Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken and Reheat It? – Say Goodbye to Food Waste

In the interest of time, budget, and convenience, many of us frequently wonder: “Can you freeze cooked chicken and reheat it?” The simple answer is yes. But to ensure that it remains flavorful, tender, and, most importantly, safe to consume, there are certain considerations and steps to follow.

This blog post explains those aspects, offering a comprehensive guide on the subject.

The Basics

Before we plunge into the step-by-step process, let’s understand the science behind freezing cooked chicken.

Freezing: What Happens to the Chicken?

What Freezing Does to Chicken

When you freeze any food, including cooked chicken, the water within the food forms ice crystals. These ice crystals are sharp and can puncture cell walls, leading to a change in texture and potentially causing the food to become dry and tough when reheated.

However, if you freeze and defrost correctly, you can minimize these effects. The texture change in the chicken is one of the primary concerns for most people when freezing. When done right, however, this change can be negligible.

The trick is to freeze the meat as quickly as possible to prevent the formation of large ice crystals. This leads us to the second part of our discussion on the science behind freezing – the method.

The Method: Fast Freezing

Fast freezing is the method by which we can minimize the formation of large ice crystals. When you freeze cooked chicken quickly, it results in the formation of smaller ice crystals that cause less damage to the meat’s cell structure. Therefore, the texture is better preserved when you defrost and reheat it.

  • Place the chicken in a single layer in a freezer bag or airtight container.
  • Push out as much air as possible from the bag or container before sealing.
  • Put the bag or container in the coldest part of your freezer.

By following these steps, you can freeze your cooked chicken quickly and effectively, reducing the impact on its texture and flavor.

How to Properly Freeze Cooked Chicken

Now that we understand the science behind freezing cooked chicken let’s discuss how to do it properly to maintain its taste and quality.

Cooling the Chicken Before Freezing

Chicken Resting after Cooking. Is Thawed Cooked Chicken Good?

Before freezing cooked chicken, it’s essential to cool it properly. Doing so prevents the growth of bacteria that can occur if you put hot food directly into the freezer. However, you shouldn’t leave the meat at room temperature for too long either, as this, too, can lead to bacterial growth.

  • Allow the meat to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes after cooking.
  • Then, move it to the refrigerator to continue cooling before freezing.
  • Don’t leave the meat at room temperature for more than two hours before starting the cooling process.

Packaging for Freezing

Proper packaging is critical to prevent freezer burn, which can degrade the flavor and texture of your chicken. Freezer burn occurs when the surface of the food dehydrates and oxidizes due to air exposure.

  • Wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap, pressing out any air pockets.
  • Then, place the wrapped meat in a freezer bag or airtight container.
  • Be sure to date the package so you can keep track of how long it’s been in the freezer.

How to Thaw Frozen Cooked Chicken Safely

Once your chicken is frozen, the next step is knowing how to thaw it safely when you’re ready to eat it.

Refrigerator Thawing

Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest method, as it keeps the meat at a safe temperature throughout the process. However, it does require some planning ahead, as it can take up to 24 hours for the meat to thaw completely.

  • Place the frozen chicken in a dish to catch any drips and put it in the refrigerator.
  • Allow at least 24 hours for the meat to thaw.

Cold Water Thawing

Cold Water Thawing Chicken

If you need to thaw the chicken more quickly, you can use the cold water thawing method. This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention.

  • Put the frozen meat in a leak-proof plastic bag if it isn’t already.
  • Submerge the bag in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes.
  • Once thawed, cook the meat immediately.

How to Reheat Frozen Cooked Chicken

After thawing the cooked chicken safely, the final step is to reheat it properly. This ensures that it’s safe to eat and can also help restore its original flavor and texture.

Reheating in the Oven

Reheating chicken in the oven can help retain its flavor and moisture.

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • Place the meat in a baking dish and cover it with foil to retain moisture.
  • Heat the meat for 25-30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Reheating on the Stovetop

If you prefer, you can also reheat your chicken on the stovetop.

  • Put the meat in a skillet on medium heat.
  • Add a bit of chicken broth or water to help retain moisture and prevent the meat from drying out.
  • Cook the chicken, stirring occasionally, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Best Practices and Tips for Freezing and Reheating Cooked Chicken

Let’s conclude with some tips and best practices for freezing and reheating cooked chicken.

Tips for Freezing

  • Freeze meat in portions. This way, you only thaw and reheat what you need, reducing waste.
  • Label your packages with the date and contents. Cooked meat can be safely stored in the freezer for up to four months.
  • Don’t refreeze meat that has already been thawed and reheated. This can lead to a significant loss of quality and potential safety risks.

Tips for Reheating

  • Always ensure the chicken is heated to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure it’s safe to eat.
  • Don’t overheat the meat, as this can make it tough and dry.
  • Add some moisture (like water, broth, or sauce) when reheating to keep the meat moist and flavorful.


Cooked Chicken as Part of A Meal Prep. Chicken Meal Good for Freezing. High Protein Meal

Can you freeze any kind of cooked chicken?

Yes, you can. The form in which you freeze it should depend on how you plan to use it in the future. For instance, if you plan to eat whole-cooked chicken breasts, leave them intact when freezing.

If you plan to use the meat in soups or stews, consider freezing it in bite-sized pieces.

How long does cooked chicken last in the freezer?

It can last in the freezer for up to six months when stored properly. However, when the cooked meat is mixed in soups and stews, the storage time shortens to two to three months.

How do you defrost frozen cooked chicken?

You can thaw frozen cooked meat in the refrigerator for up to four days. If you’re in a hurry, you can also defrost it in the microwave, but be aware that this can lead to uneven defrosting.

Can you refreeze previously frozen cooked chicken?

It’s generally not recommended to refreeze previously frozen cooked meat. Bacteria can grow each time the food is handled, so it’s best to only cook, freeze, defrost, and reheat your food once.

How can you tell if frozen cooked meat is still safe to eat?

Look for signs of spoilage, such as a change in color, visible signs of mold, a slimy texture, or a foul smell. If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to discard it. Signs of spoilage are different in different kinds of meat, so be sure to conduct your inspection carefully.

Is freezing cooked chicken a good idea?

Yes, freezing cooked meat can be a huge convenience and a timesaver for quick weeknight meals. Just make sure to follow the proper freezing and thawing procedures to ensure safety and quality.

Final Words

With these insights, you’re well-equipped to freeze and reheat your cooked chicken safely and effectively, preserving its taste, texture, and nutritional value.

Remember, the key to a successful freeze and reheat is in the methods you employ, so follow these guidelines to enjoy delicious, safely stored meat any day of the week!