Two easy techniques for freezing cooked and raw chicken

Recipe: Chicken Fricassee with Spring Vegetables

On a cool spring evening, this combination of tender chicken thighs, fresh spring vegetables, and a velvety pan sauce hits the spot. 

Greg DuPree

Whether it’s cooked or raw, extra chicken in your freezer is always a good thing. (Especially if there was a two-for-one special on drumsticks at the grocery store.) Chicken is easy to freeze and defrosts beautifully if stored properly. Here’s the best way to do it:

If the chicken is cooked

Cooked chicken can safely be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. After that, it’s best to freeze it. Shredded chicken defrosts much faster than whole pieces of the bird, but you can freeze whole pieces if you prefer. Either way, make sure to place the chicken in ziplock freezer bags and press out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. It’s a good idea to divide the cooked chicken up into smaller portions instead of freezing a large amount in a single bag. That way, you can defrost exactly as much chicken as you need for a particular meal. Thaw the cooked chicken (in the ziplock bag) overnight in the refrigerator. According to the USDA, frozen cooked chicken (and meat) can last up to three months in the freezer, so be sure to write the date on the bag with a freezer-proof marker.

Watch: How to Make Chicken Casserole D'Iberville

If the chicken is raw

Even though most raw chicken is sold in plastic wrapped containers, this packaging isn’t best for the freezer and can cause freezer burn. Wrap the packaged chicken with a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil, or remove it from the packaging (don't wash it!) place the raw chicken in ziplock freezer bags and press out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. Raw chicken can last indefinitely in the freezer, if stored properly, but the USDA suggests using it within a year if the chicken is whole, and within nine months if the chicken has been cut into parts.