, when the bird has thawed somewhat, you could add whatever seasonings you like to cavity and skin.
Serves four or so
1 frozen roasting chicken, 4 to 4.5 pounds
Kosher salt (figure about 1 teaspoon per pound)
1 garlic clove, smashed
Fresh rosemary, thyme, savory and/or sage sprigs, in any combination
Preheat the oven to 350′. Line a shallow pan with aluminum foil to prevent the defrosting juices from burning on the bottom of the pan. Position a rack that will elevate the chicken 3/4 to 1-inch above the surface.
Remove the chicken from the freezer and run under hot water until the packaging is softened enough to remove. If any packaging is still adhering to the chicken run hot water over it until you can pull it away. Swish hot water in the cavity as well. If there is a package of giblets in the cavity, run hot water into the cavity until it thaws enough to allow you to remove the giblets. (Or see at bottom for another way to handle it).
Do not dry the bird; the moisture will help the salt to adhere.
Holding the chicken in one hand, sprinkle a liberal amount of salt into the cavity and over the entire chicken. Place the chicken breast side down on the rack.
Place the garlic and some bruised sprigs of herbs into cavity. Nestle herb sprigs under the bird and place some loosely on top. The sprigs will smolder and scent the bird so they don’t have to be in pristine shape.
Place the pan in the oven and roast 30 minutes.
Increase the temperature to 450′ and roast 15 minutes longer.
Remove the pan from the oven, and using two wooden spoons or tongs, tip the juices that have pooled into the cavity into the pan. Carefully turn the bird breast side up. Scatter herbs over the breast and add more to the cavity if you wish. Continue cooking 35 minutes longer and insert an instant read thermometer into the thigh joint to determine the bird’s internal temperature. It is done when it reads 165′- 170′. If it has not yet hit 165′, return the bird to the oven and cook 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Discard the charred herbs and transfer the bird to a platter. Serve while the skin is crisp.
How to handle the giblets that may be in your frozen bird
The best solution is to remove the giblet bag from the cavity before freezing the bird, especially if you know they are in a plastic bag.
If the giblets are stuck in the frozen bird:
—Run hot water into the cavity until if softens enough to allow you to remove the giblets. Hot water won’t hurt the chicken and if it defrosts a bit in the process, so much the better.
—Although I have never tried it, you could roast the bird with the giblet package inside and remove it when the the bird has defrosted enough, after about 30 minutes. (I would NOT do this if the giblets are wrapped in plastic).
Remove the pan from the oven. Use wadded paper towels to hold the bird in place with one hand while you use tongs to grab the giblet packet with the other. Then sprinkle salt into the cavity and add herbs or other seasonings.
Having giblets in the cavity may change the cooking time somewhat; add additional cooking time if need be, gauging it by taking the birds internal temperature.