How Long You Should Actually Keep Chicken in the Freezer, According to an Expert

The answer may surprise you

<p>The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack</p>

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Encountered a good deal on chicken while doing your weekly grocery shopping and you stocked up? Maybe you picked up this white meat for several dishes for the week and then your plans got sidetracked. Now you're not going to have a chance to make chicken parmigiana so you decide to freeze it.

Freezing chicken is a great way to extend poultry’s shelf life, and having healthy proteins available at the ready means you won’t have to plan meals too far in advance or make as many last-minute trips to the supermarket. But before you put chicken in the freezer, it’s important to know how to store it properly. Otherwise, freezing can compromise the chicken’s flavor and texture.

I spoke with food safety experts to learn the best way to store and freeze chicken and find out how long it will really last in the freezer.

The Best Ways To Package Chicken for the Freezer

The way you package poultry influences how well it freezes and how long it can last in the freezer. Gill Boyd, chef-instructor of Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, recommends using a vacuum sealer to package chicken for freezing because exposure to oxygen leads to dehydration. “Dehydration or freezer burn will set in, and you will see white discoloration, generally on the edges of the meat," says Boyd. Freezer burn can make the texture of the chicken grainy or dry, and it can lose its flavor, too.

The 9 Best Vacuum Sealers We Tested That Keep Food Fresher for Longer

If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, another option is using a zip-top freezer bag and ensuring you get all the air out first. "You can put the chicken in a Ziploc freezer bag, submerge the bag in water, press out any air right above the meat in the bag, then seal and freeze," says Boyd.

Maintaining freshness isn't the only reason to remove all air from your storage container. Proper storing reduces the chance of chicken absorbing freezer odors.

How Long Does It Last?

The USDA says chicken will last indefinitely, though indefinitely doesn’t mean forever. "The way it’s packaged while frozen will affect the quality and taste after it is thawed," says Boyd. Proper storage, as well as the cuts of poultry used, will influence texture and flavor.

Whole chicken can last up to one year, chicken pieces up to 9 months, and ground chicken three to four months, says Boyd. Jonathan Deutsch, a food and hospitality management professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, suggests not storing your poultry for that long. Even if it’s still safe to eat beyond three months, "Chicken does lose quality over time so I'd recommend no more than a few months."

Don't fret if the texture has changed slightly after thawing. "The chicken should be fine to use as long as it’s been stored at 0 F," says Boyd. There are different ways to cook it so any textural changes won't be noticeable. Boyd likes to cook chicken that has been frozen in stews, braises, or any dish with a good amount of sauce.

The Best Way to Thaw Frozen Chicken

The USDA does not consider thawing frozen meat on the counter as safe.  Instead, they recommend three options: in the fridge, submerged in its packaging in cold water, or in the microwave. Deutsch says, "The best way is to be organized and thaw it in advance by moving it from the freezer to the refrigerator a day or two before you plan to cook it."

Read Next: Why Are Eggs Refrigerated in the US but Not in Europe?

Read the original article on The Spruce Eats.