What kind of success do you have with freezing cooked chicken? Of course I have a ton of raw chicken in the freezer, and I have frozen casseroles with cooked chicken, but I’ve never frozen cooked chicken by itself. Do you follow any specific steps so it doesn’t dry out?
Freezing chicken is easy-I do it all the time! I will admit, there is a slight loss of quality when you freeze chicken, especially if you intend to eat the chicken plain after defrosting. Add it to a sauce or casserole though and you are golden. And talk about a time saver-with chicken cooked and frozen in meal size portions you are ready to toss together dinner on a moment’s notice.
One of the biggest concerns with freezing meat is freezer burn. Freezer burn (as I discussed in my post: Is Freezer Burn Safe) results from the food coming in contact with air while frozen. So to prevent that you need to keep air away from the meat.
Now commercially prepared frozen chicken is often coated with a layer of ice for just that reason-but most of us (ok, all of us) don’t have the facilities available to create that at home. So you have a couple of options.
Home vacuum sealers are a great option for avoiding freezer burn. They can be expensive, and you have to keep purchasing the bags-so unless you will use it frequently you may not be able to justify the cost.
If your meat is completely encased in liquid when frozen, no air can reach it. That’s why meat & veggies in soup, sauces or casseroles doesn’t become freezer burned. Raw chicken can be frozen in a marinade-but since we are talking cooked chicken I would use broth, a gravy or tomato sauce-it all depends on what you plan on using the chicken in. Just make sure whatever you do that it is completely covered!
#3 Wrap it.
If you are freezing larger pieces of chicken, such as a chicken breast, you can wrap each piece individually with saran wrap and then place all the wrapped pieces in a large zippered freezer bag. Remember-anywhere there is air between the wrap and the chicken is a spot where freezer burn can develop! Having the wrap be “tight” isn’t as important as having it in full contact with the chicken.
#4 Bag it.
This is my most common method for storing cooked shredded or chunked chicken. You simply place the cooked chicken in quart sized zippered freezer bag and squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing. You can even use the infamous “drinking straw” trick to mimic a vacuum sealer on the cheap.
And whatever you do-Label it!
Label, Label, Label! You want to know what you’ve got in there! My favorite method is simply using a permanent marker and writing on the bag. “1C Cooked Chicken” and the date is sufficient for me-but label yours with whatever information makes sense.
There you have it-not hard at all! Just remember: air is the enemy.
Oh, and don’t forget that it’s in the freezer. . . but that’s another post.
How about the rest of you? Any additional tips, trick, or experiences you have to share when it comes to freezing cooked chicken?