What to Do About Freezer Burn Chicken

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Video freezer burned chicken wings

If you’re reading this with a pack of freezer-burned chicken on the counter, help is here! You’ll learn that it’s safe to eat and how to cook it so it’s not rubbery and dry.

With the tips below, you’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening in the future so you can enjoy your favorite chicken recipes for dinner.

image collage of chicken thighs before and after freezing

What is Freezer Burn?

Freezer burn is the evaporation of the moisture contained in the chicken meat being drawn out, and freezing around the chicken. This means the chicken will be drier once it is thawed out.

Is Freezer Burn Chicken Safe to Eat?

Chicken that is freezer burned is still perfectly safe to eat. If it was fresh when you froze it, you can still cook and enjoy it! I’m going to show you how to prevent this from happening and the best methods for cooking freezer burn chicken so that it

Why Does Freezer Burn Happen?

Freezer burn happens when food is stored in the freezer in packaging that is too thin to protect it from the frigid temperatures of your freezer.

Using thick, freezer-safe zip bags is the best way to prevent freezer burn.

One of the most common mistakes people make (I’ve been guilty of this too many times!) is placing chicken directly in the freezer when you get home from the store. The grocery store packaging is too thin to provide the protection the chicken needs to avoid freezer burn.

I also made a video to address this topic and give you a visual aid on the proper way to freeze chicken:

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How to Tell if Chicken Has Freezer Burn?

At first glance, you’ll notice a layer of ice crystals have formed around the chicken itself. Depending on how long the chicken has been in the freezer the color of the meat itself may have a grayish hue to it.

Once cooked, freezer burned chicken can often have a leathery texture since the chicken has lost some of its moisture content in the freezer over time.

closeup of freezer burned chicken

How to Cook Freezer Burned Chicken

Chicken that has been freezer-burned can still be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Each of these four methods provides extra moisture and flavor during the cooking process to disguise the fact that the chicken was slightly dehydrated from having freezer burn.

PoachPoaching chicken consists of cooking it in hot water and aromatics, infusing it with moisture and flavor. It’s a great way to cook freezer-burned chicken you plan to shred and add to soup or my Homemade Chicken Salad recipe.

CrockpotSlow-cooking freezer-burned chicken in a sauce will coat the meat with flavor and prevent it from being bone dry. My Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken is a perfect recipe, and you can use it to create tacos, loaded potatoes, and sliders.

Bake This method works great for skin-on cuts like thighs and whole chickens since the layer of skin locks in moisture while the fat drains to the bottom of the pan and hydrates the meat as it cooks. Test it out with these juicy Oven-Baked Chicken Thighs.

Make soup! The soup’s broth will rehydrate the chicken and mask any off-putting flavor. Cook the chicken with your method of choice (except grilling) and shred it before adding to the soup. My Chicken Taco Soup would be a great way to test out this method.

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If you’re working with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, avoid using the oven since there’s no skin or fat to prevent moisture loss.

Classic zip bags that are not specifically marked as “freezer” bags, are not thick enough on their own to provide the needed protection for freezing chicken. If you don’t have freezer bags handy you can double up on the classic bags to provide an additional layer of protection from freezer burn for your chicken.

When you’re ready to prepare your chicken, be sure to use one of these safe methods for thawing frozen chicken.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>