Freezing chicken is a fantastic way to preserve its freshness and flavor for later use. However, it’s not as simple as just tossing the chicken into your freezer. There are some key steps you need to take to ensure the chicken stays safe to eat and retains its quality.
To freeze chicken, divide it into portions and package it in airtight containers or freezer bags. Squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Label with the contents and date, then freeze at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Use within one year for optimal quality.
How To Freeze Raw Chicken
1. Divide the Chicken
If you have a whole chicken, divide it into portions – breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings, etc. This step is optional but highly recommended as it will make the thawing process quicker and more convenient, especially if you don’t plan on using the whole chicken at once.
Not sure how to do that? Check out our detailed guide on how to cut up a whole chicken for step-by-step instructions.
2. Package the Chicken
Choose the right type of packaging material to protect your chicken from freezer burn. This could be freezer bags, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or freezer paper.
Make sure to squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing to prevent moisture loss that can lead to freezer burn.
For an added layer of protection, you could double-wrap or bag the chicken. Make sure to date the package so that you can remember how long it has been frozen.
3. Freeze the Chicken
Place the packaged chicken in the coldest part of your freezer, typically the back, avoiding the door area which often has fluctuating temperatures.
Make sure to freeze chicken at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
4. Proper Rotation
When adding new chicken to the freezer, make sure to move the older packages towards the front, so they get used first.
This practice, known as rotation, ensures that chicken does not remain frozen beyond the recommended storage time.
Remember, quality counts when freezing chicken. Always freeze chicken that’s fresh and in good condition.
Freezing will only halt the growth of bacteria; it won’t kill bacteria that might already be present. To learn how to tell if chicken has gone bad check out our comprehensive guide for tips.
How To Freeze Cooked Chicken
Freezing cooked chicken is a convenient way to have ready-to-use protein for meal prepping. Follow these simple steps to freeze your cooked chicken properly:
1. Let it Cool
Before freezing cooked chicken, allow it to cool completely. This helps to maintain the quality of the chicken and prevents it from raising the temperature in your freezer, which could negatively affect other foods.
2. Divide into Portions
Portion the cooked chicken into meal-sized servings. This will make it easier to thaw only the amount you need for a future meal, reducing waste.
3. Package Properly
Package the portions in airtight containers or freezer bags to protect them from freezer burn. If you’re using freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing. If you have a vacuum sealer that would be ideal.
For added protection from ice crystals on your chicken, you can wrap the container or bag in a layer of aluminum foil.
4. Label and Date
Using a permanent marker, label the container or bag with the contents and date. This is important for keeping track of how long your cooked chicken has been frozen. Cooked chicken can be frozen for 2-3 months without a significant loss of quality.
Place the packaged cooked chicken in the freezer. Try to lay bags flat until they are frozen solid to save space.
When you’re ready to use your frozen cooked chicken, the safest way to thaw it is in the refrigerator.
If you’re in a hurry, you can also thaw it using the defrost function on your microwave, but be sure to use it immediately after to prevent bacterial growth.
Enjoy the convenience and time-saving benefits of having cooked chicken ready at your fingertips!
Freezing Cooked vs. Raw Chicken
When it comes to freezing chicken, safety is paramount. Always handle chicken with clean hands and tools to avoid cross-contamination.
Freezing doesn’t kill bacteria, but it does halt their growth, making it safe to store chicken for extended periods.
According to the USDA, raw chicken pieces can be frozen for up to 9 months to a year, while cooked chicken can be frozen for 2-3 months without significant loss of quality.
Always cook thawed chicken to the appropriate temperature to ensure it’s safe to eat. Here’s a quick comparison:
|Raw Chicken||Cooked Chicken|
|Shelf Life||Up to 1 year||2-6 months|
|Texture||Unchanged||May become dry|
|Flavor||Unchanged||Can change slightly|
Generally, raw chicken retains its quality longer than cooked chicken when frozen. However, having cooked chicken on hand can be convenient for quick meals.
Thawing Your Frozen Chicken
When it’s time to use your chicken, thawing it correctly is just as important as freezing it. Here are the best ways to defrost your chicken:
- In the Refrigerator: This is the safest method, but it also takes the longest. Move your frozen chicken from the freezer to the fridge at least 24 hours before you plan to cook it.
- In Cold Water: If you need your chicken thawed faster, you can submerge the sealed package in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the chicken is thawed.
- In the Microwave: This is the fastest method, but it can lead to uneven thawing. If you choose this method, cook the chicken immediately after thawing to ensure any bacteria that may have started growing during the thawing process is killed.
Do not thaw chicken at room temperature. This can allow bacteria to multiply to dangerous levels.
Common Mistakes When Freezing Chicken
Avoid these common mistakes when freezing chicken:
- Not sealing the package properly: A loose seal allows air to reach the chicken, leading to a freezer burn.
- Forgetting to label packages: You might forget when the chicken was frozen or even what’s in the package.
- Not planning ahead for thawing: Last-minute thawing can lead to unsafe practices or a rush that compromises the quality of the chicken.
The Best Packaging for Freezing Chicken
The type of packaging you use to freeze chicken can affect the quality of the chicken. Here are some of the best packaging options for freezing chicken:
- Airtight freezer bags: These bags are a good option for freezing chicken because they are airtight and help to prevent freezer burn. When using freezer bags, be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing.
- Vacuum-sealed bags: These bags are even better than airtight freezer bags at preventing freezer burn. However, they can be more expensive and require a vacuum sealer.
- Plastic wrap: Plastic wrap can be used to wrap chicken that will be frozen for a short period of time. However, it is not as airtight as freezer bags or vacuum-sealed bags, so it is not the best option for long-term freezing.
- Aluminum foil: Aluminum foil can be used to wrap chicken that will be frozen for a long period of time. It is a good option for preventing freezer burn, but it can be difficult to thaw chicken that has been wrapped in aluminum foil.
When choosing packaging for freezing chicken, it is important to consider the following factors:
- The length of time you will be freezing the chicken. If you will be freezing the chicken for a long period of time, you will need to choose a packaging option that is airtight to prevent freezer burn.
- The size of the chicken pieces. If you are freezing large pieces of chicken, you will need to choose a packaging option that is large enough to accommodate the pieces.
- The convenience of the packaging. You will want to choose a packaging option that is easy to use and store.
By following these tips, you can choose the best packaging for freezing chicken and ensure that your chicken stays fresh and safe to eat.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Freeze Chicken
Freezing chicken can be a game-changer in your meal planning and budgeting. By taking care to prepare, package, freeze, and thaw your chicken properly, you can enjoy delicious and safe chicken dishes anytime.
Remember, the key is reducing exposure to air, freezing at the peak of freshness, and thawing safely.
How to freeze chicken
- Cutting board
- Freezer bags or airtight containers
- If you have a whole chicken, divide it into portions – breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings, etc.
- Place the chicken portions into airtight containers or freezer bags. If using bags, try to squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing.
- Use a permanent marker to write the contents and the date on each package. This helps you identify the chicken and keep track of how long it has been frozen.
- Put the packages in the freezer, ideally at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Place them in the back of the freezer where the temperature is most consistent.
- If you're freezing more chicken later, move the older packages towards the front so they get used first.