As a meat eater, chicken is likely a staple ingredient in your household. But can you bulk buy and batch cook chicken and store it in the freezer, or should freezing cooked chicken be avoided?
Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken?
Yes, you can freeze cooked chicken for up to 4 months. To freeze cooked chicken, you must cool it and portion it into airtight containers before sealing and freezing. You can freeze all cuts of cooked chicken.
How to Freeze Cooked Chicken
Below is the basic method for freezing any cooked chicken, whether you have leftover chicken or cook it to freeze.
The method does differ slightly depending on how the chicken was cooked and the cut of meat.
Let’s start with the basics, as this is a great way to start, but if you scroll down through this page, you’ll get information on how to freeze pretty much every cut of chicken going:
- Cook and Cool
Cook your chicken as you usually would, whether poaching or roasting it, then allow it to cool to room temperature. When freezing cooked chicken, I recommend either cooking it off the bone or removing it from it.
- Place Into Containers
Place it into an airtight container. You could use freeze bags too. Wrap the container in a layer of clingfilm or foil if you are concerned about any air seeping in. The cooked chicken must be kept airtight with as much air removed as possible.
- Label and Freeze
Add a label to the container and include the date it needs to be used. Finally, place the wrapped containers or bags in the freezer.
Although you can freeze cooked chicken on the bone, doing so has no benefit. Instead, the bone will take up room in the freezer. Instead, remove the bone once it has cooked and shred the meat from the bones.
How to Freeze Different Cuts of Cooked Chicken
The phrase cooked chicken is very broad and generic. A chicken comes in many cuts. So, are all these cuts of chicken freezable, or should some be avoided? I’ve covered some of the most popular cuts below:
Yes, a cooked whole chicken can be frozen, but freezing it whole wastes space. Instead, shred the meat from the carcass and then freeze the shredded meat in individual portion-sized freezer bags for up to 3 months.
I find having shredded chicken in the freezer is great for making pot pies, quesadillas and pasta sauces. But make sure you freeze it in portions. I tend to find 125g per person is just right.
Yes, you can freeze cooked breasts if you give them ample time to cool to room temperature before freezing them.
Chicken breasts are one of the hardest cuts of chicken to cook. The problem is, if you cook it to perfection and then freeze, thaw and reheat it, you’ll find it becomes rubbery and dry. Either bag it up or wrap it in plastic wrap before popping it in the freezer.
Chicken breasts are one of my least favourite cuts to freeze for this reason.
Cooked chicken thighs can be frozen really well.
Cook them using your favourite method before allowing them to cool. Once at room temperature, bag them up into portions, seal and freeze. As I often advise, try to freeze thighs without the bones.
Yes, cooked chicken legs can be frozen, but, like most cuts on the bone, it’s a good idea to remove the meat from the bone so you can store it more efficiently in the freezer.
I love freezing shredded chicken leg meat as they are one of the cheapest cuts of chicken money can buy but produces some of the strongest-flavoured chicken, perfect for popping into pies and stews.
How to Freeze Chicken Cooked in Different Ways
Not only does chicken come in many cuts and forms, but it can also be cooked in various ways. If you’re not sure if and how a particular cooking method can be used to freeze chicken then check out the following:
Although it is likely to be safe, unless you have a large freezer, it won’t make sense to freeze rotisserie chicken. Instead, I advise shredding the meat from the rotisserie chicken before placing it into bags and freezing it.
If you’ve got a large chest freezer then you can freeze a whole rotisserie chicken, of course. But, most conventional upright freezers would lose so much space.
As long as it is cool enough, roast chicken leftovers can be frozen. As always, I would carve the chicken to get the meat off the bones and then portion this out into individual freezer bags. Try to place around 125-150g of chicken into each bag – this would be enough for one person.
You can freeze grilled chicken, but after just a month or so, you’ll find that the charred, smoky flavour begins to degrade, leaving you with fairly generic chicken in the freezer.
Fried chicken is one form of cooked chicken that does not freeze well.
Although safe to do, the once-crispy coating becomes soft and soggy. If there are two words you don’t want to use to describe fried chicken, they’d be soft and soggy! You’ll also need to freeze it initially on a baking sheet until solid and then bag it up.
Yes, baked chicken can be frozen for around 3 to 4 months. Once cooled, bag up the baked chicken, including any aromatics you may have cooked with it, seal the bag and freeze.
Those aromatics will help to ward off other odours in the freezer, protecting your baked chicken.
How Long Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken?
Frozen chicken can become a little stringy and spongey if stored for too long in the freezer. Therefore, you can freeze cooked chicken for up to 4 months.
It will be perfectly safe to eat beyond this, but texturally, I have found it can be odd and the risk of freezer burn will increase over time. It will be safe to eat with freezer burn, but it won’t be as tasty.
Generally, cooked chicken will last for between 2 and 4 days in the fridge when kept on a covered plate or dish. It should be put into the fridge as soon as it has cooled to room temperature.
How Do You Defrost Cooked Chicken?
You probably know already how careful you have to be with cooking chicken. The same applies to defrosting and reheating cooked chicken. You need to take time to defrost your cooked chicken fully.
The safest way to defrost your cooked chicken in the fridge the night before you need it. This will give it time to slowly thaw out.
I know. This does take time and forward planning but this is, by far, the best way to defrost chicken. If you need to speed things up a little, it is possible to defrost chicken in a cold water bath (do not use hot water, ever).
Place the chicken in a sealed plastic bag and then submerge it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Ensure it’s heated thoroughly during re-cooking to ensure food safety.
How Do You Reheat Defrosted Cooked Chicken?
When reheating, you simply need to ensure it is heated through. The internal temperature of the chicken should be around 70C/165F, but this can differ depending on the cut. This is why I love having a digital meat thermometer to hand.
You can get a full breakdown of temperatures here.
Can You Refreeze Cooked Chicken?
I would strongly avoid refreezing cooked chicken.
It can harbour harmful bacteria and may result in you becoming sick. Instead, try to freeze the cooked chicken in a suitable portion size to quickly grab one portion at a time. Freezing it in smaller portions is much better.
Even if you ignore the food safety element, you’ll completely ruin the texture of cooked chicken with repeating refreezing. So, not only would it be unsafe but it would be unenjoyable to eat.
Yes, you can! Generally, you can freeze meat twice. You can freeze it once when raw and then once again when cooked. If you have thawed raw chicken and then cooked it, this can be frozen.
Does Cooked Chicken Freeze Well?
The good news is I have always found that cooked chicken freezes well for later use.
Not only does it retain its flavour, but it’s a great way to prevent food waste with any extra chicken pieces you have left over.
If you store your cooked chicken properly, use air-tight packaging and don’t let it sit at room temperature, it will be perfectly safe to freeze your cooked chicken, thaw it out, and then cook it.
If you leave your cooked chicken in the freezer for too long, however, you risk the texture being slightly off, so bear in mind that you won’t want to store it for too long.
Signs of spoiled frozen chicken will include an off smell, a slimy or sticky texture, or visible mould. If any of these signs are present, it’s best to discard the chicken. If you’re unsure, then it’s best to err on the side of caution when dealing with meat.
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