Chicken legs make for a fast, nutritious and tasty meal. They can come frozen, and defrosting the legs can take a long time. The legs can be safely cooked in the oven from frozen, saving you the trouble of defrosting the legs, although there are some important points to keep in mind — namely cooking temperature and seasoning.
Cooking Frozen Chicken
Thawing chicken is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Cooking chicken legs from frozen removes this risk, as the meat cooks while it is thawing. Cooking from frozen is especially convenient if you only need to cook a small amount such as one or two legs; thawing the legs then cooking them may be more trouble than it is worth. However, cooking chicken legs from frozen takes longer, requiring upward of 50 percent more cooking time.
Seasoning Frozen Chicken
Chicken legs cannot be coated or seasoned in a frozen state. Season or coat the legs with a marinade or dry rub prior to freezing the meat. If you are pressed for time and did not season the legs before freezing, partially defrost the legs by heating them in the microwave for one to two minutes on the defrost setting. This thaws the exterior of the leg while keeping the interior frozen. Coat the legs with seasonings — the legs may not coat as evenly — and immediately bake them.
Bake Chicken Legs
Frozen chicken legs can be baked as is or with other liquids and seasonings. This second option is especially useful if you are not able to season the legs before freezing. Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the frozen legs in an oven-safe pan along with any liquid, seasonings or root vegetables. A good blend is olive oil, crushed garlic, oregano, marjoram and lemon juice. Add potato and carrot pieces as you like. For less fuss, you may use a mix of white wine, Dijon mustard and minced garlic. Place the pan with the chicken in a center rack and cook for 50 to 60 minutes. Skin-on chicken legs self-baste so leave the legs untouched until they are cooked.
Checking for Doneness
Use an instant-read thermometer to test chicken for doneness as only a thermometer ensures an accurate reading. Chicken is safe to eat when the internal temperature is 165 F at the thickest part of the leg; do not touch the bone when taking a reading. When cooked, chicken turns white and firms up and the juices run clear. However, in young chickens, the meat near the bone may stay pink when fully cooked. The veins in the legs also sometimes leak dark-colored blood, even though the meat is fully cooked.
References and ResourcesStillTasty: Do You Have to Thaw Frozen Chicken Before Cooking It?
U.S. Department of Agriculture: Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart
What's Cooking America: Internal Temperature of Chicken and Turkey
ResourcesFood & Wine: Quick Roasted Chicken With Mustard and Garlic
Woolworths: Lemon and Oregano Roast Chicken