Most people will have a few bags of frozen chicken in their freezer. It can be easy to forget about one or two bags only to discover them too late – when they’re freezer burnt.
Freezer burn has a very distinctive taste, but it’s hard to describe. Off, weird, old, musty, and ‘like the freezer’ are some of my attempts.
So, how do you get rid of the taste of frozen chicken? To get rid of frozen chicken taste, marinate or brine the chicken and cut off any visible bits of freezer burn. You can also opt to use the chicken in a dish where its flavor will be overpowered, such as a curry, enchiladas, or something spicy.
Related: How To Store Raw Chicken In The Freezer
How to make frozen chicken taste better
The freezer taste that clings to your chicken is not a seasoning anyone would choose. A simple frying, grilling, or baking won’t be enough to shake it off.
Sadly you can’t get rid of the taste of freezer-burn completely, but you can improve it to the point where it’s barely noticeable.
Here are a few ways to go about making your frozen chicken disaster edible.
Word of warning: you may see varying success depending on how badly your chicken has suffered in the freezer.
But the way I see it is that the only thing you have to lose is time.
You either throw the meat out straight away or try and save it. If you save it great. If not you can throw it away, but at least you tried.
Cut off any freezer burnt bits
The most important thing to do is to cut off any obvious bits of freezer burn. Cut them off before you cook the chicken.
This will get rid of the worst tasting bits, but it won’t completely solve the problem. Freezer burn affects the whole piece of meat and not just the visible bits. The rest of the chicken probably won’t taste great either, but that’s where the next tactics come into play.
Marinate or brine the meat
Marinating meats is a classic way to flavor them, and it’s even more important when you’re dealing with freezer burnt chicken.
A good, strong marinade will help mask the frozen taste, and adding something acidic to the marinade will help to tenderize the meat.
Acids break down some of the proteins and fats in the meat, making it more tender. Balsamic vinegar is a good option. It’s acidic and adds a slightly sweet flavor to the chicken.
Put a small but concentrated amount of your chosen marinade into a ziploc bag and add the frozen chicken. As the chicken defrosts, the juice from the chicken will mix with the marinade and dilute it. Shaking the bag a few times as the chicken is thawing will help to ensure even coverage.
Brining meat is similar to marinating.
Make a saltwater solution and let the chicken sit in it as it thaws. The primary goal of brining is to tenderize the meat, the flavor comes second.
The salt solution will replace some of the lost moisture in the chicken and help bring it back to life. You can also add some herbs and spices to the brine mix such as sage, black pepper, or garlic. This will help to give the chicken a subtle flavor.
Grind or shred the chicken and put in a sauce
One of the best things you can do to disguise badly frozen chicken is to use it in a dish where the texture or taste of the actual chicken doesn’t matter too much.
Grinding or shredding the meat means you no longer need to worry about the texture of the meat because you’re changing it anyway.
Grind the chicken up with a meat grinder (link to amazon) to make meatballs or burgers and add whatever additional flavors you like to mask the ‘frozen’ taste. Thai chicken meatballs are super tasty and a little different from the usual Italian recipes you’ll find. You need lots of garlic, chili, ginger, and kaffir lime (if you can get hold of it).
Just like ground meat, shredded meat can be easily flavored. You can slow cook it in a crockpot with lots of sauce to mask any off-tastes. Add bbq sauce to make an alternative to pulled pork, or use salsa and black beans to make a delicious burrito filling. You’re basically turning the chicken into a sauce delivery vehicle.
Related: How To Reheat Frozen Shredded Chicken
If you want something cold, you can poach and then shred the meat to make a chicken salad.
Use it to make a stock or soup
If the frozen chicken taste is really offending you, then use it to make soup or stock. That way, you can still make use of the chicken without actually eating it.
Don’t worry. The chicken won’t leave a frozen taste in your stock. It will taste just like regular chicken stock.
Thaw the chicken and simmer it in water along with some vegetables. Once it’s done you can strain the chicken and either get rid of it or shred it and put it back into the soup.
This technique works best if your chicken is on the bone. The bones tend to add a lot of nutrients and extra flavor. However, it will also work fine with boneless chicken.
Make a curry / stew
Curries and stews tend to be very strongly flavored. The sauce is the star of the dish, and the chicken is more of a filler. As a filler, the chicken’s flavor gets lost and you can forget about the fact it doesn’t taste perfect.
Any recipe will do so just pick your favorite curry or stew and get cooking.
If you’re pressed for time a quick alternative to curry is to slather hot sauce on your chicken. This may not mask the texture but it will definitely hide any bad tastes.
Return it (if store bought)
If you bought the chicken pre-frozen from a store then the likelihood is you can return it.
Most food stores will accept returns if you’re not happy with the quality of the food. Simply state you found the taste and texture of the chicken unacceptable.
Of course you wont be able to return the chicken if you bought it fresh and froze it yourself.
What causes frozen chicken to taste bad and how to prevent it from happening again?
It’s no secret that freezing foods can affect their quality, but it’s not always clear why. There are two factors at play with chicken: the chicken’s texture altering and freezer burn.
As the chicken freezes, ice crystals form inside it. The sharp edges of these ice crystals rupture the chicken’s cell walls, causing the muscle fibers to weaken and break down. This noticeably alters the chicken’s texture and means the meat can no longer hold in moisture effectively. As the chicken thaws, lots of moisture will be lost leading to a dry piece of chicken.
You can’t prevent these ice crystals from forming as it’s part of the freezing process. But you can minimize how many form and how big they are. The quicker you freeze the meat, the less time the ice crystals have to form.
Chill the meat in your fridge first so it’s as cold as possible before going into the freezer. Then flash freeze the meat uncovered for a few hours. Uncovered meat will freeze faster than covered meat. Once the meat has frozen solid, make sure to cover it before leaving it for longer-term storage. Effective wrapping of the meat will help to prevent freezer burn.
Freezer burn is the next issue and can affect both the taste and texture of frozen chicken.
Freezer burn occurs when the chicken is exposed to cold air. The cold air draws moisture out of the surface of the meat, leaving it severely dehydrated. Freezer burn isn’t unsafe to eat, but it doesn’t taste very nice.
It’s easy to see freezer burn on chicken because the meat changes color. The meat will turn white and look visibly tougher.
Luckily, freezer burn is completely preventable. You may have fallen victim to it this time, but you don’t have to again. Prevention is key to avoiding frozen chicken taste.
To prevent freezer burn, you need to prevent any air exposure. One way to do this is to wrap each individual bit of chicken in a double layer of plastic wrap or tin foil and then put it in an airtight container.
Related: How To Break Apart Frozen Chicken
Alternatively, if you have a vacuum sealer at home you can use this. Vacuum sealers are great because you can be sure no air will be in contact with your meat. I recommend the Greyon food saver (amazon link). There is a slight upfront cost involved, but it will save you money in the future because you’ll never need to throw out ruined frozen food again.