It's important to know how long you can keep frozen chicken, not only to ensure that it's safe to eat but so that it still tastes great too...
Chicken is versatile, healthy and relatively inexpensive, making it popular in cuisines across the world.
One way to make it even more economical is to buy chicken in bulk and freeze portions of it for later use. But it's important to know just for how long you can safely store chicken in the freezer, and how to properly thaw it to avoid any food borne illness.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a whole, uncooked chicken can be kept frozen for up to one year. Uncooked chicken pieces, on the other hand, can be safely stored for up to nine months in the freezer.
The rules are a little different for cooked chicken, however. Once cooked, chicken can only be kept frozen for up to 6 months.
How to prevent freezer burn
If you've ever stored chicken in the freezer for an extended period of time, you may have noticed that it ends up covered in ice crystals or has silvery patches, which may be indications of freezer burn.
Many people worry that freezer burn makes food unsafe to eat, but it is actually just a sign of dehydration that has occurred due to food being exposed to air. The real problem with freezer burn, though, is that it can adversely affect the flavor of the food.
The good news is that freezer burn can be prevented altogether by properly preparing your chicken for freezing.
If you have bought a whole chicken that you plan to freeze, wrap an additional layer of plastic wrap or foil around the chicken's existing packaging. Alternatively, you can remove the chicken from its original packaging and place it into a sealed freezer bag.
You will occasionally find chicken that has been vacuum packed - if so, you can freeze it without taking these extra steps, as the vacuum packaging will keep it well protected.
How to safely thaw frozen chicken
When you are ready to use your chicken, it is important to know exactly how to thaw it safely.
There are quite a few different ways in which you can do this, but the most highly recommended (and safest) method is to defrost it in the fridge. The only downside to this method is that it requires some forward planning. You will need to take your chicken out of the freezer about 24 hours prior to cooking it.
If you are in a rush and need to thaw chicken for your dinner that same evening, you can defrost it in cold water instead. Simply place it in a large bowl of cold (never warm) water and change the water every 30 minutes. Large pieces of chicken or whole birds may still take several hours to thaw using this method.
Of course, the quickest way to thaw your chicken is in your microwave. It should be covered in a microwave safe container and thawed on the defrost setting - the exact amount of time needed will depend on the cut and size. Chicken thawed this way should then be cooked immediately.