How to Freeze Cooked and Grilled Chicken Breasts

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All you have to know when freezing cooked chicken is not to exceed the recommended amount of freezer time and to keep the chicken packed tightly so that it doesn’t get freezer burn.
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All you have to know when freezing cooked chicken is not to exceed the recommended amount of freezer time and to keep the chicken packed tightly so that it doesn't get freezer burn.

Freezing Cooked Chicken

Like raw chicken, cooked chicken can be frozen and consumed at a later date. Whether you're freezing grilled chicken legs or grilled chicken breasts, you'll have to adhere to the proper freezing guidelines.

USDA recommends wrapping the chicken with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper or putting it in a freezer bag to prevent freezer burn. Tight wrapping is especially advised if you're freezing the chicken for more than two months.

Leftover cooked chicken can be refrigerated for up to four days or frozen for up to four months. Make sure not to leave it out for more than two hours once purchased or cooked. It should be eaten or refrigerated as soon as possible.

What's more, the Australian Chicken Meat Federation (ACMF) says it's okay to refreeze defrosted chicken...well...sometimes. If chicken hasn't been left out at room temperature for more than two hours or thawing in the refrigerator for more than 24 hours, it should be okay to refreeze.

Another set of guidelines by USDA suggests freezing food when it's fresh, rather than when it's at the end of its useful life. Foods that are fresh before being frozen will be of better quality after thawing. In case you were wondering: freezing does not destroy nutrients in chicken, not does it change the meat's color.

Read more: How to Bake Chicken Breasts in the Oven and Keep Them Tender

How to Safely Defrost Chicken

Freezing cooked chicken means you'll eventually have to remove the chicken from the freezer and eat it or toss it out. USDA: Chicken From Farm to Table advises three ways to safely defrost chicken: in the microwave, in cold water and in the refrigerator.

Do not thaw chicken at room temperature, and make sure to set enough time aside for the chicken to fully defrost. Keep in mind that boneless chicken breasts can take up to one to two days longer to thaw, says USDA.

When thawing chicken in water, the meat must be in a leak-proof bag. Make sure to use cold water and change it every 30 minutes. According to USDA, a 1-pound package of boneless chicken breasts should defrost in under an hour.

If you're thawing raw chicken, you should cook it as soon as it has defrosted. Another important note: chicken can be cooked from a frozen state in the oven or on the stove, though cooking time can take 50 percent longer.

Read more: How to Bake a Plain Chicken Breast

General Poultry Safety Tips

If you're going to be freezing cooked chicken, you'll want to keep in mind some general food safety tips. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises reheating the amount of chicken you plan to eat for that particular meal, rather than reheating everything. After reheating the chicken, you can make sure the internal temperature is above 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also recommends tossing out old leftovers, even if they look or smell OK. Remember: chicken shouldn't stay in the freezer more than four months and in the refrigerator more than four days.

Chicken that has been kept too long — either in the freezer or outside the freezer — and consumed, can lead to foodborne illness. If you're experiencing signs of food poisoning, says U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, such as fever, diarrhea, bloody stools, prolonged vomiting or signs of vomiting, you should consult your doctor.

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