When Monday rolls around and your schedule starts to fill up, dinner is the last thing you want to worry about. Preparing your meals in advance is a great way to have tasty and healthy food without wasting precious hours of your day. But can you marinate a chicken and freeze it for later?
You can freeze both cooked and uncooked marinated chicken. Freezing protects the chicken for up to 12 months. However, know that freezing marinated chicken can affect its flavor. You can freeze uncooked marinated chicken as the freezing process prevents the chicken from marinating until it thaws.
In this article, I’ll provide an overview of freezing marinated chicken. I’ll cover details about food safety, bacteria growth, marinating, and more. Keep reading to learn new ways to save time while getting the most out of your ingredients.
How Long Marinated Chicken Can Be Stored Frozen
You have your freezer bags, sauce, and chicken, so the question is: to cook or not to cook? The good news: you can go either way.
Freeze Uncooked Marinated Chicken for Up to 9 Months
According to the FDA, uncooked poultry can last in the freezer for up to nine months to a year. Raw chopped pieces of chicken can last up to nine months, while whole uncut pieces of raw chicken can last for a year.
Sealable bags are the best bet for freezing your meat and marinade. It’s vital to ensure that the bag is thoroughly sealed without any holes, keeping as much air out as possible.
You can place your chicken and sauce in the sealable bag together; the sauce will freeze up and prevent the uncooked chicken from marinating and helps decrease the moisture level.
When you’re ready to cook your chicken, take it out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge for 24 hours. As the sauce begins to thaw, your chicken will start to marinate.
Avoid leaving the uncooked chicken thawing in the fridge beyond 24 hours; the chances of bacteria collecting increase the longer you leave the thawed chicken in the fridge due to the raw chicken soaking up excess moisture.
You Can Freeze Cooked Marinated Chicken for 4-6 Months
Perhaps you want to spend less time cooking when you finally get home from work? You can cook your chicken ahead of time and then place it in a sealed bag with your marinating sauce.
The same principle applies as before, though the shelf life for cooked chicken is a little shorter. The FDA suggests leaving cooked poultry in the freezer for 4-6 months maximum.
Allow the chicken to thaw for 24 hours before heating and enjoying. As with raw chicken, it’s best to eat it within 24 hours after thawing.
How Marinated Chicken Develops Bacteria
There are few things more disheartening than getting your chicken out of the fridge and finding that it’s too late to use. Understanding how bacteria develop and what makes them thrive can help you preserve your meat better.
Bacteria Grows in the Range of Temperatures Between 40°F and 140°F (4.44°C to 60°C)
Frozen marinated chicken tends to last longer because the environment’s temperature is the most influential factor of bacteria growth.
If chicken sits out in temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (4.44°C to 60°C) for 15 minutes, the bacteria can almost double. This temperature range is known as the “Danger Zone”. Therefore, freezing your marinated chicken is one of the most effective ways to protect it from developing bacteria.
Bacteria Thrive in Acidic and Protein-Rich Environments
Most marinades contain vinegar, lemon, or some type of acidic ingredient.
When any meat marinades in highly acidic sauces, the pH level of the meat increases and creates a more bacteria-friendly environment.
Therefore, freezing marinated chicken is the safest option for long-term storage as the meat cannot properly absorb the acidic moisture of the marinade because the marinade is no longer in liquid form, thus preventing the change in the meat’s pH levels.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), bacteria are drawn to foods with high amounts of protein, making chicken (marinated or not) a primary candidate for bacteria to grow.
Will Freezing My Marinated Chicken Affect the Taste?
Freezing marinated chicken will affect the taste. Freezing won’t affect the quality of the chicken itself; however, the meat will absorb less flavor when thawed. As a marinated chicken thaws, the melted ice can dilute the flavor. It’s good to marinate thawed or fresh chicken for the best flavor.
One may assume that adding more marinade to your chicken will counter the dilution from the water, but this isn’t the case. Any water added to your marinade will dilute it no matter how much marinade you have.
Freeze Chicken and Marinade Separately for Best Results
The only way to achieve the best flavor possible is to cook your ingredients fresh. In an ideal world, you would have all the time and energy you would need to accomplish the perfect dinner every night.
However, you can still have the best of both worlds: quick and delicious.
To accomplish this, simply prepare your marinade in advance, but freeze it separately from the chicken. Later, when you’re ready to cook it, marinade the completely thawed chicken in your pre-prepared marinade.
The standard for marinating is between 5-6 hours, but you can still achieve excellent flavor in as short as 15 minutes. Less time marinating is better for your flavor than allowing melted ice crystals to flush the flavor out of your chicken.
- Not only can you freeze marinated chicken, but it’s also much safer for you to freeze it if you don’t plan to cook it right away.
- Bacteria grows in warmer environments, making the freezer a much safer place for your marinated chicken.
- You can achieve quality flavor in your meal and still save time by freezing your chicken and marinade separately.
Freezing your meals is safe and can save time, but don’t be afraid to slow down and cook fresh every once in a while to enjoy all the pleasures that food has to offer.