You’ve got a pack of chicken breasts thawing in the fridge, ready to be whipped up to a crowd-pleasing weeknight dinner your spouse surprises you with take out or one of your kids tells you that their practice was rescheduled – to right now. You’re staring down a $14 pack of chicken asking yourself, can I refreeze that chicken?
Life happens, and you can roll with it without losing a small fortune’s worth of chicken when it does.
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Can You Refreeze Chicken? A Quick Answer
The quick answer is yes BUT only if the chicken was handled, thawed, and stored correctly. Otherwise, you may be gambling with food poisoning, and I can’t think of worse odds.
If you’ve safely handled and thawed your chicken by putting it straight from the freezer to the refrigerator and it’s less than two days since it has thawed, you can safely refreeze the chicken.
Related >> How to Safely Thaw Chicken
What Is The Best Way To Freeze Chicken?
How you handle your chicken can make the difference between a family-friendly meal and the kids screaming for dino nuggets.
Refreeze at Peak Quality
First, think about how long that pack of raw chicken has been camped in your fridge. If it’s been more than two days, take the L and throw it out. At this point, the chicken has turned and should be sent straight to the bin. Cooked chicken will last a bit longer (up to four days max).
The closer it is to the point of thawing, the better the taste and texture will be preserved.
Freeze Chicken Quickly
The longer it takes for the chicken to reach a frozen state, the larger the ice crystals will be within the meat. Large ice crystals can toughen and dry out the meat, resulting in an unpleasant texture. One way to get a quick freezing time is to wrap smaller pieces individually.
Say you need to freeze four chicken breasts. Placing each one in an individual freezer bag instead of putting them all into a large container together will help them to freeze faster and maintain a better texture. They’ll also be fresher the next time you want to cook chicken since you can just thaw what you need!
Use Airtight Packaging
Any exposure to air in a freezer can lead to dreaded freezer burn. While technically not harmful, freezer burn can ruin even the best foods! Meat dries out, changes color, becomes grainy, and generally just tastes tough and awful when it suffers freezer burn.
To safeguard the meat’s integrity, either use a high-quality container, freezer bag with the air pushed out and seal intact, or thick aluminum foil tightly folded with no openings.
Once the raw chicken is frozen, you can store it safely forever- just know that the taste will start to change after about a year. Cooked chicken can only be kept frozen for four months at most
Always label food when freezing with the date, so that you can keep track!
Related >> Can You Refreeze a Thawed Turkey?
How Should Your Store Frozen Chicken?
Frozen chicken will last indefinitely below 0° degrees as bacteria cannot grow at this temperature.
However, it must truly stay at below 0°F, so ensure that your freezer is set correctly! This temperature will keep your chicken safe and is also the best condition for preserving the quality of the meat.
What Changes When You Refreeze Chicken?
Just a note for the chicken lovers: just because it’s safe to refreeze chicken it doesn’t mean that it will be the same.
Every time chicken is frozen it loses moisture. And every time chicken is thawed it also loses moisture. Plus due to the formation of ice crystals in the meat and other factors of freezing effects on tissue, your refrozen chicken flavor and consistency will most likely be a little off.
How To Cook Refrozen Chicken
When planning recipes to use up your refrozen chicken, go for ones that infuse moisture back into the chicken and have a strong flavor profile. Since that taste and texture may be a little off, refrozen chicken is best for soups and casseroles where the chicken isn’t the star of the show.
How Soon Should You Cook Chicken Once It’s Thawed?
The answer to this will depend on which of the three thawing methods you’ve used.
If you microwaved or used the cold water method to thaw your chicken, some part of the meat likely reached above 40°F, putting it right on the highway to the ‘danger zone’. While you may consider danger as your middle name, at this temperature, bacteria grows very quickly.
Cook the chicken immediately once thawed. Otherwise, you may be dancing with salmonella. I promise you, no one feels cool when laying on the bathroom floor with food poisoning. If you’ve thawed the chicken in the fridge overnight, then there’s a bit more time for you to work with.
You’ll have one to two days to cook the chicken once it’s thawed. This is where it gets a little tricky since it also typically takes one to two days for the chicken to fully thaw in the fridge. first place, It’s important to know exactly when the chicken has finished thawing, as this is when the clock starts!
Related >> How Long Can Chicken Sit Out?
Should You Rinse Or Wash Raw Chicken?
I’m going to share info from the USDA on this topic and then duck behind the nearest table since this is a pretty controversial topic. Washing raw poultry before cooking is not recommended by the USDA because bacteria in raw chicken meat and juices can cross-contaminate other surfaces which may not be properly sanitized and cleaned.
Rinsing off raw chicken does not destroy bacteria. Only cooking to a minimum internal temperature of 165° degrees will destroy the bacteria that might be present on fresh chicken.
Related >> How Long Does Chicken Last In The Fridge?
Final Thoughts on Refreezing Chicken
Chicken, while a dinner staple for many families, comes with risks when improperly handled. But if you follow food safety measures, you can absolutely thaw and refreeze chicken. Just keep these key points in mind (along with your kid’s new practice schedule, the grocery list, the dog’s vet appt, where that lost tote bag went, your date night plans…)
- Raw chicken must be safely handled
- Frozen chicken must be slowly thawed in the fridge at under 40°F
- If refrozen, it must consistently be stored at under 0°F
- Chicken can only be refrozen within two days of thawing
- Chicken must be sealed and properly stored.
If you want to learn more about grilling, check out these other helpful resources!