how long can you freeze chicken?- Sometimes buying in quantity makes sense, whether it’s toilet paper, diapers, or chicken. The first two can live indefinitely, but poultry? Not at all. So, before you go shopping for this supper essential, let’s get one thing straight: how long can you freeze chicken? Friends, we have a solution for you—and it’s excellent news for you and your ‘family pack’ of chicken thighs.
how long can you freeze chicken?
The short answer is…eternity. According to the USDA, chicken may be preserved indefinitely if kept at a constant temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit. (Hint: That’s the temperature your freezer should be set to.) However, just because you may store a chicken in the freezer for two years does not imply you should.
Although chicken that has been properly frozen for years will not get you sick, it will undergo certain unappealing texture and flavor changes. As a result, the USDA has issued some more realistic guidelines: A whole chicken will taste fresh for up to a year in the freezer, but frozen chicken parts should be used within nine months for the best texture and flavor. That’s still a very decent run, so you’re unlikely to ever have to throw out your frozen chicken. (Note: Poultry that has been cooked before to freezing may not fair as well; if you sautéed that chicken breast before freezing it, consume it within four months.)
How to Tell If Your Frozen Chicken Is Still Good?
Reminder: If your chicken was still fresh when you put it in the freezer (and your freezer is operating correctly), your frozen chicken is unlikely to be bad. However, things may go wrong when defrosting (see below for suggested procedures), so knowing how to recognize ruined chicken is crucial just in case. “Spoilage bacteria can cause meat or poultry to become a dark color, develop an undesirable odor, and become slimy due to excessive bacterial populations,” according to the USDA. Bottom line: If your chicken smells wrong, has a sickening gray-green tint, or feels particularly slippery after thawing, don’t risk it.
How to Freeze Chicken?
The good news is that freezing raw chicken is a simple process. In reality, all you have to do is place the chicken in an airtight container and place it in the freezer. Avoid keeping chicken (or any meat) in the freezer’s door or front, where temperature fluctuations might be an issue. Instead, store your packed chicken at the rear, where it will be secure and fresh for the longest period possible.
How to Defrost Frozen Chicken Safely?
When you’re ready to cook your bird, use one of the three ways for thawing chicken allowed by the Food Safety Inspection Service.
1. Make use of the refrigerator. The best and most foolproof approach for thawing frozen chicken is to simply place it in the refrigerator. This gradual and steady thawing insures a fresh piece of poultry, but it takes much longer than the other two methods. A large, frozen (3 to 4 pound) chicken can take two days or more to thaw in the fridge, but chicken sliced into pieces will likely be ready in 24 hours. You’ll need to plan your dinner ahead of time for this choice, but there’s a bonus: you can refreeze chicken that has defrosted in the fridge for up to two days after it’s defrosted. In other words, planning ahead of time pays dividends even when your plans change.
2. Soak in cold water. It’s 5 p.m., and you’ve realized you have nothing frozen and ready to go…and you really can’t justify ordering out once again. No problem—just submerge your water-proof bag of poultry in a stockpot, or any vessel large enough to hold the piece, in cold water.
(Note: If you stored the chicken in a hard plastic container, you should move it to an airtight freezer bag to speed up the thawing process.) According to the FSIS, a big quantity of chicken (such as a complete bird or the equivalent in parts) will thaw in 3 to 4 hours, while smaller sections will be properly defrosted in an hour or less—just make sure to keep germs at away by changing the water every 30 minutes to keep it cool. Finally, according to the FSIS, this strategy necessitates follow-through: Cook the chicken as soon as it’s thawed…and don’t re-freeze it.
3. Enlist the assistance of the microwave. Ah, the microwave—that dependable device that always comes through. This helpful kitchen tool may not have much street cred when it comes to cooking up a spectacular dinner, but it can thaw a turkey perfectly. To defrost the chicken quickly, use the settings on your microwave—this will most likely require an approximated weight. Just make sure to prepare and devour your fowl as soon as possible (i.e., put that protein on your plate, but not the fridge or freezer once it has been nuked).
Do you have to package chicken a specific way to prevent freezer burn?
“The ideal approach is to vacuum-seal, as this eliminates air from the package and closes the bag,” Sidoti explains. “If you don’t have the proper equipment, you may alternatively place the chicken breasts in freezer bags and manually squeeze out as much air as possible before zipping them tight.”
Don’t believe your own hands? Chef White suggests another approach to try.
“All the air must be squeezed out prior to sealing, either by hand or by the water displacement method, for optimal results,” White explains. “To use the water displacement method, insert the chicken in the freezer bag and immerse it up to just below the seal, expelling all air before sealing the bag.”
However, he agrees with Sidoti that vacuum-sealing the chicken is the best way to avoid freezer burn. Do you know why people get freezer burn? Sidoti adds that it is the process of dehydration that occurs when the chicken is exposed to air. Foods that have had freezer burn are safe to consume, but they will likely taste less delicious.
“Another option of keeping chicken in the freezer would be freezer bags,” White says. “Chicken can also be frozen in its original grocery shop packaging. I recommend covering the item in aluminum foil to offer an extra layer of protection.”
What’s something else to never forget when you’re freezing chicken?
“Always write the ‘frozen on’ date on the box with a pen so you know how long it’s been in the freezer,” Sidoti suggests. “Frozen chicken keeps for a long time, but it won’t taste as good if it’s kept in [the freezer] for too long.”
How Can You Tell If Your Chicken Is Still Fresh?
There are several indicators that your chicken should be thrown rather than consumed. Chicken that has beyond its expiry date, whether raw or cooked, is probably no longer safe to eat. Changes in color, smell, or texture are additional indicators of ruined meat, however a change in color alone does not always indicate that your meat has gone bad. When your chicken begins to become a gray-green tint, it’s past its prime. Poultry with an acidic odor or a slimy texture should be eliminated as well.
How Should You Store Chicken in Your Freezer?
According to the USDA, you may keep an uncooked whole chicken in your freezer for up to a year (or nine months if you’re keeping chopped chicken) and it will still be safe to consume. Cooked chicken can’t be preserved for as long as raw chicken, but it may still be kept in the freezer for up to six months.
Proper storage helps retain quality and prevent freezer burn, and while freezing raw poultry in its original packaging is completely safe, plastic-wrapped containers are porous to air, and the quality of the chicken may deteriorate with time. The USDA suggests that you overwrap the original plastic-wrapped container with a layer of aluminum foil for longer storage. Remove the chicken from its packaging and place it in a freezer bag, pushing out as much air as possible before closing it. An unopened vacuum-sealed box can be kept in its original state.
How Do You Defrost Chicken Correctly?
The USDA recommends three methods for defrosting frozen chicken. The refrigerator approach is the safest and most recommended option, however it does need some forethought. Simply transfer your wrapped frozen chicken from your freezer to your fridge at least 24 hours before dining to thaw. After thawing, your chicken can be refrigerated for another day or two before cooking. It can also be frozen before eating, however the quality may suffer slightly.
The cold water approach, which is significantly faster but takes more care, is another way to thaw your meat. Fill a big basin halfway with cold water and immerse the frozen chicken, keeping it in a leak-proof container. Small packages can thaw in an hour, but a three- to four-pound entire chicken can take two to three hours. Change the water every 30 minutes while the chicken thaws, and once thawed, the chicken should be cooked right away.
The microwave technique is the fastest, requiring you to remove the chicken from its packing and place it in an oven cooking bag or a covered microwave-safe container. Cook for nine to ten minutes per pound for entire chicken or six to eight minutes per pound for chicken breast halves on the defrosting setting or medium-high level (70 percent power). Chicken defrosted in the microwave, like chicken defrosted in cold water, should be eaten immediately after thawing.
Though it is safe to cook frozen items, the USDA advises that cooking frozen chicken will likely take 50 percent longer than cooking completely thawed chicken.