Did you defrost a pack of chicken breast for dinner tonight, only for plans to change last minute? If so, it’s safe to say your biggest question now is if you can refreeze chicken, and how to do it safely.
In short, yes, you can refreeze thawed chicken. Below you’ll learn how to do it to keep the quality of your meat intact.
Can You Refreeze Chicken After Defrosting?
According to the USDA, it is safe to refreeze chicken once it’s been thawed. However, there will be a decline in its texture quality due to the process of being frozen and thawed twice.
If you’re going to refreeze chicken, I recommend you mark the package in a way that you know to use that chicken in the future in recipes that have sauces or cooking methods that will add moisture back into the meat, like slow cooker chicken in a sauce or chicken soup recipes.
If you have 20 minutes, I recommend you quickly poach the chicken and then refreeze it. Alternatively, mark the chicken bag with a “for poaching” so you know to do this next time.
This cooking method adds a lot of moisture to the meat, which is a plus because freezing tends to dry foods out.
Moisture = better chicken texture and flavor.
When You Should Not Refreeze Thawed Chicken
There are a few exceptions to refreezing thawed chicken and have to do with how you thawed out the chicken.
If the chicken has been out at room temperature, in the sink or counter, for more than 2 hours, do not refreeze the chicken.
If the chicken has been defrosting in the fridge for 3 or more days, do not refreeze it.
It’s important you check to see if the chicken is bad before you refreeze it. Some signs include a slimy texture, weird color, or unpleasant smell.
If your chicken has been in one of the above scenarios but seems to be of good quality, cook it as soon as possible first, then refreeze it already cooked not raw.
Can You Refreeze Partially Thawed Meat?
Yes! In fact, this is better than waiting for it to fully defrost. Just place the container/package of chicken back into the freezer and remove it once you’re ready to cook.
How Soon to Cook Chicken After Thawing
Once the chicken is thawed and kept refrigerated, it should be cooked within 3 to 4 days. Anything longer, and you run into the risk of food poisoning due to bacterial growth or chicken that has simply gone bad.
Easiest Way to Cook Chicken for ReFreezing
Poaching is the best way to cook chicken you plan to refreeze because it helps the meat stay as moist as possible. Plus, you can use it for chicken salads, quick chicken pasta recipes, or fun chicken tacos. These do a great job of masking up any changes in texture caused by refreezing.
After poaching, simply, shred the poached chicken with one of these three methods, divide it into freezer-safe bags labeled with the date, and it can stay frozen for up to 9 months.
Once you’re ready to make a recipe, allow the chicken to thaw before tossing it with your dressing or sauce, and reheating.