Learn how to freeze chicken to save money, time, and waste in the kitchen. Storing chicken in the freezer is easy and convenient with these tips!
How long does chicken last before freezing?
Raw chicken can last about 2 days in the fridge before it’s likely to go bad. Cooked chicken will last 3-4 days. There are tips and tricks to help you stretch it a little further, but it is much more convenient to freeze chicken for long-term meal planning.
How long does chicken last in the freezer?
If frozen correctly, chicken can last an entire year in the freezer! Technically, it should be safe indefinitely, but quality of texture and taste will decline the longer the chicken remains frozen. Some cuts of chicken keep longer than others in the freezer, so take that into consideration when buying in bulk.
- Whole Chicken – 1 year
- Chicken Pieces (breasts, thighs, etc.) – 6-9 months
- Cubed Chicken, Ground Chicken, or Giblets – 3-4 months
- Cooked Chicken – 3-4 month
- Chicken Lunch/Deli Meat – 2 months
Things You Might Need
- VACUUM SEALER: This method nearly guarantees no freezer burn and the longest-lasting chicken you can manage.
- SOUS VIDE BAGS: These are less expensive, less bulky, and they can be reusable. Initially made for sous vide cooking, these are also freezer safe.
- FREEZER BAGS: These are the most widely-available option and cheapest choice. With a straw and a little effort, you can nearly remove all air yourself.
- PLASTIC WRAP or ALUMINUM FOIL: If you’re using freezer bags, tightly wrapping chicken first will protect it from freezer burn and increase the longevity of the chicken.
How to Freeze Chicken
Freezing chicken can be as simple as tossing the package into the freezer as soon as you get home from the store! Of course, there are some tips and tricks that will help you keep your chicken longer.
Use a vacuum sealer
This is the best method to keeping the quality of your chicken through long freezing times! The vacuum sealer prevents any air from touching the chicken, protecting it from freezer burn. It’s great for soups or saucy recipes because you don’t have to worry about the bag leaking before freezing or while it’s defrosting, too!
Wrap AND bag your chicken
If you don’t want to devote the money or space for a vacuum sealer, you can still protect your chicken against freezer burn. You can use two layers — Tightly wrap plastic or aluminum foil around the chicken, then store the wrapped chicken in a freezer bag. To increase the longevity, stick a straw into the bag with just a few inches poking out. Close the bag as much as possible, then suck as much air as possible out, quickly sealing the bag as you remove the straw.
Consider portion sizes
When freezing, consider the portion sizes you may need to pull out of the freezer later. If you have a family of 8, there’s a good chance that you’ll always need a large amount – Pack those bags full to save space! They even make super large 2.5-gallon freezer bags.
If you live alone or often need to just cook for a couple children, you’ll likely need to pull out only a pound or so at once. You can use quart-sized bags within the large freezer bags to make things easier.
How do I stop chicken from sticking together in the freezer?
Sometimes you only need two chicken breasts or a handful of tenders for a snack. Here are the best ways to prevent your chicken from sticking together when frozen:
- Flash freeze – Place chicken on a plate or baking sheet, making sure no pieces are touching one another. Freeze for 2 hours, allowing the surface of the chicken to freeze solid. Then wrap and/or bag the chicken so that it will be protected the remainder of the time in the freezer.
- Wrap individually – Simply wrap individual portions in plastic wrap or aluminum foil tightly, then put in a freezer bag. If you use foil, you could add marinade or seasonings, then cook straight from frozen in the oven or on the grill.
- Bag separately – Snack-sized bags work great for lunch meat portions or individual servings of cubed chicken. Make sure to still store these inside a freezer-safe bag for extra protection, especially since smaller cuts like this naturally don’t last as long in the freezer.
Can you freeze chicken in marinade?
Yes, preparing a marinade and freezing chicken in it is a great way to save time and create flavorful meals! It’s the perfect multi-tasking–When you move the chicken to the fridge to defrost overnight, it’s also starting to marinate and absorb those delicious flavors.
Common Question about Freezing & Marinating
I thought I couldn’t marinade chicken that long–Won’t the chicken become mushy?
The marinating process tenderizes meat when it’s being absorbed, so there is usually a 24-hour maximum before the texture changes. However, when the chicken is frozen, it stops absorbing the marinade. Your chicken isn’t actually marinating while frozen, so you don’t have to start that timer until it’s thawing overnight in the fridge.
My chicken is already frozen… Is it too late to marinate it?
No, you’ve not missed your opportunity! You can place frozen cuts of chicken into a bag of marinade at any point. The night before you want to cook it, allow the bag of chicken and marinade to thaw in the fridge. As the chicken defrosts, it begins to absorb the marinade.
How long does marinated chicken last in the freezer?
For the best taste and texture, you should defrost, cook, and eat marinated chicken within 3 months of the date you freeze it.
Can you freeze breaded chicken?
Yes, there are many types of breading that work perfectly after being frozen! If you’ve bought chicken in bulk, simply portion out several pounds to bread and freeze. Whether you’re using a simple breading with egg and seasoned flour or one that uses cheeses, nuts, breadcrumbs, or pork rinds, it can be frozen and cooked within 3 months for the best texture.
When ready to cook, simply cook straight from the freezer! A general rule is to increase the cooking time by 50% if cooking chicken from frozen. For example, these chicken tenders normally bake for 20-25 minutes when made fresh… So from frozen you could expect to cook them about 30-32 minutes. Always rely on a meat thermometer to be safe!