Can You Refreeze Cooked Chicken? (Must-Read)

Can You Refreeze Cooked Chicken

We all have that one question in the back of our minds – can you refreeze cooked chicken? 

If you ask the same question, then this post is for you. I will share with you the facts and tips on keeping cooked chicken safe for later use.

So, can you refreeze cooked chicken?  Yes, you can refreeze cooked chicken as long as it was not left at room temperature for more than two hours.

But refreezing cooked chicken is not recommended because it will affect the quality of the food.

If freezing is your only option to save your leftover, then you might want to consider the tips I am going to share below.

How to refreeze cooked chicken correctly?

As mentioned, refreezing cooked chicken is not often recommended. This is due to the fact that refreezing can negatively affect the overall quality of the cooked meat.

But if you really want to try this route, you need to make sure that you do everything right.

This involves thawing the cooked chicken for the first time in the refrigerator. The thawing process may last for twelve to twenty-four hours.

The slow thawing process helps to preserve the quality of the cooked chicken.

But if you are dealing with a leftover cooked chicken that was previously frozen and reheated, then the leftover should be popped in the freezer immediately.

Do not thaw your cooked chicken at a high temperature because it will allow the bacteria to grow rapidly.

This is the main reason why you should not refreeze cooked chicken that was previously thawed at room temperature.

Room temperature is perfect timing for rapid bacterial growth that will make the cooked chicken unsafe to eat.

Also, do not refreeze a cooked chicken that was thawed in hot water or in the microwave.

The same reason is applied in this case. High temperature promotes rapid bacterial growth that will result in contamination.

If you are planning to refreeze your cooked chicken, avoid these instances to keep the meat safe.

Why refreezing cooked chicken is not always recommended?

Well, there is a good reason as to why most people especially food experts do not recommend the refreezing cooked chicken.

And the main reason is that refreezing cooked meat deteriorates the meat’s quality. The longer the meat is refrozen the higher the chance of losing its taste and texture.

Although such changes will not cause harm, you won’t be able to enjoy the refrozen cooked chicken as before.

The factor that affects the quality of the cooked meat during the refreezing process is the crystals formed during the process.

Those crystals tend to break down the cells of the meat which will result in a mushy texture.

If you really want to refreeze the cooked chicken for the second time, I suggest that you consume it within one to two days.

This is to minimize the damage of the meat during the refreezing process.

Aside from the quality issue that you may encounter, refreezing also brings the possibility of bacterial contamination.

If you have been visiting and reading some of the articles I published on this blog, you might already know that freezing does not kill bacteria.

It only slows down bacterial growth. So if the meat is being thawed at a high temperature, the bacteria can grow rapidly once again.

This means that if you refreeze the already thawed food, there will be more bacteria than before existing in the meat.

Needless to say that refreezing is not the safest thing you can do with your cooked chicken.

How to cook refrozen chicken?

Suppose that you have successfully refrozen your cooked chicken for another day or two.

The time has come to use it. The next thing you need to do is to get the refrozen cooked chicken out of the freezer and reheat it before eating.

The good news is that the reheating process is easy. You do not need a degree in culinary arts to do it correctly.

You just need to follow the recommended steps I laid below.

Here’s how you can cook or reheat refrozen chicken correctly:

  • The first thing you need to do is to transfer the refrozen cooked chicken into the fridge and leave it there overnight. This will allow the chicken to completely thaw.
  • After the chicken is completely thawed, reheat it. You can choose whatever reheating method you want to use. But whatever you choose, make sure that the temperature is high enough to kill the bacteria in the meat. The recommended minimum temperature is 160 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two minutes.

Now for some reminders: It is important to remember that once you reheated the refrozen chicken, you should not refreeze it again.

Refreezing can only be done once to minimize the quality deterioration of the meat.

Furthermore, refrozen cooked chicken that is thawed at room temperature for too long should be discarded. I always recommend taking the safer route.

Lastly, do not thaw refrozen chicken unless you intend to use it within the day or in the next twenty-four hours.

How many times can you reheat refrozen chicken?

For safety and quality purposes, only reheat your refrozen chicken once.

As mentioned, both refreezing and reheating processes can negatively affect the safety and quality of the meat.

So if you repeat the refreezing and reheating process several times, the cooked chicken may not only lose its quality but also cause safety issues.

Can you refreeze the chicken after thawing on the counter?

Unfortunately, I do not recommend refreezing chicken thawed on the counter.

As mentioned, thawing at room temperature allows the bacteria to grow pretty quickly therefore compromising the safety of the meat.

The best thing you can do with your chicken thawed on the counter is to cook it immediately.

But if the chicken is left on the counter for too long, it is better to discard it than cooking it.

The USDA has the same recommendation. Bacterial contamination is the main reason.

So you need to ensure the safety of the food before you consider consuming it.

Final Thoughts

If you have leftover cooked chicken that was previously frozen, thawed, and reheated, do not worry because you can refreeze.

That is right. You can refreeze cooked chicken but you can only do that once. This is because refreezing can negatively affect the quality of the meat.

It is also important to remember that you can only refreeze cooked if it is properly thawed in the refrigerator prior to reheating.

Cooked chicken thawed at room temperature should not be refrozen.

This is mainly due to bacterial contamination that can quickly happen when the food is exposed to a high temperature.

Any food that is thawed at room temperature should be cooked immediately instead of freezing it.

Freezing will not kill the bacteria making the food unsafe for future use.

I hope this helps. If you want to learn more about freezing foods, feel free to visit my guide here.


USDA: Food Safety and Inspection Service