Chicken is one of the most versatile meats out there - it can be used in so many different dishes. However, once it’s cooked, it can only last a couple of days before it spoils. Sometimes, when you’ve bought more chicken than you feasibly need, it can help to have a way to keep that chicken for another day.
Freezing cooked chicken is a very valid option that can help to make sure that your protein doens’t go to waste if you’ve bought more than you can actually eat.
There are a number of things to keep in mind when freezing chicken, but but the short answer is yes - you can indeed freeze cooked chicken. How do you freeze and thaw chicken, and what are some factors that you need to consider before freezing your cooked chicken? That’s what we’re here to cover.
How to Freeze Cooked Chicken
Freezing cooked chicken is a fairly painless process - in fact there are actually a few ways of doing so.
Often, the first thing that you need to do is put the cooked chicken into the refrigerator right after you’ve cooked it. This is because putting chicken at room temperature for too long can cause it to become contaminated.
To freeze the cooked chicken, put it into a little bit of plastic wrap. It’s best to grab every chicken breast and wrap each piece up one by one. This is good as it stops the meat from getting freezer burn, which can result in dry spots in the food.
Once you have done this, put the chicken that you have wrapped up into a frezeable storage bag and seal it tightly. Make sure that none of the bags have any left over air in them. If you can, you should try to then put the freezer bags into a plastic container. This is because it makes it easier to store, and further reduces the chances of the chicken getting freezer burn.
After doing this, grab a permanent marker and write the freezing date on the container for future reference. Place the bags or the container into the coldest part of the freezer. Make sure that you have plenty of space in your freezer for the chicken.
You will need to ensure that your freezer temperature is at least zero degrees fahrenheit.
How to Defrost Cooked Chicken
Eventually you will need to remove the cooked chicken from the freezer. At which point, you will need to employ the correct method of defrosting the chicken. There are a few main ways that you can defrost the chicken - in cold water, in the refrigerator or in the microwave.
It’s essential that you don’t try to defrost the chicken at room temperature, and you need to allow enough time to defrost the chicken completely - it can take longer to defrost cuts such as breasts that don’t have any bones.
If you are planning on defrosting the chicken in the refrigerator, all you need to do is remove the container with the chickens from out of the freezer and then put the container in the refrigerator. You will then need to leave it to defrost throughout the night. It should be completely safe to cook by the morning.
Alternatively, you could put it in some water. Simply put the chicken into a bowl or a container with lukewarm water inside. You should leave the chicken inside of the water for a couple of hours - one or two hours should do. It’s usually best to do this if your chicken was put into a freezer bag rather than if it was in a container.
You could also put it in the microwave for a couple of minutes.
The last choice is to put the chicken right into whatever dish you’re cooking. This is best if you’re making something like stew or a soup. With this method, you will need to ensure that you give the food longer to cook to give the chicken time to defrost. You should try toaster the dish on occasion to ensure that all pieces of chicken separate properly. It’s best to start cooking on a lower heat to allow the defrosting process to thoroughly work.
Factors to Consider Before Freezing Cooked Chicken
It’s worth noting that cooked chicken has a much shorter shelf life when frozen than raw chicken does. To quickly illustrate this point, raw chicken can survive in those icy depths for up to 9 months in total, whereas cooked chicken only has about 4 months before it starts to become dicy.
As with most kinds of foods, it is also important to ensure that you freeze the chicken as soon as possible after you’ve cooked it. If you are unable to freeze it immediately then you should put it in the refrigerator for a while, but it’s best not to leave it out in the open air as it can be more susceptible to bacteria build up and contamination.
When freezing your chicken, it is also best to put it somewhere that it isn’t very likely to leak onto anything else in your fridge, just in case for some reason it defrosts in the freezer. You need to put any raw meats in the bottom of the freezer, then the cooked chicken just above this, and any fruit, vegetables and baked goods on the top.
Make sure if you’re storing the cooked chicken in bags that there’s no pockets in the bag. You can use a vacuum to make this much easier, and this will ensure that the chicken doesn’t dry out.
So the next time that you have leftover chicken from some meal prep, you can rest safe in the knowledge that nothing will be wasted. All you need to do is place the cooked chicken into a container in the freezer and you have plenty of chicken to keep you going for a while. This is especially handy if you’re meal prepping for the whole family on the weekend!