Freezing chicken alone has proven to be a scary exercise fraught with triple exclamation warnings that mustn’t be overlooked otherwise it’s a death sentence! At least, that’s how every health authority across the web makes it look!
Now we’re afraid of putting back our carefully plucked chicken inside the freezer to continue storing after thawing. But it’s a deed totally fine to do so long you’re heedful of the conditions and processes, as well as the procedures and warnings too.
Can you refreeze chicken? Chicken meat is perfectly safe to refreeze so long it isn’t thawed outside the refrigerator. For meat thawed on the counter, in the microwave or inside a cold water bath, pathogenic bacteria may have accumulated to a significant level inside the meat which increases the risk of food poisoning when improperly cooked.
Learn below the downsides of refreezing meat, the risks of a poorly thawed chicken, the best way to refreeze chicken, and the proper way to thaw chicken meat.
Avoid the microwave and counter when refreezing chicken! And also the cold water bath too.
Microwave, counter and cold water bath are not advised to be used for thawing chicken meat meant to be refrozen. And that’s because they may promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria which can lead to food poising when the meat isn’t properly cooked!
You may be wondering how your chicken may be improperly cooked when you yourself carefully set it on a pan of vexing oil! But it’s easy to undercook a chicken when you’re trying hard not to overcook it, especially when it’s a large chunk of meat like a whole chicken! I’ve served 12 years of my life in a restaurant and never came across a single person that loves overcooked chicken! The taste is simply disagreeable.
So your diligence in ensuring the chicken doesn’t overcook will almost always lead you to undercook some spots! And if they happen to contain pathogenic bacteria, your trip to the nearest hospital may be rest assured!
You can also undercook a chicken depending on the medium you’re cooking it on, or the mode of cooking. If it’s a microwave oven, a grill, or frying pan, and the meat in question is a huge chunk with many complicated facets, is bone in, and it’s still very cold, it’s very easy to undercook it. So be sure to use a meat thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the poultry to verify the temperature is just at or above 165F.
How does microwave support pathogenic growth?
Microwave ovens work by sending microwave radiation to specific spots on the meat and transfer heat to them, and the rest of the cooking happens by conduction, as such, there’s always an increased chance of cold spots on the meat especially when it’s a large chuck with different ridges and facets, like a whole chicken!
These spots when not heated to the appropirate temperature can harbor bacterial growth which can result into a problem when consumed.
How does cold water bath support pathogenic bacteria?
The problem with cold water bath is that it holds part of the meat for far too long in the danger zone (140F to 40 F) which supports the growth of pathogenic bacteria. The bacteria are very stubborn they multiply very quickly within that range.
How does counter support the growth of pathogenic bacteria?
Just like cold water bath, the counter, when used to thaw frozen chicken can hold it for long in the danger zone which can result in the breeding of pathogenic bacteria.
The refrigerator is the only medium that holds meat outside the danger zone while it thaws. And as such, it is regarded as the best medium to thaw chicken, especially one that is meant to be refrozen.
The conditions that must be met
Prior to refreezing chicken, you must ensure that the following conditions are met:
- The meat was thawed in the refrigerator and no where else. And it must not have been in the refrigerator for longer than two days. If cooked, the meat must not have been in the refrigerator for longer than 3 days.
- The meat is in a visibly good condition.
- It’s not a neck portion or offal.
How to properly refreeze chicken
Follow the steps below to properly refreeze chicken.
- Stuff the raw or cooked meat inside a new moisture proof and vapor proof packaging and remove as much air as possible before sealing. Examples include moisture and vapor proof butcher paper and plastic containers meant for freezer use. For plastic containers with lids, ensure to leave and inch headspace for expansion.
- Set the temperature of the freezer to less than 0 degrees Centigrade to promote faster freezing. The faster the freezing, the lesser destruction that occurs on the chicken texture and flavor.
- Stuff the meat back into the freezer to continue freezing. Don’t use a mini fridge to refreeze meat.
- Refrozen raw chicken meat keeps indefinitely, but the texture and flavor don’t. So use meat as early as you can and avoid storing for longer durations. Cooked chicken meat will only keep for no more than a few months untill it starts to degrade sharply in quality.
How to thaw and use refrozen chicken
Thaw refrozen chicken in the refrigerator at 40 F or below. Depending on the size of the cut, it may take up to a day or more. Check whether the recipe allows for frozen chicken to be used if you are pressed to use the meat right away. Most recipes should easily accommodate for such case with a maximum of 50% increase in the overall cooking time.
What to expect of a refrozen chicken
As you would expect, a chicken frozen and then refrozen must deteriorate in quality after it’s refreezing time in the fridge (which does happen!)
Refrozen chicken texture’s slightly different from their once frozen counterpart, and may also taste different. The quality of meat you began with and the conditions of storage will greatly influence these properties too.
How to thaw frozen chicken
I recommend you use only these two methods to thaw chicken meat.
- In the refrigerator which can take 1 to 3 days depending on the size of the cut.
- Under a cold water bath which should take less than 2 hours.
For the refrigerator, simply take out the chicken meat and transfer it to the bottom shelve of the refrigerator. Make sure the crisper is properly closed.
Placing the meat on the bottom shelve is strategic. It’s the coldest part of the fridge which ensure our poultry is kept at a safe temperature while thawing, and it’s also the bottommost, which ensure that drips aren’t falling into places they aren’t supposed to be.
For the cold water bath, place the chicken in it’s original packaging inside a cold water bath, change water after every 30 minutes.
Alternatively, place the chicken (in its packaging) in the sink directly under the tap, and run water over it continuously. Ensure to properly cook the meat to a minimum of 165 F at all parts. You can verify the temperature using a meat thermometer.
How to refreeze cooked chicken
- Make sure the chicken has not stayed out for longer than 2 hours.
- Allow the cooked chicken to cool to about 45F first before packaging inside a vapor and moisture proof seal. To cool the meat faster, place the meat inside a shallow container and place the bottom of the container inside an iced water bath. Change water when due (at least every 20 minutes) and never allow chicken to sit for more than 1 hour using this method.
- Packaged inside a moisture and vapor proof packaging.
- Place chicken in the freezer, preferable one with a temperature lessened to below freezing point. Store for no longer than 3 months as cooked chicken tend to loose their quality faster than raw chicken.
Refreezing cooked chicken is possible but running into textural and flavor loss shouldn’t be suprising. This is caused by the destruction of the integrity of the cell walls of the meat during the first freezing. Thawing then exposes this destruction and a second freezing means more of it!
To refreeze chicken, simply package it inside a new container using clean hands and load back into the freezer. If the meat has been cooked, it should have sat for no longer than 2 hours or be cooled for no more than 2 hours and then packaged properly and placed inside the freezer for no more than 3 months.