Change your mind about that pack of drumsticks or thighs? Find out if you can refreeze thawed chicken.
Frozen chicken breast on a designed background
Credit: Getty Images / Oksana Ermak

From a three-ingredient chicken salad to a simple sheet-pan dinner, there are endless ways to eat chicken—and we love to keep a pack on hand in the freezer for whenever inspiration strikes. But what happens when plans change and you no longer need the chicken? The last thing you want to do is waste it. So, can you refreeze thawed chicken? Read on to find out.

Can You Refreeze Chicken?

Short answer: Yes and no. Long answer: You can refreeze chicken, but depending on how it was thawed, it may need to be cooked first. There are three main ways to thaw chicken: in the refrigerator, in the microwave or in cold water. While all of these methods are safe, thawing in the refrigerator is the best option. Although it requires more forethought, as it may take one to two days for the chicken to thaw, chicken thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen as is. Just be sure to place it back in the freezer within two days of thawing. 

However, if the chicken was thawed in the microwave, then it must be cooked first before it is returned to the freezer. When chicken is thawed in the microwave, sections of the protein may begin to warm and cook. As a result, it is unsafe to then refreeze it without the chicken being fully cooked because "any bacteria present wouldn't have been destroyed," notes the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Be sure to cook chicken to a minimum internal temperature of 165℉.

Similarly, chicken that's been thawed in cold water also must be cooked before it is refrozen. To thaw chicken in cold water, submerge the frozen poultry in a leakproof bag or its original airtight packaging. Be sure to change the water every 30 minutes so it stays cold. Keeping the chicken cold is crucial to the prevention of bacterial growth. However, because you can't ensure the chicken stays consistently cold (although changing the water helps), it needs to be cooked before you put it back in the freezer.

Bottom Line

You can refreeze chicken that's been thawed, but it must be cooked first if it has been thawed in the microwave or in cold water. But if the chicken has thawed in the refrigerator, then it can be refrozen raw within two days of thawing. For more on chicken, learn how to butterfly a chicken breast.