Q. I’m a big fan of buying in bulk, and when chicken was on sale for half-price, I stocked up! Now my fridge is full of chicken and I’m starting to worry that I shouldn’t have bought so much. Can you freeze chicken?
A. Absolutely! In fact, chicken freezes really, really well and thawed chicken retains most of the same texture and flavor as fresh. Since chicken has the potential to grow harmful salmonella bacteria, proper handling of chicken during the freezing and thawing process is important for safety. When properly frozen, raw chicken can last up to a year in the freezer.
To freeze chicken, plan wrap carefully in plastic wrap or butcher paper so that chicken is completely covered. Place wrapped chicken in freezer safe plastic containers or freezer bags and remove excess air. For best results and to avoid freezer burn, consider using a vacuum sealer to remove all the air from the package. Label and date freezer bags. Place the chicken in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up before stacking chicken packages so that the chicken freezes in their original shapes. If you plan to use individual pieces of chicken, consider wrapping individual pieces so that a piece can be removed from the freezer and thawed without thawing all the other pieces.
To thaw chicken, remove package from the freezer and thaw the chicken in the fridge for several hours or overnight. Never thaw chicken on the counter, as uneven thawing can lead to warm spots in the chicken and lead to dangerous salmonella growing, which can cause food poisoning. Thawed chicken should be kept refrigerated until used, ideally within 2-3 days of being thawed. Chicken should always be cooked according to package directions to ensure that harmful bacteria is killed and the chicken is safe to consume.
Cooked chicken can also be frozen. It’s much less likely to stick together when frozen, so cooked chicken can be placed in a freezer bag without being wrapped in plastic wrap first. Cooked chicken will lose moisture faster than raw chicken, so it should be used within 2-3 months of being frozen. To that cooked chicken, place it in the refrigerator until thawed completely. Cooked chicken can also be added from frozen to dishes while they’re cooking, such as soups and stews. Consider freezing cooked chicken sliced or pulled for easier addition to recipes directly from the freezer.