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Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken? The Right Way To Do It

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You’ve just eaten a whole meal, and there are so many leftovers. Or you’ve had a cookout with your friends, and there is so much left. Let me guess. You’re now wondering: can you freeze cooked chicken?

QUICK ANSWER: Yes, you can.

Today you’ll learn how to freeze and defrost cooked chicken the RIGHT WAY and how long can cooked chicken last in the freezer, so stay tuned!

Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken And Reheat It?

Yes, you can freeze cooked chicken and reheat it whenever you’d like. 

I know you’ve heard the myths. For some reason, people think that frozen food, specifically chicken breasts, is a bad idea. 

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, frozen food has many benefits and can be an essential part of your cooking repertoire:

Generally, frozen foods retain their vitamins and minerals and there is no change to the carbohydrate, protein or fat content. In some cases, frozen foods have more vitamins and minerals compared to fresh because fresh foods lose vitamins and minerals over time while freezing preserves nutrients.” 

Another benefit of freezing food is decreasing your food waste, which will save you lots of money in the long run. 

How To Freeze Cooked Chicken

cooked chicken in plastic containers

We’ve already established that freezing cooked chicken is a great way to save time and money. Now, you’ll learn how to freeze cooked chicken the right way:

1. Prepare the chicken

Choose the chicken meat you want to use for casseroles, rotisserie chicken, stews, roast chicken, or other dishes, and cook it.

2. Cool it down

You should ensure that the chicken is completely cooled before freezing it. Otherwise, it will not be safe to eat when you reheat it. If you don’t cool your chicken before freezing it, you risk bacteria growing in your food, and you may even get sick.

So, allow your chicken to cool for no longer than 2 hours in cold water or at room temperature. Why? According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, harmful bacteria may potentially make you sick if you leave food out of refrigeration over 2 hours:

“Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 ° and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the “Danger Zone.” That’s why the Meat and Poultry Hotline advises consumers to never leave food out of refrigeration over 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 °F, food should not be left out more than 1 hour.” 

3. Place the chicken in the freezer

You can freeze cooked chicken in a variety of ways:

• You can wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then place it in a freezer bag. 

• You can place cooked chicken on a baking sheet and/or freeze it for an hour or two before transferring it into an airtight container or bag. This method ensures that the chicken will be evenly frozen. 

Potential Risks Of Freezing Cooked Chicken

Freezing chicken can sometimes be a risky process if it’s not done properly. Here are some potential risks of freezing cooked chicken: 

Change of texture, color, and flavor

When your chicken pieces spend a weeknight out and don’t freeze well, all of this can become a hazard to your health if you eat it.

The surface of the meat will also become dry and tough. Also, you shouldn’t let your frozen chicken sit out for too long. All of these can be a hazard for bacteria and later food poisoning.

Food spoilage and poisoning

Food spoilage is the process of food becoming inedible due to the growth of bacteria, yeast, or mold. This can happen when food is not stored properly or if it is not handled correctly.

Poisoning occurs when a person eats spoiled food or if they eat something that has been contaminated with chemicals or other harmful substances. It leaves you feeling sick, with a stomach ache, diarrhea, or other symptoms.

How Long Can Cooked Chicken Last In The Freezer?

frozen cooked chicken pieces

Cooked chicken can last in the freezer for up to 2 to 3 months. So if you don’t want to roast a whole bunch of chicken at once and then have it go bad in your freezer, you should only freeze cooked chicken for three months or less.

If you leave your chicken in the freezer longer and want to defrost or reheat it within 6 months, you might be in for a surprise. Your meat could have bacteria in it. It could be tasteless, develop freezer burn, lose texture, or just plain go bad.

Remember, cooked chicken can stay in the freezer for up to three months. The best way to store cooked chicken is by wrapping it tightly with cling film or aluminum foil and putting it in a freezer bag.

How To Defrost Cooked Chicken

cooked chicken filletes on the desk

With today’s busy lifestyles, who can afford to spend all day in the kitchen? Believe it or not, one of the most common mistakes is not having enough time to thaw your meat. 

For this reason, we’ll provide you with a quick and easy method for defrosting cooked chicken. The best way to defrost cooked chicken is to place it in the refrigerator overnight.

This defrosting method will not dry out the meat and will allow for a more even distribution of coldness throughout the meat.

Here’s what the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says about defrosting food in the refrigerator:

Even small amounts of frozen food — such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts — require a full day to thaw. Food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.”

Defrosting cooked chicken in the fridge will promote the best quality thawed chicken, a longer shelf life, and most importantly, you will be able to refreeze it. However, if you forget to place your chicken in the refrigerator overnight, here’s the best way to defrost chicken in the microwave.

Bottom Line

Freezing already done chicken is different from freezing plain raw chicken. Therefore, make sure your leftover chicken doesn’t go to waste by following the tips provided in this article. 

Here are some key points to remember:

• Make sure that the chicken is completely cooled before freezing it.

• Allow your chicken to cool for no longer than 2 hours.

• Wrap the chicken tightly in plastic wrap and then place it in a freezer bag.

• Cooked chicken can last in the freezer for up to 2 to 3 months

• The best way to defrost cooked chicken is to place it in the refrigerator overnight.

I hope I helped you answer questions like “Can you freeze cooked chicken?”, “How long can cooked chicken last in the freezer?” and others you might have had.


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