Marination is a great way to add texture and flavor to an otherwise bland and tasteless chicken. There is a myriad of choices to marinate your chicken with, including olive oil, lemon juice, yogurt, barbecue sauce, and many other ingredients and sauces. Marination can be quite a time-consuming process. It’ll be great to have a great provision of marinated chicken ready to cook and that could last you weeks or even months. But, can you freeze marinated chicken? Can marinated chicken freeze well? And how long does marinated chicken last in the fridge?
Of course, you can! If you want to have ready-to-cook marinated chicken in your freezer, you can save up a lot of time in the future.
First, put your marinade into a resealable freezer bag. Close it and shake to mix all the marinade ingredients. Then proceed to prepare the chicken by rinsing and patting it dry, then cutting or slicing accordingly. Place the chicken in the freezer bag with the marinade, seal the bag (make sure no air is left inside!), shake the bag in a way that the chicken gets drenched in the mix, and let it rest in the freezer in an orientation that guarantees that the chicken will remain in contact with the mix and that no portion of the mix is unused. After you see that the chicken froze with the mix in its place, then you can place the bag in any preferred position according to how you arrange your freezer.
You might worry that freezing the chicken in the marinade will damage the chicken’s surface (particularly if you use an acidic marinade). However, the marination process is interrupted while in its frozen state, so it doesn’t damage the outer texture of the chicken during that time until it’s time to thaw it.
There’s good news! While naked, the chicken will tend to harden and dry. Marination actually helps the chicken maintain its flavor and moisture. Some people believe that this perception is only a placebo effect as the chicken doesn’t absorb moisture or flavor. Nonetheless, it does prevent the surface from hardening. In my view, there is no better way to preserve fresh chicken, as long as you package it correctly to avoid freezer burn.
If you cooked it and want to refreeze leftovers, as long as they didn’t stay at room temperature for a prolonged period with the consequent bacterial growth exposure, then it’s safe to save them in the freezer for another occasion. If you thawed the chicken without cooking it, there is a greater risk of contamination and the quality of the chicken might decrease, especially when left at room temperature for a span of 1 or 2 hours. Rather than storing it directly after thawing, it’s better to cook it all and save the portion that’s not to be consumed in the freezer, making sure it’s stored in an airtight bag and preferably in single-serving portions. However, it would be much better if you separated the portions before thawing.
Raw marinated chicken can last up to 2 days in the fridge. When cooked, it can last approximately 3 or 4 days, as usual.
Frozen marinated chicken can remain in optimal quality in the freezer for about 6 to 9 months at a temperature of 0 degrees F . After 9 months, the flavors might start to degrade.
The safest way to thaw marinated chicken is by leaving it in the fridge overnight to slow down any bacterial growth.
Another possible method is to defrost marinated chicken quickly is to use a microwave and set it to defrost, though you should have everything ready to cook it and not leave it at room temperature too much.
According to the USDA, frozen chicken (marinated chicken included) can be cooked in its frozen state using an oven or stove (the cooking might take 50% longer than after thawing). It should be able to achieve an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to kill any lingering bacteria. Pay close attention to any foul odor or weird appearance in the chicken as it’s being cooked since it’s difficult at times to detect spoilage in food when it’s frozen (hence the importance of thawing first!).