Chicken that's still frozen when it's time to start preparing dinner may delay your entre, but there's no need to abandon your original plans. Even when you don't have time to thaw chicken in the refrigerator, you can still cook it in spaghetti sauce for a satisfying meal the whole family can enjoy. Cooking frozen chicken requires proper technique and timing, however, to avoid foodborne illness.
Chill Out with a Lesson
Bake frozen chicken in the oven as long as you set a safe temperature of at least 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and no lower. Extend the normal cooking time for your chicken and spaghetti sauce dish by 50 percent to compensate for the fact that the chicken is frozen. So if a recipe calls for cooking boneless chicken breasts for 30 minutes at 350 F, you would cook them for 45 minutes instead.
Follow the same rule – increase the cooking time by 50 percent – for frozen chicken you choose to prepare with spaghetti sauce in a skillet. As the chicken thaws, cut it into strips to expedite the cooking, if you like. This is the right time to season the chicken, too, since frozen chicken deflects herbs and seasonings
Check the internal temperature of the chicken when you suspect that it’s done. A visual check of the chicken, especially if it’s covered in spaghetti sauce, could be misleading. The temperature should reach at least 165 F in the thickest region of the chicken, such as the breast or thigh.
Never put frozen chicken in a slow cooker; thaw it first, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most slow cookers are equipped with two settings: "low," which is equivalent to an oven temperature of 200 F, and "high," which is close to 300 F but still short of the minimum 325 F recommended for cooking chicken safely.
Heat up with Spaghetti Sauce
Heat some olive oil in a skillet set on a medium flame. Add the frozen chicken and cook it for about 4 minutes. Flip the chicken over and cook it for another 4 minutes. At this point, you should be able to slice the chicken in smaller pieces, if you like. Cook the chicken until it is nicely browned on both sides. Season it, if you wish, with salt and basil or Italian seasoning. Add the spaghetti sauce and any other accompaniments, such as peppers and onions. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonfat cooking spray. Spread the frozen chicken pieces in a single layer in the dish. Pour the spaghetti sauce over the chicken. Add chopped vegetables, if you wish, and other seasonings. Bake the chicken for 45 minutes – a time that already has been adjusted to account for the frozen chicken.
Sprinkle the chicken with mozzarella cheese, if you like, and cook it for another 5 minutes in the skillet or in the oven, or until the cheese melts. Sprinkle the dish with parsley and serve the chicken and spaghetti sauce over spaghetti or angel hair pasta.
Make a kid-friendly chicken and spaghetti sauce dish that could pass for chicken parmesan. Boil and drain some penne pasta and mix it with some spaghetti sauce. Pour the mixture in a small, sprayed baking dish. Place some frozen chicken nuggets on top of the pasta and top the entire dish with spaghetti sauce. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.
With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.