Can you eat chicken that has been frozen for a year?

In this article, I will answer the question: “Can you eat chicken that has been frozen for a year?” and I will give you tips to keep your chicken fresh and safe.

Can you eat chicken that has been frozen for a year?

Yes, You can eat chicken that has been frozen for a year. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the storage time of a fresh whole chicken is one year, for chicken pieces is 9 months and for cooked leftovers is 2 to 6 months (1).

Frozen chicken can be eaten indefinitely, but the taste and flavor will deteriorate over time. Freezer burn can develop if you don’t carefully seal the food, drying off the exposed meat – though it’s still safe to consume.

What are the health benefits of chicken?

Chicken is a staple in most households because it’s healthy, versatile, and even the pickiest eaters will most likely eat it.

Chicken is a low-calorie, low-fat source of high-quality protein that also contains essential nutrients. Here are some of the health benefits of chicken:

  • It contains tryptophan, an amino acid that causes your brain’s serotonin levels to rise. The “feel-good” neurochemical serotonin is linked to mood. 
  • It provides vitamin B12 and choline, which together may improve children’s brain growth, and older persons’ cognitive ability. It is also a source of vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid (2).
  • It is an excellent source of dietary protein. Muscle growth may be aided by 30 grams of protein per meal. The protein of poultry meat is considered of high quality and digestibility. The low content of collagen (a structural protein) is another favorable characteristic of poultry meat. Collagen reduces the digestibility of meat, and high levels of this protein in muscular meat are associated with a lower percentage of digested product per unit of time (2)
  • It is a good source of protein. When skin is removed, chicken meat is a lean protein source. The muscular part of the meat, lacking visible fat, has a fairly limited lipid content (2).
  • It is high in vitamins and minerals that may be the center of a heart-healthy, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet like the DASH diet and also a source of lipidic vitamins, such as vitamin A, E, D and K (2)..
  • The composition of poultry fat is favorable: it includes significant amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids (only a third of total fat is made up of saturated fatty acids) and, in comparison with bovine, ovine, or pig meat, substantial amounts of polyunsaturated fats, especially the omega-6 or n-6 linoleic acid (18:2 n-6) and arachidonic acid (20:4 n-6), which can be found mostly in the skin (2).
  • Lean chicken flesh is a high-quality protein source that the body can readily utilize. Protein-rich foods could help you maintain a healthy weight and blood sugar level.

Can chicken become unsafe to eat?

Although chicken is a healthy option, raw chicken is frequently contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria, as well as Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens bacteria. The most frequent outbreaks associated with consumption of contaminated poultry are caused by Salmonella spp., S. aureus, and occasionally by Bacillus cereus and psychrotrophic pathogens such as A. hydrophila, L. monocytogenes, and Yersinia enterocolitica. Most of these pathogens cause gastroenteritis (3).

You can get a foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning, if you consume undercooked chicken. You can also get sick if you consume meals or beverages that were contaminated with raw chicken or its juices.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 million people in the United States become ill each year after eating infected poultry.

How to prevent chicken contamination?

Foodborne diseases are due to mishandling of foods in ways we know we should avoid (e.g., improper cooling, inadequate heating/reheating, and poor personal hygiene), education of food handlers and consumers about the importance of food hygiene may improve safety and so prevent many illnesses (3). To avoid food poisoning, follow these simple tips when handling chicken:

  • To prevent raw juices from contaminating other foods, place chicken in a plastic bag before placing it in your shopping basket or refrigerator.
  • Hands should be washed for 20 seconds in warm, soapy water before and after handling poultry.
  • Raw chicken should not be washed. Chicken juices can spread across the kitchen during cleaning, contaminating other foods, utensils, and counters.
  • For raw chicken, use a separate cutting board.
  • Cooked food or fresh produce should never be served on a plate, cutting board, or other surface where raw chicken was previously served.
  • After prepping the chicken, wash cutting boards, tools, dishes, and counters in hot soapy water before using it for another item.
  • Make sure the chicken is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F using a food thermometer.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken within 2 hours (or 1 hour if exposed to temperatures above 90°F, such as in a hot car or at a summer picnic).

How long does chicken last in the freezer?

According to the USDA, whole raw chicken can be kept in the freezer for up to a year for the best quality, flavor, and texture; parts for up to 9 months; and giblets or ground chicken for 3 to 4 months. Prepared chicken may be stored for up to 4 months; cooked poultry casseroles or pieces covered in broth or gravy can be frozen for up to 6 months; and chicken nuggets or patties can be frozen for up to 3 months (1).

How to freeze chicken properly?

While it’s perfectly safe to freeze raw poultry in its original packaging, plastic-wrapped containers are porous to air, and the quality of the chicken may deteriorate with time. The USDA suggests that you overwrap the original plastic-wrapped container with a layer of aluminum foil for long-term storage. You can alternatively take the chicken out of the package and place it in a freezer bag, pushing out as much air as possible before sealing it. A vacuum-sealed package that has not been opened can be stored in its original state.

The best way to avoid freezer burn is to vacuum-seal the chicken. Do you know what causes freezer burn? It’s the dehydration process that occurs when the chicken is exposed to air. Foods that have been exposed to freezer burn are safe to eat, but they will certainly lack flavor. This phenomenon occurs when water sublimates from the surface of the food product due to the difference between the water vapor pressure (Vp) of frozen food and the surrounding environment. More precisely, the sublimation of ice from the food surface is governed by the vapor pressure gradient developed between the surface of the food (Vp-ice food), the water vapor in the air (Vp-air), and the ice on the refrigerator coils (Vp-refrigeration coils), where the order of magnitude is Vp-ice food > Vp-air > Vp-refrigeration coils. Since the Vp of ice at the surface of food is greater than the vapor pressure of water in the air, ice sublimates in order to equilibrate with the vapor pressure of water in the air. In the meantime, water from the air condenses on to the ice at the refrigeration coils (the coldest part in the freezer) as the Vp-refrigeration coils < Vp-air. The sublimation of water is enhanced by cycles of self-defrosting (particularly in self-defrosting systems) or temperature fluctuation that melts frost from the evaporator coil leading to an increased Vp gradient (4).

How Do You Defrost Chicken Properly?

There are three ways to defrost frozen chicken, according to the USDA (1):

  1. In the refrigerator:

The refrigerator approach is the safest and most recommended method, although it does require some planning. Simply transfer your wrapped frozen chicken from your freezer to your fridge at least 24 hours before eating. Your chicken can be kept in the fridge for another day or two once it has thawed. It can also be refrozen before eating, however the quality will deteriorate slightly.

  1. In cold water:

Another option for defrosting chicken is to use cold water, which is faster but requires more attention. Fill a big dish halfway with cold water and submerge the frozen chicken, keeping it in a leak-proof container. Small packages can take less than one hour to defrost, while a three- to four-pound entire chicken could take two to three hours. As the chicken thaws, make sure to change the water every 30 minutes, and once thawed, the chicken should be cooked right away.

  1. In the microwave:

The quickest technique is to remove the chicken from its packaging and place it in an oven cooking bag or a microwave-safe container that has been covered. Cook nine to ten minutes per pound for whole chicken or six to eight minutes per pound for chicken breast halves using the defrosting mode.

Chicken defrosted in the microwave should be eaten soon after thawing.

Other FAQs about Chicken that you may be interested in.

How many chicken breasts are there in a pound?

How long is chicken good past the sell-by date?

How long is chicken good in the fridge?

Conclusion

In this essay, I answered the question: “Can you eat chicken that has been frozen for a year?”, and I explained the methods to properly handle chicken.

Feel free to contact me for any further requests related to this topic.

References

  1. Freezing and Food Safety. United States Department of Agriculture. 2013. 
  2. Marangoni, Franca, et al. Role of poultry meat in a balanced diet aimed at maintaining health and wellbeing: an Italian consensus document. Food nutr res, 2015, 59, 27606.
  3. Mor-Mur, Montserrat, and Josep Yuste. Emerging bacterial pathogens in meat and poultry: an overview. Food Bioproc Technol, 2010, 3, 24-35.
  4. Dalvi-Isfahan, Mohsen, et al. Review on identification, underlying mechanisms and evaluation of freezing damage. J Food Eng, 2019, 255, 50-60.