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Does Frozen Chicken Go Bad?

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Chicken is an ingredient that can be used in so many different ways, and in so many different meals. The problem is that fresh chicken has quite a short shelf life and a high risk of bacteria growth if it is left out for too long.

Freezing chicken is a great way to extend its shelf life and keep it fresher for longer. There are still risks with freezing chicken though!

Does frozen chicken go bad? Chicken can be kept in the freezer indefinitely, as the freezing process puts a pause on bacterial growth, but after a certain length of time, the quality of the chicken will decline (both in taste and texture) while the likelihood of freezer burn will increase.

So while the chicken might not actually go off in the freezer, it can reach the point where it is not enjoyable to eat.

You do still need to look for signs that your chicken has gone bad, as it might have already spoiled before freezing. Read on to find out all you need to know!

Can Chicken Go Bad In The Freezer?

Freezing chicken is a great way to extend how long it stays fresh. For example, a raw, whole chicken can be kept in the freezer for up to 12 months, compared to just a few days in the fridge.

This recommended time frame indicates when the chicken will keep its best quality — after 12 months, the freezer burn will cause the chicken to lose its best quality and dry out.

This does cause the chicken to be fairly inedible, and it might not be worth eating.

However, when chicken is frozen, bacteria growth is put on pause, so it cannot go bad in the sense that it spoils and that it could possibly give you food poisoning.

Once the chicken is taken out of the freezer and left to thaw, bacteria growth can start again and the chicken might spoil eventually, but it will not spoil in the freezer.

How Long Can Chicken Be Frozen For?

How long chicken can be frozen for does depend on what part of the chicken you are freezing, and whether it is cooked or not!

A whole, raw chicken can be frozen for up to 12 months, as long as it is packaged properly and kept at a constant temperature below 0°F.

Raw chicken pieces, or diced chicken, can only be frozen for up to 9 months before it begins to lose its best quality.

Cooked chicken can only be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months, after which there is a good chance that the taste and texture will not be the same.

Even though these recommended times are fine to keep chicken frozen for, keep in mind that the longer chicken is left in the freezer, the lower its quality will be.

Keeping the chicken in the freezer for just a few months is the best option.

How To Freeze Chicken To Prevent It From Going Bad

Frozen chicken, when kept at a constant temperature, will not go bad where it has an increased bacteria growth, but the quality might decline rapidly over a period of time.

The taste and texture of the chicken will not be the same after a certain length of time, but it is still technically safe to eat.

To prevent freezer burn from happening too soon, and to keep the chicken at its freshest quality for longer, you need to prepare it properly for freezing.

Many people place chicken into the freezer while it is in its original packaging — while this might be fine for a short period of freezing, it does not offer chicken enough protection from freezer burn.

The best way to freeze chicken, to allow it to retain its best quality, is to remove the chicken from the original packaging and place it into a resealable freezer bag. You would need to remove as much air as possible before sealing.

Alternatively, you could place the chicken into an airtight freezer container. Whichever you choose, make sure to label the packaging with the date of freezing so that you can use it within the recommended time frame.

Protecting the chicken by repackaging it for freezing will allow it to retain its best quality in the freezer for longer, so when you do decide to eat the chicken, it isn’t too freezer burned and will have a good taste and texture.

How To Tell If Chicken Has Gone Bad

It can be difficult to tell if your chicken has gone bad when it is frozen, so you will have to allow the chicken to thaw slightly or completely before determining whether it is fine to eat.

Once the chicken has thawed or partially thawed, here are some signs to look for that it has gone bad!

Bad Odor

One of the first indications that chicken has gone bad is when it has a bad odor.

Chicken should not have an off, sour smell — if you notice any unusual odors, then it is safest to throw the chicken away as it is a clear sign that it is spoiled.


Chicken should have pink skin with pinkish, clear meat and white fat. If you notice any gray, yellow, or green spots or discoloration, then you should throw the chicken away.

Any unusual color on the chicken is a good indication that it has begun to go off and is not safe to eat.

Slimy Texture

Another sign that chicken has spoiled (or is beginning to spoil) is if the outside of the chicken has a slimy texture. 

You can’t just wash the sliminess off or cut it away — it is much safer to just throw it away.

The Best Way To Thaw Chicken

To keep chicken in the best condition possible and prevent an increase in bacteria growth during the thawing process, you need to defrost it safely.

There are three ways that chicken can be defrosted safely, depending on how much time you have available to allow the chicken to defrost!

1. In The Fridge

The safest way to defrost chicken is to leave it to thaw in the fridge overnight. You can thaw your chicken in the fridge for up to 24 hours depending on how large the chicken is.

You will have to plan ahead for this, but it does allow the chicken to thaw at a temperature that is not conducive to bacterial growth.

Once the chicken has defrosted in the fridge, it can remain in the fridge for up to two days.

2. In A Cold Water Bath

If you do not have the time to leave the chicken to defrost overnight in the fridge, then you can attempt to defrost the chicken in a cold water bath.

To do this, you would need to fill a large bowl with cold water. The bowl should be large enough to fit the chicken in. Fill the bowl up between ½-¾ way full, depending on how much chicken you are thawing.

Place the chicken in the cold water bath, then leave it to defrost. Small amounts of chicken should defrost in about an hour, but larger portions of chicken will take up to three hours to defrost.

You will need to change the water every 30 minutes to keep the chicken thawing and at a cool temperature. Once thawed, cook the chicken immediately.

3. In The Microwave

For a quick fix, you can defrost the chicken in the microwave. You would need to remove the chicken from the packaging and place it on a microwave-safe plate.

Set the microwave on defrost (or to 50% power). Set it to 10 minutes per pound of chicken for a whole chicken, and 7 minutes per pound of chicken breast.

Once defrosted, the chicken should be cooked immediately.

Final Thoughts

Frozen chicken cannot go bad in the freezer if it is kept at a constant temperature, as bacteria growth is paused while at frozen temperatures.

The way that chicken can be ruined in the freezer is when it is not protected properly, or if it is left in the freezer for too long.

This leads to freezer burn, which causes the chicken to lose its best quality — the taste and texture will not be great.

Keep in mind all the signs to look for that chicken has spoiled and be sure to only freeze chicken for the recommended amount of time so that it keeps its best quality.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve learned all about whether chicken can go bad in the freezer, how to tell if it’s gone bad, and how to properly freeze and thaw your chicken, here are some additional questions we thought you might have.

What does spoiled chicken taste like?

Spoiled chicken which has a strong odor is not safe to eat. The odor of off chicken smells sour, fishy, and almost like sulfur, which is similar to rotten eggs.

If you notice any of these odors, then the chicken should be thrown away.

Does chicken smell different after freezing?

Chicken should not smell different after it has been frozen. The only time chicken will smell different after freezing is if it has spoiled. 

Does chicken become slimy when defrosted?

Chicken that has been frozen and then defrosted should not be slimy. It might be slightly moist, but it should not be slimy.

If the chicken is slimy, then it has gone off.

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