If you bought a lot of chicken or cooked way more than necessary, don’t worry! In this post, you’ll learn how long you can freeze chicken for both scenarios: raw and already cooked.
The longevity of frozen chicken may surprise you, but know that how long it retains its quality will be based on a few factors -all of which I’ll simplify for you below.
How Long Can You Freeze Raw Chicken Thighs, Breasts, Legs, and Wings
According to the USDA, raw chicken pieces can be frozen for up to 9 months! That’s an impressive amount of time and is super helpful if you want to purchase protein in bulk and freeze it for future use.
When it comes to freezing the chicken, I highly recommend separating it into 1 to 2-lb increments and freezing them in heavy-duty zip bags (freezer bags).
Note: if you’re a single person, I recommend freezing chicken in the amounts you’re comfortable cooking and enjoying in a 3-4 day period.
Smaller batches like those are the perfect portion for a family of 4-6 or a single person, which means it will take less time to defrost. Worst-case scenario, you’ll cook it straight out of the freezer!
Didn’t know that was a thing? It’s a game-changer, and in this post, I’ll show you how to cook frozen chicken in the oven.
How Long Can You Freeze a Whole Chicken?
You can freeze an uncooked, whole chicken for up to 1 year! So next time you hit a sale on a whole chicken, grab a couple, and you’ll be set for a while.
You can freeze the whole chicken in the plastic bag/wrapping it’s already packed in or if buying whole chickens in bulk, inside an individual zip bag.
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Can Chicken Go Bad in the Freezer?
Despite its long freeze-time, chicken can go bad in the freezer. Generally, whole cuts of raw chicken will keep for up to 9 months, while ground chicken and giblets have only 3 to 4 months.
TIP: chicken should be frozen in the deepest area of the freezer and not in the door or top level of a freezer drawer. The temperatures are less stable and fluctuate each time it opens and closes.
Cooked chicken also keeps well for about 3-4 months, depending on how it’s seasoned or whether it includes other ingredients- more on this later.
To avoid uncertainty, before you freeze chicken of any kind, use a permanent marker to label the zip bag with the date you are freezing. This will help you keep track of how long it’s been frozen.
Note: never freeze chicken in its storebought pack, the type with the tray and thin film, this will result in freezer burn quickly.
How Long is Frozen Chicken Good After Expiration Date?
If you are freezing chicken just before the expiration date, it will last the recommended amount of time listed above. Once frozen, the expiration date voids itself and then follows the recommended freezing guidelines.
However, if your raw chicken is past the expiration date, the safest option is to dispose of it.
How Long Can you Freeze Cooked Chicken?
Cooked chicken has less freezer life compared to raw because of the change in state and the other ingredients in the same recipe or batch. Below is a chart that includes a variety of recipe scenarios and how long you have to enjoy each:
|How long it lasts
(grilled, baked, poached)
How to Thaw Frozen Chicken
There are a few ways to thaw chicken safely, and depending on how much time you have, some methods will be more beneficial than others. Below are the safest options and approximate thaw times based on the amount of chicken:
- In the fridge: up to 24 hours per 1-5 pounds of meat.
- In cold water: 1.5 hours per 1-2 lbs and 2-3 hours per 3-4 lbs.
- In the microwave: approximately 10 minutes per pound.
Note: the microwave should be used for emergency purposes and only when thawing boneless, skinless chicken breasts.