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Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken? Yes, If You Follow The Rules

I love to cook food in bulk, it’s easier and faster. So, I often end up with a lot of leftover, cooked chicken after a meal. To find out if I could make it last longer, I started researching whether it could be frozen. Here are some of the things I discovered. 

Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken
Winter blues are cured every time with a potato gratin paired with a roast chicken – Alexandra Guarnaschelli

Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken?

You will be able to freeze chicken. To do this, put it in the fridge. Cooling the meat will kill any bacteria. Then, you’ll need to transfer it to an airtight Ziploc bag. Write the date you freeze the chicken onto the Ziploc bag and place it in the freezer.  To allow you to freeze chicken safely, there are a few things that you should know. Let’s take a closer look at the dos and don’ts when freezing cooked chicken. 

How Long Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken? 

Any cooked chicken you put into the freezer, if stored correctly, should last in the freezer for up to four months. That’s quite a bit and another reason why it’s important to mark the date on the bag or container  you’re putting the chicken in.

Is It Safe To Freeze Cooked Chicken? 

A picture of a vacuum bag roll, air tight container and zip loc bags
Store it properly to avoid freezer burns!

If you’ve cooked up too much chicken, you don’t want it to go to waste. Thankfully, you will be able to freeze it and use it later. There are a few simple steps that you’ll need to follow to make sure that it’s safe. 

Firstly, place any unused cooked chicken into an airtight container and then put it into the fridge. This will allow it to cool before you freeze it. This will reduce the risk of bacteria multiplying on the chicken, which could potentially make you sick. You’ll be able to leave it in the fridge for up to two days.  After that, it’s best to put it into the fridge, to extend its lifespan. 

To freeze the chicken, put it into Ziploc bags, airtight containers, or vacuumed sealed bags. If you have a lot of chicken you might want to break it up into smaller portions. This will allow you to defrost the right amount for a single meal. If using a ziploc bag, push out all the air and seal the bag shut. 

Before you put it into the freezer, write the date you froze it onto the Ziploc bag. This will remind you of the date by when you should use it. We’ll discuss how long it will last a little later. 

Are There Any Types Of Cooked Chicken That Can’t Be Frozen? 

A picture of a chicken salad with mayonaise
Cooked chicken on its own can be frozen without any issues. Cooked chicken with other ingredients may not be able to be frozen!

Most types of cooked chicken can be frozen. However, this won’t always be the case. If the chicken was an ingredient within a meal, you’ll need to think about whether the other ingredients can be frozen.

To show how this works, let’s look at a chicken salad as an example. If the chicken salad contains any mayonnaise, this will often be unsuccessful if frozen.  The mayonnaise is likely to ‘split’ once thawed and will consequently ruin the meal in both taste and appearance. 

The cooking method, be it frying or boiling, won’t affect whether the chicken can be frozen. As long as you have put the chicken into the fridge first, to kill off any bacteria, you will then be safe freezing it. 

How Do You Defrost Frozen Cooked Chicken?

Freeze Cooked Chicken
A cooked chicken can be defrosted in the refrigerator and the microwave.

After freezing the chicken, it’s time to thaw it out and get stuck into the meal. You have a few options that you can use when doing this. If you’re in a hurry, you might want to pop the Ziploc bag into the microwave and use the defrost setting. If you can wait, place it in the fridge. 

How long it will take for the meat to defrost can vary. It will be based on the thickness of the meat. When testing to see if it’s thawed, check under the meat and in the middle. There should be no cold patches or pockets of ice.

Once the chicken has defrosted completely, you will be able to start cooking with it. Make sure to heat it, getting the meat piping hot. You’ll need to achieve a temperature of at least 160°F for at least two minutes. This will kill off any remaining bacteria, ensuring that the chicken is safe to eat. After thawing it out, you should only reheat the chicken once.

After you’ve thawed and heated it, it’s best to eat or re-freeze the chicken within 24 hours. This will ensure that you are getting the best flavors. It will also reduce the chances that you will get bacterial poisoning from the food. If you haven’t eaten it within 24 hours, it’s best to throw it away. 

Will I Be Able To Re-Freeze Cooked Chicken? 

Freeze Cooked Chicken
Only if defrosted in the refrigerator. If defrosting in the microwave consume straight away!

The method that you used to defrost the chicken will determine whether it’s safe to freeze it again. If you put it in the microwave, you won’t be able to freeze it again. The risk that the bacteria has grown on the chicken is too high. Also, if you left the chicken on the countertop, it’s best to avoid freezing it again. 

There is, however, one way that you will be able to safely refreeze the chicken and that is if you defrosted the chicken in the fridge, then stored it at under 40°F. In this case, the chances of bacterial growth are very low. So, you’ll be able to pop any remaining chicken back into the freezer, using the same method described above. 

How Long Does Chicken Last In The Freezer? 

how long Freeze Cooked Chicken
Up to 3 months to keep its quality

Before you put the chicken into the freezer, you should write the date it was frozen on the Ziploc bag. This will tell you when you should use it. Cooked chicken should be able to last for three months in the freezer. 

In some cases, it might be able to last for longer. However, you are then exposing your chicken to the risk of freezer-burn. This is where the flavor is released from the chicken because it’s been in the freezer for too long. Though it will still be safe to eat, it won’t be as pleasant to eat. 

What Are The Signs That The Chicken Has Spoiled? 

Freeze Cooked Chicken
The smell, the texture, and the smell

When you’re defrosting chicken, there are a few warning signs to look for. If you see these, it’s a sign that the chicken might have spoiled. If you see this, you should throw out the chicken. It’s likely been affected by bacteria. Eating it could lead to serious health conditions. 

Firstly, the chicken might be discolored. This is a strong indication that it has been affected by bacteria. Often, it will turn a grey-green color. It might also be affected by green spots, which could indicate the growth of mold. 

Another warning sign is the texture. If the chicken has been affected by bacteria, it will develop a slimy feel. Rinsing the chicken won’t get rid of this slimy feel. 

Finally, the most common warning sign is that the chicken will start to develop an unpleasant smell when it has spoiled. This will smell like ammonia. If the chicken was mixed with other foods, it may be difficult to detect this odor. 

Can You Freeze Raw Chicken?

Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken
Yes, you can!

Let’s talk briefly about how to handle raw chicken. In most cases, the packaging that the chicken comes in hasn’t been designed to be frozen for an extended period.

  • Remove any packaging and wrap the chicken tightly in plastic. Don’t wash it before you do this.
  • Then, wrap the meat again in heavy, aluminum foil.
  • Finally, seal the package into an airtight Ziploc bag. 

Write the date that you froze the chicken on the outside of the package. Technically, frozen chicken can last forever, though it’s best to use it within a year. If you froze chicken pieces, it’s best to eat them within six months. This will prevent freezer burn, so you’ll be able to still enjoy the flavor. 

Final Thoughts

Cooking chicken in bulk can be a great way to save time. You’ll be able to freeze any excess cooked chicken safely. As long as you follow the right procedure, it should be able to last for three months safely. So, try this out for yourself today. 

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