You may have started to thaw a whole frozen chicken or some frozen chicken breasts only to have your plans change. It happens to the best of us.
You know it’s wasteful to throw the chicken away… but you’re also worried about bacteria development and foodborne illnesses.
You might find yourself wondering, can you refreeze chicken that has already been frozen and thawed?
Thawed chicken can be safely refrozen. It’s a common food myth that chicken cannot be refrozen after it has been thawed out. However, refreezing chicken will affect the quality and texture of the meat. Chicken that has been refrozen and thawed out a second time will have a mushier texture which limits the recipes you can use.
There is no need to let thawed chicken go to waste if your plans have changed and you no longer wish to cook it.
It is safe to place it back in the freezer in its original packaging and defrost when you’re ready to cook but there are a few things to keep in mind.
What Happens To Thawed Chicken That Gets Refrozen?
Thawed chicken that gets refrozen is safe to eat after it’s defrosted again and fully cooked. You want to take extra care not to undercook refrozen thawed chicken.
However, the quality of the meat and texture will be different when refrozen and thawed a second time. The change in texture is from the excess moisture from the thawing process that typically causes crystallization in the freezer.
Crystallization breaks the meat down which can result in a somewhat mangled appearance and mushy texture. While there is some risk of an unpleasant mouthfeel, the chicken will still be completely safe to eat.
In order to remove some of the unpleasant texture and qualities of the refrozen and thawed chicken, you can poach or braise the chicken.
How To Store Chicken In The Freezer
Chicken should be stored in the original packaging in a freezer set to a temperature of 0°F or -18°C.
I recommend wrapping the chicken with an additional plastic wrap or place the chicken in its packaging into a re-sealable food storage bag. This will help block any excess moisture that may leak out. Typically the chicken will leak excess moisture when it is being thawed.
Another tip for freezing chicken is to place the chicken at the bottom of the freezer where it tends to be the coolest. Warm air gets into the freezer as you open and close it, so you’ll want to avoid keeping the chicken by the freezer entrance.
Write down an expiration date for your reference and ensure you cook your chicken before it becomes unsafe to eat. See below for details on how long chicken keeps in the freezer.
How Long Does Chicken Last In The Freezer?
Below are the storage time for uncooked frozen chicken:
|Uncooked Chicken Cuts or Types||Storage Length in Freezer|
|Whole chicken||Up to 12 months|
|Chicken breasts, thighs, wings, and legs||Up to 9 months|
|Ground chicken and giblets||Up to 3 months|
Try to thaw and cook the chicken as quickly as possible since the chicken quality will degrade as it gets close to its expiration date.
How To Safely Thaw Chicken
The best and safest way to thaw frozen chicken is to place it in the refrigerator. Make sure your fridge is set to a temperature below 40°F or 4°C. Let the chicken thaw for up to 24 hours in its original packaging before cooking or refreezing it.
There is a faster way to thaw chicken although it does require some supervision to make sure the chicken is still safe to eat.
Here’s how to thaw frozen chicken quickly:
- Make sure the original packaging of the chicken is not damaged
- Place the frozen chicken into a bowl of cool water on the counter
- Change the water every 30 minutes until the chicken is thawed
- Do not leave the frozen chicken out for more than 2 hours
- Cook the thawed chicken immediately
Do not leave any chicken at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
So do not try thawing chicken on the counter overnight since this greatly increases the chances of bacteria developing which can cause foodborne illnesses.
How Long Can Thawed Chicken Stay In The Refrigerator?
If you have thawed a chicken that you no longer plan to cook then you should put it back in the freezer within 24 hours from when you started thawing.
Frozen chicken that has been thawed may start to develop bacteria if left in the fridge for more than a day. So either cook or re-freeze thawed chicken within 24 hours.
How To Tell If The Chicken Has Gone Bad
Chicken is one of those food items that you want to err on the side of caution. Bacteria can grow quickly with chicken so when in doubt, toss it out.
Here are some steps you can follow to check if your chicken has gone bad.
- Check the color. If the chicken is not pink but has started to turn grey in color then the chicken has spoiled.
- Check the smell. If the chicken smells bad or funky then toss it out.
- Check how it feels. If the chicken feels slimy rather than smooth then it has definitely gone bad.
What Recipes Are Best For Chicken That Has Been Refroen?
If you have refrozen a previously thawed chicken then the texture will be compromised. However, there are a few recipes that can help salvage this type chicken.
If you have refrozen a whole chicken then try making chicken stock from scratch. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil with the chicken and aromatics. Then, let it simmer for an hour or two.
You can also shred whole chicken and add it to soup, sandwiches, or enjoy as a main dish. Cooking the chicken in its own stock will result in moist, flavorful meat.
If you have refrozen chicken breast then poaching it or braising it would be a great move to add moisture and flavor to the meat for a nice juicy texture. You can also sear and braise chicken thighs, wings, and legs.
Ground chicken is the most forgiving since it can be thrown into a pasta sauce or taco mix and cooked like regular ground chicken.
If you end up thawing a chicken and you change your mind about cooking it then you can easily place it back in the freezer.
It’s a myth that it’s unsafe to refreeze thawed chicken.
However, you should keep in mind that the chicken’s texture may change so you will want to change how this chicken will be cooked. Braising or poaching might be your best options for thawed refrozen chicken.
Whatever you do, do not let it go to waste! Thawed and refrozen chicken are perfectly safe to eat.