Freezing Cooked Chicken Thighs (Safety & How To)

Chicken is a protein-rich poultry that is the perfect addition to a healthy & quick meal. Whether you have purchased chicken thighs in bulk or have some cooked leftovers from last night, you can always freeze cooked chicken thighs. 

Parts like raw chicken thighs, breasts, and legs can be frozen for up to 6-9 months, whereas cooked chicken can be frozen for up to 4 months, longer at your discretion. 

In this blog post, we will learn: 

  • How safe it is to freeze cooked chicken
  • How-to freeze chicken thighs properly
  • How long to keep cooked chicken thighs frozen
can you freeze cooked chicken thighs

Is Freezing Cooked Chicken Safe? 

Freezing cooked chicken thighs and other parts is completely safe. Frozen chicken has slightly fewer nutrients than fresh chicken but tastes almost the same if it is frozen and thawed correctly. You just need some parchment paper, a baking sheet, and freezer bags to freeze the cooked thighs. 

That said, you may notice that frozen chicken thighs are not as moist and fresh as they were before they were frozen. This is because freezing impairs the ability of chicken to retain water, causing it to dry. According to various research, the duration of freezer storage can affect the meat’s quality and reduce its moisture content.

How to Freeze Cooked Chicken Thighs

How to Freeze Cooked Chicken Thighs

To freeze cooked chicken thighs, you will need a large freezer bag, a baking sheet, and some parchment paper. Here is a step-by-step guide: 

  1. Make sure that the chicken has cooled completely.
  2. Separate the chicken thighs and place them on a baking or cookie sheet that has been covered in parchment paper. Make sure that the chicken pieces aren’t touching one another.
  3. Place the tray into the freezer for at least two hours or until each chicken thigh is frozen solid (this is known as flash freezing).
  4. Once frozen, place the chicken thighs into a large freezer-safe bag. Squeeze out as much of the air as possible from the freezer bag prior to sealing the chicken pieces inside to prevent crystallization and freezer burn.
  5. Lay the bag flat in the freezer, and you are good to go for 3-4 months.  

For freezing raw chicken thighs, you can try the bulk freezing method. This involves freezing the chicken directly in the packaging it came in. Another alternative is to stack the chicken thighs on top of each other and wrap the bundle with parchment paper before placing it in a freezer bag.

Optional: You can also debone chicken thighs before freezing if you’d like. 

How Long Do Cooked Chicken Thighs Last in the Freezer? 

Cooked chicken thighs last for 3-4 months in the freezer if adequately protected from direct contact with the cold freezer air.

How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last in the Freezer

Are There Any Kinds of Cooked Chicken that Can’t be Frozen?

Most types of cooked chicken can be preserved for a long time by freezing. The only thing you need to be wary of is any ingredients that accompany the chicken. For instance, if you have prepared a chicken salad with sauces and herbs, then it cannot be frozen for as long due to the other ingredients.

Defrosting Cooked Chicken Thighs

Defrosting Cooked Chicken

The best way to defrost frozen cooked chicken thighs and other parts is to move them from the freezer to the refrigerator overnight. This method of slow thawing will give you the best quality of meat overall.

If you need to defrost the chicken more quickly, place the bag or container with the chicken in a bowl or sink filled with cool water. Never use hot water for this process as the heat will encourage the growth of bacteria.

Chicken thighs, breasts, drumsticks, and other parts should be consumed within 1-2 days of defrosting, whereas chicken patties & nuggets are okay to be consumed for up to 4 days. 

Note: I advise you not to let the chicken thaw at room temperature since this can cause bacteria to multiply very quickly and lead to food poisoning

Signs that Frozen Cooked Chicken Thighs Are Spoiled 

Freezing cooked chicken thighs for too long can sometimes lead to bacterial contamination. This means that it’s time to ditch the chicken. Watch out for these red flags when you defrost any cooked chicken. 

  • Cooked chicken thighs should appear roughly the same after defrosting. Although slight color changes are permissible, you should avoid eating it without reheating it to a temperature of at least 165˚F (74°C). 
  • Another telltale sign cooked chicken thighs have gone bad is a foul sulfur-like smell. In some cases, cooked chicken might smell like rotten eggs. 
  • Lastly, check the texture and outer finish, if the chicken is extremely dry or slimy, it’s best that you throw it out. 

Freezing Cooked Chicken Thighs – Conclusion

Freezing cooked chicken thighs and other parts like drumsticks and wings is safe and quite easy to do. Simply allow the cooked chicken to cool, flash freeze it, and place it in a freezer-safe bag for up to 4 months.