I’m frequently asked how to pressure cook frozen chicken breasts. Chicken breasts are so versatile; they’re a great base for lots of delicious meals—and when you have a pressure cooker, frozen chicken isn’t a problem!
I’m sure many of you are like me and when dinner time rolls around, I find myself wondering what to cook for dinner. That’s why I almost always have a big bag of frozen Costco chicken breasts in the freezer.
Chicken cooked from frozen is excellent in recipes that call for cooked chicken, to add protein to your salads, or just to freeze in ready-to-use portions.
In my cookbook, The Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook, I give lots of tips about pressure cooking meats from frozen. I prefer not to cook large cuts of meat, like roasts, from frozen. Frozen meat doesn’t brown well, doesn’t cook as evenly, and doesn’t absorb marinades.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to scrap cooking and order takeout if you’ve forgotten to thaw your chicken in advance! Chicken is easy to cook from frozen, and you’ll get great results. Here are my go-to methods for getting tender, moist chicken cooked from frozen chicken breasts.
Defrosting Chicken in Your Pressure Cooker
This is my very favorite way to quickly take chicken breasts from frozen to recipe-ready—I use this method at least once a week!
If your recipe calls for diced, thawed chicken, but you didn’t defrost the chicken breasts in advance, there’s an easy fix! Pour 1 cup water into your pressure cooking pot and place a trivet in the bottom. Balance the frozen chicken breasts on the trivet, stacking crosswise if necessary. Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and 1 minute cook time.
When the cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker and use a quick pressure release. Remove the chicken from the pot, dice it into small pieces, and continue with the recipe as directed.
With this method, the chicken will cook a little bit on the outside, but the inside with be thawed, easy to dice, and ready to use in your favorite pressure cooker recipes. You can also use this method to thaw your chicken breasts and then coat the breasts with your favorite barbecue sauce and grill them on the barbecue.
Use this technique with your favorite diced chicken recipes:
- Pressure Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Salad
- Pressure Cooker Chicken Bacon Penne Pasta in a Garlic Cream Sauce
- Easy Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker Chinese Lemon Chicken
- Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Honey Sesame Chicken
- Chicken Enchilada Pasta
- Quick & Easy Walking Tacos
- Pressure Cooker Hawaiian BBQ Chicken
- Pressure Cooker Chicken Tinga
How to Pressure Cook Frozen Chicken Breasts
If you’re not going to dice the chicken to use in a recipe or finish the chicken on the grill, then you’ll need to decide if you want sliceable chicken or tender, fall-apart shreddable chicken. Sliced breasts need a shorter cook time than shredded breasts.
Determine cook time using thickness or weight
One of the most important parts of cooking from frozen is determining the right cook time. This cook time will vary based on the size and thickness of the breasts, as well as whether you plan to slice or shred the finished chicken. When cooking from frozen, do your best to select chicken breasts that are similar in size and thickness.
To determine a cook time by thickness, for sliceable chicken, I’ve had good success using 5 to 6 minutes of cook time per inch at the thickest part of the breast. (Remember, if multiple breasts are frozen together, those breasts will cook like one very thick piece of meat. Be sure to separate your chicken breasts before attempting to cook from frozen.)
To determine a cook time by weight, use a food scale to determine how many ounces each breast is. For sliceable chicken, I’m a big fan of the Rich Lum method, which recommends adding 1 minute of cook time for each ounce of chicken. If you’re cooking multiple breasts, use the average weight.
For shredded chicken breasts, a good rule of thumb is add 3 to 4 minutes to the cook time above for shreddable chicken breasts.
Choose to cook on a trivet or right in the pot
Some people prefer to cook their chicken on a trivet so that it steams. Others prefer to cook their chicken in a liquid to flavor the chicken as it cooks. My preference is to use a trivet or a steamer basket when the desired end-result is gently cooked chicken. Use what method works best for you!
To cook on a trivet, place 1 cup water or cooking liquid in the bottom of the pressure cooking pot, then place a trivet in the bottom. Carefully lay the chicken breasts on a trivet. If you’re cooking multiple breasts, you can stack them crosswise on top of each other or use a second trivet to further separate your meat—again, choose works best for you.
To cook right in the pot, place 1 cup of cooking liquid (water, broth, juice) in the bottom of the pressure cooking pot. Place the chicken breasts in the cooking pot directly in the liquid, overlapping as little as possible.
Choose your release
While many people recommend using a natural pressure release for meats, with chicken I prefer to allow the pressure to release naturally for just 5 minutes, then finish with a quick pressure release. Chicken cooks so quickly that I’ve found it can easily become overcooked with a longer pressure release. However, I believe that there’s no right or wrong way to pressure cook. If you prefer a natural pressure release with your chicken, that’s fine—just reduce the High Pressure cook time by a few minutes until you find the sweet spot.
Check the temperature
I highly recommend getting in the habit of checking the temperature of pressure cooked foods. This is especially important when cooking from frozen, since frozen meat has a tendency to not cook as evenly. Frozen chicken breasts should reach an internal temperature of 165°F at the thickest part of the meat. If your meat hasn’t reached your desired temperature, lock the lid in place and cook at High Pressure for a few minutes more.
Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker Frozen Chicken Breasts
- 4 frozen chicken breasts (7-ounces each, about 1½-inch thick), separated
- 1 cup chicken broth, water, or juice
- Optional seasonings (e.g., salt, pepper, lemon pepper, garlic powder, onion powder)
Carefully place the frozen chicken breasts in bottom of the the pressure cooking pot, overlapping as little as possible. Add 1 cup desired cooking liquid to the pressure cooking pot and any desired seasonings. Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and 7 minutes cook time. (Add 2 or 3 minutes if you want shreddable chicken.)
When the cook time ends, allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then finish with a quick pressure release. Use an instant-read thermometer to verify each chicken breast is at least 165°F in the thickest part of the breast. Remove the cooked-through chicken breasts to a platter; if any chicken breasts have not reached that point, return the lid and cook at High Pressure for another minute or two, then finish with a quick pressure release.
Use this technique with your favorite recipes that call for cooked chicken:
- Hearty Butternut Squash Soup with Chicken and Orzo
- Pressure Cooker Asopado
- Quick Pressure Cooker White Chicken Chili
- Pressure Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
Recipes from the Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook that call for cooked or frozen chicken:
- Shortcut Chicken Noodle Soup, page 132
- Asian Chicken Noodle Soup, page 113
If you’re in a hurry to get dinner on the table, here are some great recipes that call for frozen chicken breasts:
Have you tried making chicken from frozen in the pressure cooker? What works best for you? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Let me know!