How Long Does Chicken Breast Last in the Freezer?

by Ella

Chicken is a versatile protein that can be used in all kinds of delicious recipes. Many people like to buy chicken in bulk when it’s on sale and freeze the extra so that they always have it on hand. However, it’s important to know how long chicken lasts in the freezer to avoid wasting food or accidentally eating chicken that is past its prime.

When properly stored, chicken breasts can last in the freezer for up to 9-12 months. The timeframe depends on a few factors like the freshness of the chicken when it went into the freezer, the temperature of the freezer, how well it’s sealed from air exposure, and any instances of partial thawing. With the right freezing and storage methods, chicken can stay fresh and safe to eat for many months past the purchase date.


A complete guide to how long chicken lasts in the freezer and how to maximize its shelf life:

1. Proper Freezing Methods

The key to freezing chicken safely is fast freezing. You want the chicken to freeze thoroughly and quickly to maintain quality. Here are some tips for fast freezing chicken breasts:


Freeze chicken within 1-2 days of purchasing it. The fresher it is before freezing, the better it will hold up.


Cut chicken breasts into smaller portions if freezing multiple pieces. Smaller cuts will freeze faster.


Do not stuff multiple chicken breasts into one bag. Keep them in single layers with wax paper between layers so they freeze individually.

Remove as much air from freezer bags as possible before sealing. You can use a straw to suck excess air out. This prevents freezer burn.

Use moisture-proof and freezer-safe wrap like aluminum foil or heavy-duty plastic freezer bags. Regular plastic bags become brittle when frozen.

Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until completely hard and firm before transferring to airtight bags.

Freeze chicken away from air vents so it does not partially thaw from direct cold air. Place in the back of the freezer.

2. Freezer Temperature

For safe freezing, maintain your freezer at 0°F or below. The colder the temperature, the longer frozen foods will last. Set your freezer to -10°F or lower if possible. Quickly cooling chicken down to 0°F locks in moisture and quality. Temperatures that fluctuate in the freezer will cause food to partially thaw and refreeze, leading to faster deterioration.

3. Avoid Overstuffing the Freezer

Leave enough space for air to freely circulate around frozen items. An overstuffed freezer causes the temperature inside to be inconsistent. Use a thermometer placed in the center of the freezer to monitor the temperature.

4. Wrapping and Sealing Chicken

Always use air-tight, moisture-proof barriers between chicken and air when freezing. Air causes oxidation and freezer burn on the meat. Here are some suitable freezer wrap options:

Freezer bags – Remove as much air as possible before sealing. Choose thick, high-quality plastic bags designed specifically for the freezer.

Plastic wrap – Wrap chicken tightly in two layers of plastic wrap, pushing out excess air. Then place wrapped chicken inside a freezer bag.

Aluminum foil – Use heavy-duty foil and wrap tightly around each chicken breast, pressing out excess air. Double wrap for extra protection.

Vacuum sealing system – A vacuum sealing system like FoodSaver removes oxygen before sealing, keeping chicken fresher longer.

Waxed paper – Use waxed paper between individually frozen chicken pieces so they don’t stick together.

No matter what wrap you use, check periodically for holes and replace if the protective barrier is compromised.

Freeze Chicken on These Dates

Raw chicken from the store – Freeze by 1-2 days after purchasing it.

Leftover cooked chicken – Freeze within 3-4 days of cooking it.

Chicken defrosted in the refrigerator – Refreeze within 1-2 days.

Chicken defrosted in cold water – Cook immediately and refreeze.

Do not refreeze chicken at room temperature or if it has been left out for more than 2 hours. This can allow bacteria growth.

Thaw Properly in the Refrigerator

Always thaw frozen chicken gradually in the refrigerator. Keep it in a container to catch drips and place on a lower shelf to avoid contaminating other food. Defrost chicken breasts this way:

Small pieces or strips – 1 to 2 days

Boneless breasts – 2 to 3 days

Bone-in pieces – 3 to 4 days

To speed up thawing, place sealed chicken in a bowl of cold water, changing water every 30 minutes. Small pieces may thaw in 2-3 hours. Cook chicken immediately after cold water thawing.

Never thaw at room temperature or in hot water, which activates bacteria growth. Meat that has been thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen safely.

How Long Does Chicken Last in the Freezer?

With proper freezing and thawing methods, chicken can safely stay in the freezer for the following time periods:

Raw whole chicken – 9 months

Raw chicken pieces or boneless breasts – 9 months

Raw chicken giblets – 3 to 4 months

Cooked chicken – 2 to 3 months

Chicken nuggets or patties – 1 to 3 months

Raw chicken tenders or strips – 9 months

Chicken wings, legs, thighs – 9 months

Chicken soup or stock – 2 to 3 months

Fried chicken – 1 to 3 months

Signs Chicken Has Gone Bad in the Freezer

Chicken can go bad in the freezer over time. Check for these signs before cooking and consuming frozen chicken:

Ice crystals or freezer burn on the meat, indicating air exposure.

Unpleasant and off smells when defrosting.

Change in color from pink or white to gray, green or brown.

Slimy, sticky or tacky texture and appearance.

Dry, tough, mushy or spongy feel.

Milky or discolored oozing liquid when thawing.

Mold growth anywhere on the chicken.

Any poultry exhibiting these properties should be discarded. It is always better to be safe than risk illness from spoiled frozen chicken.


Maintaining high-quality, frozen chicken for maximum shelf life requires starting with fresh chicken, quickly freezing it below 0°F, using air-tight freezer barriers, monitoring freezer temperature, and defrosting in the refrigerator properly. Following these guidelines, frozen chicken breasts and other cuts can safely last 9 to 12 months in the freezer before quality loss. Check frequently for signs of spoilage before serving. With the right strategy, freezing chicken can significantly reduce food waste and allow bulk buying deals.



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