Growing up did anyone teach you how to store meat or produce properly and safely? I’m going to wager they didn’t.
Most likely you, like me, learned by watching your parents or guardians. This is how we learn most things around the house and in the kitchen, for better or worse.
Some things we learn are amazing, time-saving and ingenious, but some are not so great and even unsafe.
Maybe you learned how to properly store chicken and maybe you didn’t.
Regardless, it is so important to understand how to store meat and especially chicken properly.
When you are storing your chicken, the fridge and freezer are both acceptable options. Obviously, the fridge has a limited shelf life, but being able to skip the thawing step is always convenient. The freezer on the other hand helps take the guesswork out of whether or not your chicken has gone bad, but you do have to plan more time for the thawing process. Let’s jump into the guidelines of storing chicken in both the fridge and freezer.
We’ve covered the basics of storing chicken in the freezer and fridge. Now, the next step is learning how to package your chicken for optimal freshness, flavor and, of course, safety. As I mentioned it’s important to have airtight containers or bags to store your chicken in. I’ve listed a couple great options to have on hand for chicken storage.
You’ve successfully frozen your chicken, but now you want to cook it. What’s next? Here are some different methods to thaw your frozen chicken safely. The key to all of this is to cook your chicken shortly after it’s thawed. When chicken is allowed to sit at room temperature, that is when the risk of bacteria growth is present.
This is the safest and most preferred method of thawing chicken, but it is also the most time consuming. You simply take your chicken from your freezer and place it in the fridge. You can estimate about 24 hours for a pound of chicken. I suggest placing the thawing bag of chicken in a container to avoid any leaks.
A quicker option than allowing your chicken to thaw in the fridge is by putting your chicken in a bowl and filling it with hot water. As soon as the water has cooled, replace it with hot water. This method usually takes about half an hour, but could take longer depending on how much chicken you are thawing. This method requires your vigilance, and it’s important to cook your chicken right after it’s thawed as you don’t want it sitting at a temperature where bacteria is able to grow.
This is the quickest method, but also my least favorite and the most controversial. You simply put your chicken in the microwave, select the appropriate button and wait. It’s quick and simple, but if you aren’t vigilant the microwave could begin to cook your chicken. The reason some people suggest to not use the microwave is because it will bring the outer part of the chicken into the “danger zone”, between 40 and 140° Fahrenheit, while the rest of the chicken is still thawing. We want to minimize the amount of time chicken is in the danger zone. Just keep this in mind if you choose to use the microwave route.
Can you freeze cooked chicken? Yes, of course you can. Freezing food simply stops the clock. Once, you thaw the chicken make sure to eat it within a few days or put it in the freezer. The USDA suggests only freezing cooked chicken for up to three months.
Here’s a meal prepping tip. Cook a large batch of shredded chicken. Allow it to cool in the fridge, portion it out in appropriate vacuum sealed bags and store it in your freezer. Then, you won’t have to thaw out all of the leftover shredded chicken but can simply thaw the exact amount you need for that day’s dinner!
Have you ever pulled your chicken out of the fridge and seen some white spots on it? If you have, then you have already seen freezer burn. Although it can interfere with the flavor and quality of your chicken, it’s not dangerous. Just cut off the the white spots, and you’re good to go!
Chicken is an affordable and tasty meal option, but it is critical to understand how to store it properly. By this point, I hope you feel equipped on storing and preparing your chicken as well as finding a few gadgets to help make the process both easier and safer.
Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay
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