Is it Better to Freeze Chicken Raw or Cooked?

Is it better to freeze chicken raw or cooked

Buying chicken in bulk is a good way to save time and money. To preserve chicken for later use, you can break it up and freeze it. So, is it better to freeze raw or cooked chicken?

Golden rules when freezing meat

When frozen, some kinds of meat are perfectly safe but look unappealing because their quality has been affected by the freezing process.

For good quality results, it is important to have quality products and to freeze them quickly while they are very fresh. Then store them at 0 degrees F or below and thaw properly.

While frozen food can be safely defrosted in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave, defrosting in the refrigerator preserves the best quality.

Here are the guidelines from USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service:

  • Raw meat and poultry retain their quality longer when frozen than cooked meat because moisture is lost during cooking.
  • Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator can be refrozen before or after cooking. If you defrost using other methods, cook before refreezing.
  • After food is defrosted in the refrigerator, it is still safe to refreeze without cooking. In this case, quality may be reduced due to moisture loss during defrosting.
  • With frozen raw food, after cooking, it is safe to freeze cooked food.
  • If cooked meat was defrosted in the refrigerator, you can refreeze the unused portion.
Raw meat and poultry retain their quality longer when frozen
Raw meat and poultry retain their quality longer when frozen

Is it better to freeze chicken raw or cooked?

It really depends on your definition of “better” and how you’re cooking it.

In general, chicken will taste better if it is frozen raw, defrosted, then cooked just before serving. The reason is that you do not re-cook the chicken when reheat it. Furthermore, raw chicken will stay longer in the freezer: whole raw chicken can last up to one year and chicken parts last for 9 months.  

Chicken will taste better if it is frozen raw
Chicken will taste better if it is frozen raw

In terms of cleanliness and safety, freeze the cooked chicken is better if you know the proper cooking temperature of the chicken. The USDA recommends an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to kill any Salmonella that may be present. Moreover, if chicken is nearing its shelf-life safe in the fridge, you should cook it all and freeze it.

Freezing foods raw isn’t a bad idea, but just remember that you can cross-contaminate. This means the bad bacteria will spread into ready-to-eat foods. As a result, you accidentally get sick when you eat something straight from the freezer like ice cream. However, you will only really have this problem if your box or bag of raw chicken has a leak before freezing or if your freezer has a problem and it must be defrosted.

You may also like: What Are the Best Cheap Freezers for Home?

How to store chicken in the fridge to make it last longer?

If you’re storing chicken for immediate use, store it in the refrigerator, not the freezer.  In the refrigerator, raw chicken (whole or pieces) will last for 1–2 days. If you have leftovers that include cooked chicken, you can store them in the refrigerator for 3–4 days.

  • First, wrap each piece of unwashed chicken in plastic food wrap, one piece at a time.
  • Next, store them in an airtight bag and make sure to squeeze out all the air before sealing.
  • Finally, store your chicken on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator to prevent accidental leaks to other foods.

Further reading: Which Refrigerator is the Best for a Family with 4-5 Members?

How to freeze chicken for later use

If you have raw or cooked chicken that you don’t plan to cook or eat for a while, you should store it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator.

Here’s how to freeze chicken for later use in just a few easy steps.

  1. Wrap individual pieces of chicken in freezer wrap.
  2. Store the chicken in an airtight bag and squeeze out all the air before sealing.
  3. Put your chicken in the deepest part of the freezer as this will be the coldest area and not affect other foods.

What to remember:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling chicken to prevent bacterial contamination, especially if the meat is raw.
  • Cooked chicken should be completely cooled before freezing, however, no longer than 2 hours to prevent bacteria growth.
  • You can flash freeze the chicken or simply split it up for convenience.

Further reading: How to Choose the Best Small Upright Freezer

How long does chicken last in the freezer?

Individual pieces of raw chicken can keep well in the freezer for 9 months, and whole chickens can last up to 1 year when frozen. Chicken parts will be safe for 9 months; and giblets or ground chicken can last 3 to 4 months.

Raw chicken can keep well in the freezer for 9 months
Raw chicken can keep well in the freezer for 9 months

If you are freezing cooked chicken, it can last for 2–6 months. When freezing cooked chicken, it is a great way to reduce food waste. It’s a good idea to mark the cooked and frozen date on the bag to remember to use it while it’s still delicious.

How to defrost frozen chicken

Thawing frozen chicken is very easy, the best way to do this is in the refrigerator. You just need to put the frozen chicken in the fridge overnight. With raw chicken, you should put it on the bottom shelf or in the trays of the refrigerator. Cooked chicken can be stored in the middle of the refrigerator.

It can take a whole day for chicken to defrost in the fridge, this method is best if you plan to prepare a meal the next day. Furthermore, if frozen chicken is defrosted in the refrigerator, thawed chicken can be left in the refrigerator for an additional 1-2 days before cooking.

According to USDA guidelines, you should never defrost chicken or any meat on the counter or in hot water, nor should chicken be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Because these methods will put meat at a high risk of infection, which is not good for health.

Further reading:  How Long is Mac and Cheese Good for in the Fridge?

Tips for freezing chicken or poultry

To prepare for freezing:

  • It is best to wrap first in a layer of plastic wrap or freezer paper, then a layer of foil, then store in a freezer bag or plastic container.
  • Protected with multiple layers, the chicken will maintain quality and free from freezer burn.
  • Wrap tightly, pushing as much air out as possible.

Chicken is a possible source of Salmonella bacteria. Therefore, wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling poultry to avoid contamination. You should remove the skin from the chicken thighs or remove the bones to make skinless chicken thighs before freezing. Don’t forget to label your freezer bags with the freezing date and time. Do not refreeze chicken if it has already been defrosted.

Here are the tips for better freezing poultry:

  • Freeze poultry as soon as possible.
  • Always work with clean hands, preparation areas, equipment, and utensils.
  • Quality can be prolonged by storing at 0ºF or below and packaging for frozen storage.
  • Choose the right container or wrap for freezing: foil, cling film or freezer bag, plastic freezer container.
  • Consider freezing poultry in portions so you only need to defrost what’s needed right away.
  • Clean and sanitize equipment and surfaces after dividing and packing poultry.

How long after defrosting chicken should it be cooked?

Never defrost chicken at room temperature or on the counter, as it creates an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. It’s best to defrost your chicken in the refrigerator and be sure to cook the thawed chicken within 48 hours.

A pound of chicken breast may take just an hour or less, while a three or four pound or a whole chicken will take two or three hours. The USDA recommends cooking immediately after defrosting.

How to tell if chicken has gone bad

If raw chicken is gray, green, or any color other than light pink, this is a sign that the chicken has gone bad. If you see any signs of spoilage, such as mold growth, throw the chicken out and don’t eat it. You can’t just cut off a small part where mold has grown, you should discard the entire piece or batch of chicken.

Cooked chicken should be white. It’s best to eat chicken within 3 days of cooking. Be sure to reheat the chicken to at least 165°F (74°C), using a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature.

Rotten chicken often has a sour or sulfurous smell. Usually, fresh chicken has almost no smell.

Raw chicken should not be greasy, or sticky and should be glossy and slightly tender. Cooked chicken will often be greasy, sticky, and too soft.

Look for chickens with an expiration date at least a few days later than the date of purchase. Be sure to store in the refrigerator or freezer within 2 hours to prevent spoilage.

FAQs

Can you eat chicken 3 days after defrosting?

According to the USDA, foods that are in the process of defrosting in the refrigerator (40 °F or below) are still safe. Once thawed, use ground meat, poultry, and fish within a day or two, and use beef, pork, lamb, or veal (grill, steak, or chops) within three to five days.

Why shouldn’t I freeze chicken twice?

Re-freezing thawed chicken is unsafe because of two issues: quality and safety.

In fact, while it may be safe to return chicken that has been thawed below 5 degrees Celsius back into the freezer, re-freezing chicken can degrade the quality of the meat. Therefore, to ensure food quality and health, it is best not to re-freeze the defrosted chicken.

What happens if I leave the chicken in the freezer for too long?

If properly frozen, chicken and all frozen foods are safe to eat indefinitely. But it will lose its taste and flavor when stored for a long time in the freezer. In addition, if you don’t cover food properly, a freezer burn can occur, drying out the exposed meat, even though the food is still safe to eat.

Is thawed chicken good after 5 days?

No. After 5 days, thawed chicken is not good anymore. Once thawed, USDA recommends using ground meat, poultry, and fish within a day or two.

For beef, pork, lamb, or veal (including grill, steak, or chops), you need to use them within three to five days.

Does freezing affect the quality of chicken?

During frozen storage, there is a wide range of physical and biochemical changes such as dehydration, color change, lipid and protein oxidation, which can affect the quality of frozen chicken.

What meats can be re-frozen after defrosting?

If your cooked meat is defrosted in the refrigerator, you can re-freeze the unused portion.

If you buy frozen meat, poultry, or fish at a retail store, you can re-freeze if they are handled properly.

You should not re-freeze any food that has been left out of the refrigerator for longer than 2 hours.

Can I freeze cooked shredded chicken?

Once your shredded chicken has cooled completely, you can place it in a Ziplock bag or airtight container. Depending on how much you think you’ll use each time, you should divide into 1 or 2 cup portions. Then, store them in the freezer. If properly stored chicken will keep good quality for about 4 months.

How long can you freeze chicken wings?

A whole chicken can last for a year, but pieces such as legs, wings, thighs should be used within 6 to 9 months. For cooked chicken leftovers, they can last for 4 to 6 months.

Can raw chicken be kept in the fridge for 5 days?

You can store raw chicken for 1–2 days in the refrigerator, while cooked chicken can last for 3–4 days.

It’s easy to check whether the chicken has gone bad. First, check the “best before date”. Then, you can also look for signs of spoilage such as changes in smell, texture, and color.

You shouldn’t eat rotten chicken because it can cause food poisoning – even if you’ve cooked it thoroughly.

Conclusion

Should you freeze raw or cooked chicken? Both options are good choices from safety to taste. Compared to cooked chicken, raw chicken can keep their quality longer in the freezer. Raw chicken also last longer in the freezer, but you must be careful of bacterial contamination if you don’t pack and freeze them properly.

Reference

How long can you freeze chicken, ask.usda.gov, Retrieved on Nov. 30, 2022

The Best Way To Freeze Chicken, southernliving.com, Retrieved on Nov. 30, 2022

 

Jenny Brown
Hi, I’m Jenny. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, a compact fridge or freezer becomes one of the essential items in many homes. On my blog, you will find helpful advice about using and organizing these kitchen appliances. You will also receive the recommendations on choosing a compact refrigerator or freezer that best fits your demands. Besides, frozen meals from the freezer bring many incredible benefits because they ensure freshness, deliciousness, and full nutrients. Many helpful tips from experts on frozen meals will also be found.