Have you ever thawed chicken to cook for dinner, only to have your plans change? Yes, it happens, and then you wonder what to do next. Can you refreeze the chicken for another night? If you are looking for a little chicken advice, I’ve covered it all here!
Just because I have this blog and live a healthy lifestyle as my job (kinda cool, isn’t it?) doesn’t mean that my days go perfectly, and the meals I make are all blog-worthy.
I’ve had days that have completely gone off course, leaving me with no option but to change my plans. And yeah, I do sometimes throw the dinner lineup aside and scramble some eggs in a pinch.
And in that case, I’ve had to refreeze chicken I’ve thawed for dinner for use at another time.
I know some of you may think that you have to take the loss and throw the chicken out. But that’s not the case at all.
It is definitely okay to refreeze chicken, and I’ll go into the facts further in the post. It’s a safe practice, and you can do it without worrying, as long as the thawing and refreezing are done right.
No one wants to waste food, after all.
Keep in mind that the texture, and even the taste, may change. That’s a reason why you may not want to refreeze chicken.
HOW TO BUY CHICKEN
How you buy your chicken is a pretty important part of the safety aspect of it.
You may not know, but chicken can easily be contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter (the harmful bacteria that causes food poisoning) if you are not careful.
While some people will get sick and recover within a few days, others are more at risk of complications. Pregnant women, people with immune system disorders, adults over 60, and kids 5 and under can all have more problems if infected.
So, keep this in mind and follow these simple rules for food safety, in this case chicken:
- Keep kids clear of the poultry section in the store (don’t let them handle packaging)
- Always use the same reusable bag for your poultry purchases
- Wash your grocery bags often, especially if they transport raw meat
- Check that the chicken package isn’t leaking when you buy it
- Always check the best before date
- When filling your grocery cart, pick up cold and frozen items last
- Don’t leave chicken on the counter sitting at room temperature (thaw in cold water or the fridge)
HOW TO STORE CHICKEN
Once home, store the chicken right away in a container or bag to prevent the juices from leaking out and over other items in the fridge. Keep any meat away from unwrapped food such as vegetables. If you don’t plan to use the chicken within 2-3 days, freeze it right away.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO FREEZE CHICKEN?
You don’t have to remove chicken from the grocery store packaging to freeze it. But, it is not a bad idea to do it. It protects the moisture content of the chicken and the flavor, too.
Put the chicken in a plastic resealable bag and squeeze as much air out as possible before zipping it closed. If you prefer to leave the chicken in the original packaging, wrap a layer of foil or plastic wrap around it to prevent freezer burn. This way, the chicken does not get dried up and grey looking.
Frozen chicken has to be kept at a temperature below 0 degrees F. The poultry has to be frozen quickly, or resulting ice crystals will make the meat dry and chewy. Frozen and refrozen chicken, when stored properly, can last in the freezer for up to one year. For best quality, though, use before 9 months.
HOW TO THAW CHICKEN
Right off the bat, the first step to safety with chicken is to thaw it in the fridge. Remember, every time you defrost chicken, it loses a bit of the moisture and flavor. Thawed chicken benefits from the addition of a marinade, for example, when cooked to compensate for the lost juice.
The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) has outlined three ways to safely thaw chicken:
- In the fridge: This is the best way to thaw meat and poultry. The temperature of the refrigerator should be 40 degrees F or lower.
- In a bowl of cold water: The key here is that the chicken is to be in leak-proof packaging, and the water has to be changed every 30 minutes.
- In the microwave: Heat the chicken in a microwave-safe dish on the defrost setting. Rotate the chicken at intervals to make sure it is thawing evenly throughout.
When you use the cold water or microwave methods, the chicken has to be cooked before refreezing.
It’s not safe to thaw chicken on the counter because bacteria can form quickly. Follow the USDA guidelines to always be on the safe side.
HOW TO STORE THAWED CHICKEN
If you plan to refreeze thawed chicken, do so as soon as you know you won’t be using it. If the thawed poultry has been in the fridge for longer than 2 days, it might be contaminated with bacteria. Don’t use it and don’t refreeze.
WHAT CHANGES WHEN YOU REFREEZE CHICKEN?
Every time you thaw chicken, it loses moisture. When the freezing process takes place, the water content is lost somewhat. So, when chicken is frozen the first time, part of the moisture is lost. When thawed and refrozen, another round of moisture loss takes place.
This is one reason why buying frozen chicken is not ideal. Some of the moisture is already lost, making it not as appealing as fresh. Sometimes, chicken is frozen because it is near the best before date, meaning the store may have been overstocked. The best poultry to purchase is fresh – and remember, check the best-before date.
HOW TO COOK REFROZEN CHICKEN
Because the texture and taste may change, you may do best to cook the chicken for use in a soup, stew, on nachos, or in a casserole. You won’t notice the changes quite as much. Remember, any time you cook chicken, do not leave it on the counter any longer than 2 hours or it will be in the danger zone for bacterial growth. If this happens, you will have to discard it. Cooked chicken can be kept in the fridge for 3 to 4 days and in the freezer for up to 4 months.
SHOULD YOU RINSE RAW CHICKEN BEFORE COOKING IT?
No, it is not a good idea to rinse chicken before you cook it. When you clean the raw chicken, bacteria on the chicken may spread to utensils, the sink, and countertops. It’s not necessary because if there are bacteria on the surface of the poultry, it will be destroyed when cooked.
HEALTHY CHICKEN MEALS
Ready for a chicken dinner tonight? Now that you have the scoop on chicken and how to purchase, store, freeze and thaw it, it’s time to look at some tasty recipes. From a chicken breast to a thigh to wings, chicken is a fave in my house. Try these!
- Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Meal Prep
- Shredded Chicken Enchiladas
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken
- Instant Pot Quinoa Chicken Bowl
- Healthy General Tso Chicken
This post contains affiliate links for products I use regularly and highly recommend.