How and how long you store chicken is very important to keeping your food safe. When freezing chicken, always label it so you know how long it’s been in your freezer.
Storing in the refrigerator
- Whole chicken: 2-3 days
- Chicken pieces: 2-3 days
- Cooked chicken : 3-4 days
- Ground chicken: 1-2 days
Storing in the freezer
- Whole chicken: 12 months
- Chicken pieces: 6 months
- Cooked chicken: 3 months
- Ground chicken: 3 months
Thawing methods and times
Never thaw chicken at room temperature or on the counter, as it provides the ideal environment for bacteria growth, and be sure to cook thawed chicken within 48 hours.
Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest method of preparing frozen chicken but it also takes the longest. Chicken thawing in the refrigerator should be wrapped and placed on a large plate in the bottom of the fridge to avoid dripping on other food when thawing. For this method, you should plan on approximately 10 hours per kilogram of chicken or 5 hours per pound.
Though it can sometimes dry out the edges of chicken, when you’re in a hurry and you’re preparing chicken pieces, microwave thawing is the best way to go. When defrosting in a microwave, chicken should be loosely covered and the pieces turned, separated and rotated several times during thawing to ensure even penetration.
It’s also important to defrost chicken on a low setting, otherwise the outside may cook while the inside stays frozen. Most microwaves have a poultry defrost setting, so use that if you have it. If not, a general rule to use is about 10 – 15 minutes per kilogram or 5 minutes per pound. Be sure to check your chicken often to ensure that it is thawing evenly and not overcooking or drying out.
Cold Water Thawing
To thaw chicken faster, place it wrapped in a bowl of cold water in the sink. It is important that the water is cold, as warm water can encourage bacteria growth. Additionally, it’s important that the water be changed every 30 minutes to maintain the temperature of the water. This method typically takes 2 hours per kilogram, or 1 hour per pound, but exercise caution when using this method. Make sure that the sink and the surrounding area you are thawing in is cleaned immediately with a mild bleach solution when you’ve finished.