How Long Can You Freeze Chicken?
Are you tempted to stock up whenever you come across a sale at the grocery store? You toss a few more rolls of toilet paper into your cart, or a couple of extra boxes of sandwich bags. Saving money and stocking up feels good! But what about perishable items like chicken? If you're interested in buying a few extra packages of chicken on your next grocery trip, or want to be prepared the next time you come across a sale in the poultry section, read on to find out how long chicken lasts in the freezer.
How Long Can You Freeze Raw Chicken?
You may be surprised to learn that you can store raw chicken in the freezer forever, according to the USDA. Even when the frozen chicken has passed the best-by date on its packaging, it is still deemed safe to eat when thawed.
While this is the case, you may not want to eat chicken that's been stored in the freezer for ages—for quality reasons. Frozen chicken that has been stowed beyond the recommended times may lose its texture and flavor, according to FoodSafety.gov, a USDA consumer food safety app.
How long raw chicken lasts in the freezer also depends on whether it is a whole bird, cut into parts, raw or cooked:
- Whole chicken: up to 1 year
- Chicken pieces, such as chicken cutlets: up to 9 months
- Ground chicken: 3 to 4 months
- Fully cooked chicken sausage: 1 to 2 months
- Chicken sausage purchased frozen: 1 to 2 months
- Cooked chicken: 2 to 6 months
How to Freeze Raw Chicken
There are several different ways to store your raw chicken in the freezer.
Store it in its original packaging
For any packaging that is unopened and is vacuum-sealed, you can store the chicken as is.
For unopened, non-vacuum-sealed chicken, there is nothing wrong with storing in its original packaging. However, the plastic wrap used is likely permeable to air, which can cause the meat to be susceptible to freezer burn, reducing its quality over time. To prolong the chicken's freshness, add another layer of wrapping, such as aluminum foil, around he package.
Place pieces of chicken in airtight containers
You can also remove the chicken from its original packaging to marinate your meat before placing it into freezer bags. Putting your chicken into freezer bags (with or without marinade) is a great way to preserve the quality of the meat, especially if you vacuum-seal the bag, which forces air out before closing the bag to avoid freezer burn. (We will cover freezer burn in more detail below.)
Since you have removed the chicken from its original packaging, be sure to label your containers and use the FIFO (First In First Out) method.
To maximize the quality of the raw chicken, it is also best to store it in the deeper parts of the freezer and away from the door to prevent temperature fluctuations.
How to prevent freezer burn
As mentioned, storing your chicken the right way helps prevent freezer burn, which results from the poultry being exposed to air, leading to dehydration. While chicken that is dried out as a result of freezer burn is still deemed safe to eat, it may not be as tasty.
You can vacuum-seal your chicken two ways: using your hands to push air out of the bag before sealing or using the water-displacement method.
With the water-displacement method, you place the poultry into the freezer bag and then slowly submerge the bag into a bowl or pot of water. Lowering the bag into the water creates pressure, which forces air through the top of the bag. When most of the air is squeezed out of the bag, you can seal the bag just above the water line.
How to tell if your frozen chicken is still safe to eat
If you place raw chicken in the freezer while it is still fresh, you can expect that its quality will remain the same, provided that you are taking it out from the freezer within the recommended timeline outlined above.
However, things can still go wrong when you thaw the chicken. Look for signs of spoilage as you defrost it, such as a change in color from pink to greenish-gray, an unpleasant odor or a slimy appearance. If you notice any of these signs, it's best to stay safe and toss the meat.
You can keep raw chicken in the freezer for a long time without impacting its quality, as long as you store it properly. Frozen chicken, when thawed, is great for casseroles, soups and stews. Be sure to browse our collection of recipes for inspiration on how to use frozen chicken year-round!