This post may contain affiliate or sponsored links. Please read our disclosure policy.
As freezer meal experts, we understand the value of stocking up on chicken–a versatile protein that’s a staple in countless recipes. But how long can you freeze chicken without compromising its quality or safety? Whether you’re freezing raw or cooked chicken or different cuts, or wondering about the benefits and best practices when it comes to freezing chicken, we’ve got you covered.
Benefits of Freezing Chicken
As avid home cooks and freezer meal cookbook authors, we’ve been freezing various cuts of raw chicken, cooked chicken, and chicken freezer meals for decades. There are several benefits to this food preservation and prep method:
- Cost Efficiency: Purchasing chicken in bulk during sales and freezing it can be a cost-effective way to stock up.
- Convenience: Preparing chicken meals in bulk and freezing them saves time on busy days. Simply place the chicken freezer meal in the fridge the night before to thaw and bake or warm up the meal the next day. Check out all of our best Chicken Freezer Meals.
- Reduced Waste: Can’t use up your fresh chicken before it goes bad? Freeze it and use it months later when you have time.
How Long You Can Freeze Chicken: Raw vs. Cooked
According to the USDA, if kept frozen continuously, chicken will be safe indefinitely in the freezer. It’s true! However, the question really is, how long can you freeze chicken without the taste and texture being adversely affected. Well, it depends on if it’s raw or cooked.
Raw chicken can be frozen for longer periods compared to cooked chicken. According to the USDA, raw chicken pieces like breasts, thighs, or wings can last in the freezer for up to 9 months, whereas a whole chicken can retain its quality for up to a year when properly frozen.
Cooked chicken, however, has a shorter freezing window. Generally, it can last around 2 to 4 months in the freezer, depending on how it’s packaged and if it remains completely frozen the whole time. It’s crucial to note that cooked chicken tends to lose moisture and flavor more quickly in the freezer compared to its raw counterpart.
Best Way to Freeze Various Cuts of Chicken
Not all chicken cuts freeze alike. Here are the best freezing tips for raw and whole chickens, along with tips for preserving cooked chicken’s flavor and moisture.
General tips for freezing any chicken:
- Portioning: Divide larger packs into smaller portions before freezing. This makes it easier to thaw only what you need for a meal, reducing waste. Use these tips for thawing chicken.
- Airtight Packaging: Air in the enemy of high quality freezer food. So, be sure to use quality freezer bags or airtight containers to store raw chicken. Squeeze out excess air to prevent freezer burn. For extra insurance, wrap the chicken in plastic wrap or foil and then place in a freezer bag or container. Read about our favorite freezer meal containers.
- Labeling: Clearly label packages with the date of freezing to keep track of freshness and ensure you use the oldest ones first. Use our freezer meal labels to keep your meals organized.
When freezing raw whole chickens:
- Wrap Carefully: Wrap the whole chicken tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil before placing it in a freezer bag (2 gallon freezer bags work well). This double layering helps maintain freshness.
- Storage Position: Store the chicken in the coldest part of the freezer to ensure uniform freezing and preservation of quality.
When freezing cooked chicken:
- Moisture Retention: Add a small amount of chicken broth or sauce when freezing cooked chicken to help retain moisture and prevent it from drying out.
- Divide and Conquer: Portion cooked chicken into smaller servings before freezing. This facilitates quicker thawing and reduces waste.
From thawing tips to handling marinated chicken, here are some quick answers to common questions we hear about freezing chicken.
Look for signs like freezer burn, changes in color or texture, and an off smell. If in doubt, it’s safer to discard it.
Can you refreeze chicken that has been previously frozen and thawed?
According to the USDA, it’s entirely safe to do this (as long as the chicken hasn’t been thawed too long). Many sources will tell you that refreezing chicken can impact its taste and texture. However, from our personal experience of doing this many times over the years, we don’t feel that it’s a huge deal at all if you package the chicken correctly (and avoid freezer burn). If you use the chicken in a soup, casserole, or stir fry, there is really no problem at all in our opinion.
The USDA advises against washing raw chicken as it can spread bacteria. Instead, pat it dry before freezing.
Thawing chicken in the refrigerator typically takes about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of chicken. You can use the cold water bath method to speed up the process. Read about the 4 safe ways to thaw chicken.
It’s not recommended to freeze dishes with mayonnaise as freezing can cause it to separate and change texture. However, you can freeze the chicken separately and add fresh ingredients later.
The Best Chicken Freezer Meals
At Thriving Home, we’ve curated a collection of delicious, freezer-friendly meals that spotlight chicken:
What Else Can You Freeze?
Wondering what else you can stock up on and freeze? Here are more well-researched and well-tested articles we wrote from our experience.
- How to Freeze Tortillas
- How to Freeze Butter
- How to Freeze Muffins
- How to Freeze Bananas
- How to Freeze Zucchini
- How to Freeze Rice
- How to Freeze Avocados
- How to Freeze Cheese
- How to Freeze Pesto
- How to Freeze Quiche
- How to Freeze Chicken Pot Pie
- How to Freeze Chicken and Dumplings
- How to Freeze White Chicken Chili
- How Long Steak Is Good in the Freezer
Make 6 Dump-and-Go Freezer Meals in 1 Hour!
- Shopping & equipment lists
- Step-by-Step instructions & video tutorial
- Serving suggestions & dietary substitutions & more