Chicken is protein-rich, quick to prepare, and versatile and is, therefore, a popular meal in many households worldwide. If you love eating chicken cooked in different ways, you can buy it in bulk and stock it up in the freezer. If you have cooked chicken that you’d like to save for later you may want to know; Can you freeze cooked chicken?
You can freeze cooked chicken as it freezes well. However, it’s important to prepare the chicken for freezing properly if you want it to last a long time. The quality, texture, and taste will also depend on how you thaw it. Cooked frozen chicken will last four months in the freezer.
In this article, I will discuss why it’s okay to freeze cooked chicken. I’ll also explain some reasons why you should consider freezing cooked chicken, how to freeze and thaw cooked chicken correctly, and some ideas for using the chicken after it’s been frozen. Here we go!
Cooked Chicken Freezes Well
It’s okay to freeze cooked chicken because, as mentioned earlier, it freezes and thaws well. According to the USDA, frozen, cooked chicken retains its taste and quality for approximately four months. In addition, freezing cooked chicken doesn’t affect its nutritional value or freshness or make it unsafe to eat.
It’s good to note that the chicken remains fresh and safe to eat even if you freeze it for more than four months. However, after four months in the freezer, the chicken’s quality and flavor may decline slightly. That’s why it’s important to consume it while it’s still at its best.
4 Reasons You Should Freeze Cooked Chicken
There are several reasons you may want to freeze cooked chicken. Some of the reasons you should freeze cooked chicken include:
Freezing Allows You To Avoid Waste
Once in a while, you may find yourself with lots of left-over chicken. Although you can store the left-over chicken in the fridge, it can only remain fresh for three to four days; after that, you’d have to throw it away. So, to avoid waste, you can freeze the left-over chicken until the next time you need it.
You Can Freeze Different Parts of the Cooked Chicken for Cooking
You can cook a chicken and store the different parts in the freezer for different chicken recipes you’d like to make. For instance, you can store chicken breasts in one freezer bag, chicken wings in another, etc. You can conveniently pick the chicken parts from the freezer whenever you need them for your recipes.
In addition, you can freeze cooked chicken dishes like soups, curries, etc., and reheat them quickly whenever the need arises.
Freezing Cooked Chicken Will Help You Meet Your Nutritional Needs
Chicken is full of proteins and other nutrients beneficial to our bodies. In addition, it’s versatile, and you can therefore use it to prepare a variety of dishes. So, when you freeze cooked chicken, you can use it to quickly prepare meals for breakfast, lunch, or dinner to meet your nutritional needs.
Freezing Cooked Chicken Makes For Faster Meal Prep
If you’re busy throughout the week and don’t have the time to prepare meals every day, you can cook a chicken (or buy one) to store in the freezer. That way you can just grab part of the chicken out of the freezer and reheat it.
Having a pre-cooked chicken in the freezer can save a lot of time when it comes to meal preparation.
How To Freeze Cooked Chicken Correctly
If you want your frozen, cooked chicken to be safe to eat and maintain its quality, you should freeze it correctly.
You can freeze whole cooked chicken as is or cut it into pieces. However, it’s best to freeze chicken pieces instead of the whole chicken so that you can save time when cooking plus it helps save on freezer space.
Here’s how to freeze whole cooked chicken:
- Allow the cooked chicken to cool to room temperature. Ensure it does not remain at room temperature for over two hours to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Divide the chicken pieces into portions as soon as the chicken has cooled. This enables you to defrost the exact amount you require for a particular meal.
- Place the chicken pieces in freezer bags. It’s a good idea to portion your chicken in appropriate meal sizes as this will make things easier later. Squeeze extra air out of the freezer bags. If the bags have air, it will negatively affect the chicken’s quality, taste, and freshness.
- Label the freezer bags with the date and the name of the chicken parts. This helps you pick the correct pieces for your recipes and consume the chicken within the stipulated time of four months.
- Arrange the freezer bags neatly in the freezer for later use. Neatly arranging the bags creates space for other items. A chicken broken into parts will save room in the freezer as opposed to freezing the entire intact chicken.
Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken on The Bone?
Yes, you can freeze cooked chicken on the bone. However, it will take up more room in the freezer, take longer to thaw, and may increase the preparation time needed once it’s defrosted. Plus it’s much easier to remove cooked chicken from the bone after it has first been cooked and cooled than after freezing and thawing.
Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken Breast?
You can freeze cooked chicken breast. Pre-cooked chicken breast is an ideal cut of meat to freeze and each breast often provides a perfect serving size.
If you’d like to go this route, you can purchase uncooked chicken breasts in bulk packaging at the supermarket and bring them home to cook. Once cooked, follow the steps above for freezing your cooked chicken breasts.
Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken Wings?
You can easily freeze cooked chicken wings and safely store them for 4 – 6 months. Buying a package of chicken wings, cooking them, then freezing them will save a lot of time and meal prep in the future.
How To Thaw Cooked Chicken in the Refrigerator
If you want your cooked, frozen chicken to maintain its quality and be safe to eat, you should also thaw it correctly. Although you can defrost cooked chicken faster using the microwave or cold water, it’s best to thaw it in the refrigerator.
Here’s how you can thaw cooked chicken in the refrigerator:
- Remove the freezer bag containing the chicken pieces you want to reheat from the freezer. Place the freezer bag inside a bowl so that any leaks or melting water can settle there instead of making a mess in the fridge.
- Place the bowl containing the freezer bag in the fridge for several hours to ensure the chicken defrosts slowly and retains its freshness as it thaws. Allow the chicken to thaw overnight; be patient as it may take between 12 and 24 hours for the cooked chicken to thaw completely in the fridge.
- Remove the chicken from the fridge once it has thawed completely. Use the thawed cooked chicken within one to two days after removing it from the freezer to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
How To Use Thawed Cooked Chicken
Once your cooked chicken has thawed completely, you can use it in various ways. Here’s how to use thawed cooked chicken:
Reheat the Thawed Cooked Chicken
If you want to eat the thawed cooked chicken as it is, reheat using a method of your choice. For instance, you can reheat chicken pieces in the oven or frying pan until they are thoroughly hot.
If the thawed chicken is already part of a dish, such as chicken curry or chicken soup, warm it in a saucepan under low, medium heat until it boils.
Enjoy it while it’s still hot.
Use the Thawed Cooked Chicken in Chicken Recipes
You could also use the thawed, cooked chicken in numerous chicken recipes. Shred the meat from the bone and use it in whatever recipes you’re making. Some of the mouth-watering dishes you could prepare with thawed cooked chicken include:
- Salads, etc.
At our house, we often used thawed cooked chicken in salads as it makes the side dish (salad) into a more complete meal once you’ve added a protein source.
Chicken is one of the world’s favorite foods (people consume more than 65 billion chickens annually). It’s low in cholesterol, fat, and calories plus it’s high in protein and essential vitamins. Chicken has continued to gain popularity worldwide as people invest in mindful eating and wellness.
You can freeze leftover cooked chicken to prevent waste and keep it fresh. Also, you could buy chicken in bulk, cook it, and freeze it for later use.
So long as you follow the proper freezing and thawing procedures, your cooked, frozen chicken will be great to eat for at least four months.