Can you freeze fried chicken? Yes, you can!
Sometimes, you may not be able to eat all of the delicious fried chicken you have prepared. Sometimes, you just want to have extra chicken on hand without having to bread, fry, and clean up all over again. You can freeze leftover fried chicken for a few months at a time, and it will turn out just as fresh every time you reheat it!
Whether you made a big batch of fried chicken or you bought too many, don’t worry about leftovers. If you know you won’t be needing it in the next few days but also don’t want to have food waste, freeze your fried chicken for next time.
🍗 Can You Freeze Fried Chicken?
Freezing is actually the safest way to store most things. Quickly stowing away fried chicken will lock in its flavors and not give bacteria a chance to develop, which prevents foodborne illnesses and contamination. With proper freezing, thawing, and reheating, frozen fried chicken can have the same quality as freshly cooked fried chicken.
🗄️ How Long Does Fried Chicken Last In The Fridge?
Fried chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container. I recommend consuming it within 2 days for the best quality.
❄️ How Long Does Fried Chicken Last In The Freezer?
Fried chicken can last a lot longer in the freezer with proper storage and technique. The USDA recommends 4 months for fried chicken in the freezer. It won’t spoil after 4 months but it is susceptible to freezer burns and general loss of quality.
I recommend using up your frozen fried chicken within those 4 months to enjoy it at its best.
🧊 How To Freeze Fried Chicken
There are three ways to freeze fried chicken, based on how much prep work you are willing to put in.
1. Flash Freezing
Make sure the fried chicken comes to room temperature and has cooled down completely. Remove bones if necessary, or for easier reheating. Place each individual piece on a baking sheet, then flash-freeze in the freezer for 1 hour. Take individually frozen pieces and put them inside a Ziploc bag or an airtight container. For extra safety, you can cling-wrap each piece and then wrap them in tin foil before putting them inside the container. Because these are individually frozen, they will not stick to each other, but if you want to make sure they don’t get freezer burn, wrapping them can be helpful. Label with today’s date and store in the freezer for up to 4 months.
2. Double layering
If you don’t have time to flash freeze, you can simply skip this step. After letting the fried chicken cool down (no more than 2 hours on the counter), wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and then another layer of aluminum foil. This will prevent them from sticking to each other and from freezer burns. Place in a Ziploc bag or an airtight container and label with today’s date, then freeze.
3. Simple layer
This is the simplest method and one that takes the least time. You can simply throw the cooled-off fried chicken pieces in a Ziploc freezer bag in a single layer and place them in the freezer. Make sure it is lying flat and the chicken pieces are not being squished.
This method works best for smaller portions of chicken and if you know that you will be using it in the near future. You have the least amount of protection from freezer burns, so it is not ideal for long-term storage.
Know your chicken – Freezing definitely gives more useful life to your food, but it’s not infinite. The USDA recommends freezing for no longer than 9 months for raw chicken, 6 months for cooked chicken, and 2-3 months for chicken mixed in soup and stew. Also, keep in mind that cooked chicken can’t be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. However, the longer you freeze chicken, the more likely it is going to change in quality and texture and get freezer burn.
Note: Make sure to label each new batch you freeze, and use the FIFO (first in first out) method in organizing your freezer.
Moisture is your friend and enemy – Everybody wants a juicy chicken, but most of the work comes in the reheating process. You do not want moisture trapped in your freezer bag or container as it can make your chicken soggy and make freezer burn more imminent, despite the high-fat content.
Make sure it is 100% cooled – Make sure to fully cool down your chicken pieces, preferably on a cooling rack, for approximately 30 minutes to an hour. Sometimes, the bone can store excess heat and moisture, so make sure it is cooled to the core.
To refreeze or not to refreeze – Technically, given that you follow food safety rules and refreeze thawed fried chicken, it should be safe. However, every time you refreeze, the texture and quality will change. More moisture gets lost over time in the form of ice crystals, and that moisture gets lost when you refreeze.
Vacuum seal – If you have a food vacuum seal, that would be even better. If not, try to squeeze out as much air before sealing the freezer bag to avoid freezer burn.
Bone in or bone out – Whether you should keep the bone in before freezing is up to you. The bone makes it harder to fully reheat, which means you will likely have to thaw it overnight. If you want to take out the bone, you can dig it out with your fingers or with a knife or kitchen scissors. However, a part of the experience of eating fried chicken is the bone itself. If you don’t mind a longer thawing and reheating process, I recommend keeping the bone in.
💦How To Thaw Frozen Fried Chicken
Thawing ensures that you have an even chance to reheat every part of the fried chicken and there aren’t any unpleasant frozen bits, especially for bone-in fried chicken pieces.
1. Overnight in the fridge
The safest and recommended method is to store overnight in the fridge, or for up to 24 hours before reheating. Depending on the size, larger pieces may need more time.
2. Submerge in cold water
Another option is to submerge the freezer bag in cold water over the sink. Make sure the bag is fully sealed and you are changing the water every 30 minutes. For small pieces, 1 hour should be enough, or 2-3 hours for bigger pieces. I know it is tempting to use hot water, but that will ruin the texture and all your hard work.
What not to do: Don’t use heat before it is time to reheat. That means don’t put hot water or thaw at room temperature, even though it sounds like it would speed up the process. You could use the defrost option in the microwave, but be very careful not to let the meat cook. The microwave is generally not recommended at any stage, as it can make the chicken rubbery.
✔️How To Reheat Thawed Fried Chicken
Air fryer – In my experience, reheating fried chicken in the air fryer yields the crispiest results and tastes delicious. You can read more about it in this Reheating Fried Chicken in the Air Fryer guide.
Oven – Reheat the oven to 400°F or 200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the thawed fried chicken pieces in a single layer. Make sure to remove any previous wrapping. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes depending on the size and your oven, or until the internal temperature of the pieces reach 165°F or 73.9°C. Serve with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and other spices for additional flavor.
Frying – If you don’t mind turning on the frier, you can refry it for 5 minutes at 400°F. This method can be the hardest to set up and clean up, but will give you a crispier exterior than oven reheating.
What not to use – The microwave, toaster oven, and skillet will all work for the purpose of reheating fried chicken, but they will result in unevenly heated, soggy, or dry chicken. Pan frying on the stove also takes additional oil, which will be soaked up by the skin. Steamers and slow cookers are even worse for this purpose, as they are more like food warmers and will not actually cook the inside or kill any bacteria. They create a pleasant environment for food spoilage.
🥘How To Use Leftovers
After reheating, you can use the frozen chicken for:
- Pizza topping
Or, you can enjoy them on their own with fun side dishes! Whether it is fried chicken wings, strips, or chicken breast, my favorite side dishes to go with fried chicken are:
- Waffle fries in the air fryer
- Air fryer sweet potato fries
- Air fryer frozen curly fries
- Air fryer zucchini chips
🐔 Fried Chicken Recipes
I’m a firm believer that homemade fried chicken is the absolute best! It’s also very easy to make, even for an inexperienced home cook.
You’ll love this simple version we use to make air fryer copycat chick-fil-a sandwiches and you can skip the buns if you’d like.
Air fryer chicken tenders are another fast meal you can easily pull off and this one is guaranteed to please even the little ones!
🧊 How To Freeze Raw Chicken
If you happen to have raw chicken that you want to freeze for later use, the process is pretty similar. Take each piece of chicken, wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then store them in a freezer-safe bag. USDA says raw chicken can be in the freezer for 9 months, slightly longer than cooked chicken.
When it is time to use, thaw it inside the bag in the fridge for 12-48 hours. Don’t thaw it on the counter as bacteria is more likely to grow. If you happen to have to refreeze raw chicken after thawing it previously, while it is technically safe, there is a higher chance of bacterial growth and quality & texture changes.
You can definitely freeze flour and egg-coated chicken for the sake of saving prep time. Just make sure you thaw properly and cook it to an internal temperature of 165°F before serving.
After 3 days in the refrigerator, the cooked chicken will definitely have lost some of its taste and quality. Freezing it will slow down any further spoilage. While it is still a safe time to consume, keep in mind that bacteria have had a chance to grow for three days. Use your good judgment to decide whether the chicken can be further stored in the freezer.
Look for signs of spoilage on the chicken, such as discoloration, change in texture or smell. When in doubt, it is best to dispose of suspicious chicken than risk getting food poisoning.
Chicken can definitely go bad in the freezer when left for a long time. Any interruptions in the fridge or freezer can also spoil any meat.