Skip to main content

How Long Can You Freeze Chicken? An Award-Winning Chef Explains

Digging into the freezer files is an inevitable part of cooking at home. Whether you are a bulk buyer or just lamenting leftovers, freezing food is an economical and efficient way to make your supplies last far past supper. But once it’s in there, it’s often forgotten, and knowing if that awesome chicken soup will taste awful three months later can be hard to nail down. Thanks to the food scientists at the USDA we have guidance for how long and how best to freeze most foods. Lucky for a lot of us, one of the most freezable foods on their list is Chicken. When prepared correctly, this popular poultry can withstand the frozen test of time but remaining edible is the most important element. We spoke to Chef George Barry, formerly at The Ritz-Carlton — St. Thomas for some tips that will save you from freezer burn and ensure your chilly chicken dinner will be defrosted and still delicious.

Related Guides

Related Videos

How Long Can You Freeze Chicken?

While the USDA says that technically when frozen correctly chicken can last forever but as Chef George explains, that doesn’t mean it should.

“Chicken should last 9 months or so to a year but you do lose quality the longer it sits in your freezer and sometimes that moisture and crystallization will get in no matter what.”

However Cooked chicken doesn’t have that long of an ice shelf life. You’re going to want to make sure you flash freeze that chicken soup and reheat and eat it within four months.

How to Freeze Chicken

There are many freezer storage bags and vacuum sealers on the market that make packaging poultry foolproof but as George describes, the easiest way is the old-school wrap and push.

“Getting an airtight seal is the key. I like to wrap my chicken in plastic wrap first to help prevent freezer burn and then place it in a Ziploc freezer bag. Make sure to squeeze all the air out before you zip it, date it, and place it in the back of your freezer.”

If you are looking to step up your food saver game, George shares his recommendations for more savvy storage options:

“What I really suggest is to buy a food saver or Cryovac machine. They have inexpensive options that don’t take up kitchen space. They help preserve the quality of your foods and prevent freezer burn. Also saves space in your fridge cause you’re eliminating bowls and containers. It’s great for marinating and preserving meats. Also, can it be used for sous vide preparations as well if you’re into that cooking method.”

How to Safely Defrost Frozen Chicken

Now that you’ve been inspired to bake that bird that’s been lurking back there, defrosting without destroying it is the next step.

The best way as suggested by the USDA and Chef George is in the refrigerator. While it can take a day or more to thaw depending on weight, this is the safest way to protect the chicken’s taste and your stomach.

When you are pressed for time, a cold water bath will speed up the process to about 4 hours and for the fastest results, a microwave with a defrost option always comes in for a quick dinner win. If you are really clucked, it’s completely safe to cook chicken straight from the freezer. It will just take a bit longer to bake or boil that bird.

Editors' Recommendations

This fish cooking trick gives you perfect crispy skin without messing up the pan
How to cook fish: The secret is something you probably already have in your pantry
parchment paper tip for cooking fish salmon

Fish is one of those foods that a lot of us don't often cook at home. It's finicky, sometimes tricky to get just right, and often sticks in a way that makes you want to just throw the damned pan in the garbage can instead of the sink for two days of soaking. If these frustrations are familiar to you, take a deep breath. We're here with a solution.

This clever little hack from ChefSteps is here to save your cookware and your sanity with just one quick and easy addition to your fish cooking process — parchment paper. Parchment paper, that humble little sheet that helps your cookies bake perfectly, can also save your pans from a sticky fish fiasco.
How to cook fish with perfectly crispy skin and zero frustrating clean-up

Read more
How to make a caipirinha, a perfect day drink
Caipirinha: This refreshing and sweet Brazilian cocktail is amazing and a surefire hit


Novo Fogo Cascadian-Caipbeerinha.

Read more
4 delicious casserole recipes to try right now (it’s the comfort food you need)
These casserole recipes are classics for a reason
pizza cassserole.

Casseroles. How does one describe a casserole? For some, it conjures up the image of mothers placing a big pan of something or other on the table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For others, it's comfort food that is loaded with different ingredients. Even yet, others may not even realize what a casserole is. That's why we had to do a little digging.

Turns out, casseroles are more than that tuna noodle casserole some of us terrifyingly remember, or maybe it's that green bean casserole that seems to make its way to the Thanksgiving or Christmas table. Not many people use the word casserole anymore but make no mistake, they still exist – they just go by another name.

Read more