Refrigerators are very handy things – as are the freezer compartments that come with them! They’re fantastic for storing meat long term, making it so that you can buy your food in advance and keep it safe from harmful bacteria for months on end.
However, when the time comes to thaw out your chicken, how long have you got before you have to either cook it – or get rid of it? It can be hard to know, but with this handy article you’ll have all the information you need to figure out how long you can keep your thawed chicken in the freezer for!
How Long Will Frozen Chicken Keep?
If you’ve got some frozen chicken and are wondering how long it’ll be safe for – we’ve got the answers for you!
Frozen chicken should be thawed and cooked within 9 months at very most – if you’ve got a whole bird in there, then you’ve got 1 year. After that time, even the extremely low temperatures of your freezer won’t be enough to keep the chicken in good condition for eating – you should get rid of any chicken that’s this age or older.
Forget about eating it – it’s not worth it. Make sure that you’re keeping track of how old the chicken in your freezer is – and, to be on the safe side, simply get rid of any that you’re not sure of.
How Should I Thaw My Chicken?
There are a few ways to thaw your chicken out safely. And, of course, there are a few ways that you shouldn’t use to thaw out youlr chicken!
One of the easiest and most convenient ways is to simply leave the chicken in the fridge overnight to defrost. If it’s a larger piece, it might take longer – you’re looking at around 24 hours for a 3-4 lb chicken to defrost thoroughly.
This might be the slowest way, but it’s also the easiest – you don’t have to do anything but put the chicken in the fridge, and take it out at the right time!
If that’s not quick enough for you, however, you can thaw a chicken in a bowl of cold water. Put the frozen chicken into a leakproof plastic bag, and seal it up. Immerse it completely in a bowl of cold water – so make sure not to trap too much air in the bag!
You’ll probably need to change the water a couple of times to keep it at a safe temperature for thawing. If you’re thawing smaller pieces, such as chicken breasts, then you’ll probably only need to wait around 2 hours at most for them to defrost.
Larger cuts, and pieces with bone, will probably take longer to thaw. Unless you’ve got a very big bowl so that you can immerse it totally, you’ll probably find it difficult to thaw a whole chicken using this method.
The qwuicketst way to defrost chicken, however, is in the microwave. If your microwave has a defrost setting (most do – check the manual) – then you can use this tothaw out your frozen chicken.
Either use the controls on your microwave to help you get the correct time for thawing, or simply check the chicken every so often to ensure that it is thawing out properly. Don’t bother trying to defrost a whole chicken in the microwave, however – it’s simply too big to thaw properly and safely in the microwave.
If you used the microwave or cold water to defrost your chicken, then you should definitely use the chicken straight away. Storing it in the fridge can be extremely dangerous – it’ll spoil extremely quickly even in the cold. Leaving it overnight after using these methods is an absolute no-no!
You should absolutely never leave your chicken out at room temperature to defrost. If your chicken stays in what’s called the danger zone of temperature – between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit – the bacteria that live on it will multiply extremely rapidly.
It won’t take very long before chicken that’s left in this temperature range will spoil – affecting not just the taste and smell, but also making the chicken a breeding ground for all sorts of nasty things that you definitely don’t want to eat!
How Long Can I Keep Thawed Chicken In The Fridge?
If you’ve used the fridge to thaw out your chicken, then you’ve actually got a little bit of time for it to stay safe to use – depending on how fresh the chicken was when it was frozen, of course.
Using the refrigerator method of defrosting will leave you up to 3 days before you’re definitely going to have to throw that chicken in the bin, or on the compost heap. That’s if it was perfectly fresh when you froze it, of course – if your chicken was three days old when you froze it then you’d better cook it straight away, or it won’t be safe.
If your chicken wasn’t perfectly fresh when you froze it, then it just won’t last as long before being covered in nasty and harmful bacteria. If you leave it any longer than three days maximum, you’re putting your health at risk – and you’re also going to cook a frankly foul smelling and tasting piece of chicken! Don’t take the risk – get rid of it.
What About In The Freezer?
No. Just no. Once you’ve thawed a piece of chicken out, there’s no going back. You’re either going to have to cook that chicken, or throw it out. Don’t even think about refreezing it. It’s not safe in the slightest.
This isn’t something you should do EVER. Wasting food is a terrible thing, yes – but better to throw it out entirely than to run the risk of severe illness or even death due to eating bad chicken.
Just in case that wasn’t clear enough – DO NOT REFREEZE ANY MEAT ONCE YOU’VE THAWED IT OUT, OR EVEN BEGUN TO THAW IT OUT. EVER.
How Can I Tell If My Chicken Isn’t Safe?
First of all – how long has the chicken been in your fridge? If the answer is more than 3 days, you honestly don’t even need to go any further in your checks. It isn’t even worth your time checking – and you’ll save yourself smelling something extremely foul. Get it in the bin.
If you’re still not sure though, then check the chicken with your hands and (unfortunately) your nose. Does the chicken feel slimy, and unpleasant to touch? Of course, raw chicken is hardly a great feeling thing in the hand anyway.
Smell the chicken – if you smell something bad, then your chicken is done for. You’ll know the smell straight away – it’s horrendous, and you can just imagine how bad it would taste.
If your chicken shows any of these signs, then it’s gotta go! Get rid of it straight away. It’ll do you no good.
What Shouldn’t I Do?
Never defrost your chicken at room temperature, as you’re just running the risk of bacteria growing rapidly on your chicken – making it absolutely disgusting. Instead, either thaw it in the refrigerator, or – if you’re more pushed for time – use a bowl of cold water, or the defrost setting on your microwave.
Once you’ve defrosted it, you’ve got a maximum of three days in the fridge before it’s gotta be thrown out. Less if the chicken was in your fridge for some time before you froze it. If it smells bad at any point, you’ve gotta get rid of it. And if you defrosted it in the microwave, or in a bowl of cold water, then you’ve gotta use it straight away.
Don’t use warm hot water to defrost your chicken – it’s unsafe, as you’ll be putting your chicken in the danger zone for bacteria growth, especially as the water cools.
Don’t take a chance on bad piece of chicken – it’s not worth cooking. It’ll smell bad, taste bad, and it’ll even make your house smell bad – cooking spoiled chicken can be a completely horrible experience all round.
Spoiled chicken is a tragedy – it’s a total waste of food, and if cooked and eaten, will taste bad, smell bad, and do bad things to you! Hopefully, this article has helped you to learn how to tell if your chicken is bad, and how long you can safely keep your chicken in the fridge after you’ve thawed it out!