Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken?

It’s easy and fast to cook in bulk so what if you are a fan of chicken? Is it possible to cook a lot of chicken and then freeze what you don’t use? The simple answer is yes, as long as you follow our instructions. 

Freezing Cooked Chicken

The simple way of freezing cooked chicken (see also Can You Freeze KFC?) is to first put it in the fridge. Cooling it down first will get rid of any bacteria on the chicken. Once cooled down, put it in a Ziploc bag and put it in the freezer. Make sure that you squeeze the air out of the bag as otherwise, freezer burn can occur.

This will make the chicken taste unpleasant even though it isn’t detrimental to your health. It’s a good idea to put the date you put the chicken in the freezer on the bag. It is all too easy to forget, especially if you freeze a lot of food.

Let’s now look at freezing cooked chicken in more detail.

What is the Length of Time That You Can Freeze Cooked Chicken For?

Cooked chicken will last for up to three months in the freezer. If you keep it any longer, it probably won’t spoil, but it may lose some of its flavor.

How Safe is it to Freeze Cooked Chicken?

It is safe to freeze cooked chicken as long as you follow a few steps.

The first thing to do is to put the cooked chicken in an airtight container and put it in the fridge. This will allow the chicken to cool down at the right temperature. If you allow it to cool on the counter, there is more of a chance that harmful bacteria will form as it will be at a higher temperature. Another reason for not putting the cooked chicken straight in the freezer is that the hot food can bring up the temperature of the other food in the freezer, again allowing bacteria to form, especially if the food freezes again. You can keep the cooked chicken in the fridge for up to two days. Then you will need to put it in the freezer.

You don’t have to use airtight containers to freeze your chicken. You can use Ziploc bags or vacuum-sealed bags. If you are using Ziploc bags, remember to squeeze out all the air otherwise you might get freezer burn.

If you have a lot of chicken to freeze, it is best to separate it into more than one bag or container. Then you can defrost just as much as you need for one meal.

Before you put the bag or container into the freezer, remember to write on the date so that you don’t keep the chicken in the freezer for too long. 

Can You Freeze All Types of Cooked Chicken?

If you just intend to freeze plain cooked chicken, then you can freeze any part of the bird. You can even freeze the whole chicken if you have room in the freezer. However, if the chicken was part of a dish, you will have to decide if the other ingredients can be frozen.

For example, if you have made a chicken stroganoff, you may have problems freezing it as there is sour cream (see also How To Freeze Sour Cream) as one of the ingredients. Freezing dairy products is a whole different story. However, to get around this, you could make the dish without the sour cream, take out what you want to freeze and then add the sour cream to the rest afterwards.

The same goes for a chicken salad with mayonnaise (see also Can You Freeze Mayonnaise?). Mayonnaise has a habit of splitting when frozen and thawed. Also, lettuce might not freeze so well as it has a high water content (see also Can You Freeze Iceberg Lettuce?). It might end up mushy. If you want to make a chicken salad (see also Can You Freeze Chicken Salad), you would be best just freezing the chicken on its own and then preparing the other ingredients fresh. It won’t take much time. 

It doesn’t matter how you have cooked the chicken. Perhaps you have baked it, roasted it, grilled it, boiled it. They will all freeze well as long as you put them in the fridge before freezing.

Defrosting Frozen Cooked Chicken

There are different ways of defrosting cooked chicken. The best way is to put it in the fridge overnight to allow it to defrost slowly at a safe temperature. However, if you are in a hurry, you can put it in the microwave on the defrost setting. There are problems with this which we will look into later.

How long the chicken actually takes to defrost depends on the size and cut. A whole roast chicken (see also our article on freezing stuffing) will take a lot longer to defrost than a chicken leg or breast. To decide if your pieces of chicken have thawed out, check under the meat and in the middle. What you don’t want are cold parts. Be wary if you find ice as this can alter the flavor of the chicken. 

Once you are certain that the chicken has defrosted, you can cook with it. You want to make sure that it is hot all the way through. Heat it at 160F for a minimum of two minutes. Use a probe thermometer to check the temperature inside the meat. If it reaches the correct internal temperature of 165F it is safe to eat. Any bacteria in the chicken will be killed off at this temperature. 

It’s best to eat the chicken as soon as it’s cooked, but you can eat it up to 24 hours later. Perhaps you want to use it in a salad the following lunchtime. If you do this, always remember to put it into the fridge. You can then allow it to come up to room temperature, but don’t leave it out for longer than two hours as that’s when bacteria starts to form. In some cases, you can refreeze frozen and thawed chicken if you have defrosted too much. Read on for more about this.  

If you haven’t eaten or refrozen the chicken within 24 hours, it probably won’t be safe to eat so throw it away. It’s best to plan ahead to avoid food waste.

Can You Refreeze Cooked Chicken?

You can refreeze cooked chicken in certain circumstances. If you defrost the chicken in the microwave or on the countertop, you can’t refreeze it. This is because bacteria can develop very easily if you defrost using either of these methods. However, if you defrosted the chicken in the fridge and kept it at a temperature of 40F, then, yes, you can freeze it again. It is very unlikely that there will have been a chance for bacteria to develop. Just refreeze the chicken in the same way you did the first time. Of course, this can be a little time-consuming, so it’s better to just get out as much chicken as you need for one meal. 

How Long Can  You Keep Chicken in the Freezer?

It is important to write the date on your bag or container of chicken before you put it in the freezer so you can keep track of it. Cooked chicken usually lasts for up to three months in the freezer. You could keep it in the freezer for longer, but it might start to lose its taste. In addition, it can increase the risk of freezer burn. The food dehydrates and loses flavor, and while not detrimental to your health, the chicken won’t really be edible.

How Can You Tell if the Chicken Has Spoiled?

It is highly unlikely that your chicken will spoil if you have frozen it properly. However, always check, and if you see any of the signs we are now going to mention, throw the chicken out. It will probably have been affected by some sort of bacteria. 

If the chicken looks discolored then it has probably gone off. It will be a grayish-green color and won’t look at all appetizing. There might also be green spots on the chicken which can be moldy. 

Another sign that the chicken has spoilt is if it is slimy. You won’t be able to get rid of this by washing the chicken so throw it away,

The final warning sign that the chicken has gone off is simple. It will have a rancid smell which might be like ammonia. However, make sure that you smell it when it has defrosted to ensure that the smells didn’t come from other foods in the freezer.

Is it Possible to Freeze Raw Chicken?

Actually, it’s easier to freeze raw chicken than cooked chicken (see also Can You Freeze Marinated Chicken?) and it lasts for a lot longer. However, don’t freeze it in the packaging it comes in. These are the steps you should follow:

  1. Take off the packaging and cover the chicken with plastic wrap. Make sure that you wrap it tightly to avoid freezer burn. It is important that you don’t wash the chicken before you do this as some water may remain on the chicken and this will ruin the taste of the chicken.
  2. Wrap the chicken again in aluminum foil.
  3. Put the chicken into a freezer bag.

You should write the date you are freezing the chicken on the bag. However, you can keep frozen raw cooked chicken in the freezer for an indefinite time. The chances of it spoiling are very low, though to get the best flavor, defrost within a year. 

Conclusion

It’s a great idea to cook a lot of chicken and then freeze it. It will save you lots of time and you will be able to produce exciting meals really quickly. As long as you follow our instructions, you shouldn’t go far wrong. 

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