Storing food in your freezer to keep it safe for long periods of time is great, but did you know that it can affect the taste and quality of your food? That’s right, if you’re not storing your food in the right way, you could end up with freezer-burned chicken which will leave a nasty taste.
How Does Chicken Get Freezer-Burned?
Freezer-burned chicken occurs when air comes into contact with frozen chicken, causing dehydration of the surface cells. The moisture in these cells evaporates, leaving a dry, brownish discoloration.
If you’re lucky, the meat will still taste fine and be safe to eat. But if you leave it in there long enough, freezer burn can begin to affect the quality of the meat and make it unsafe to eat.
What Does Freezer-Burned Chicken Look Like?
Freezer-burned chicken is a sad sight. It will usually appear as dry, flaky patches on top of your frozen poultry product — typically where there was fat or marinade before being frozen — or as brown spots scattered throughout.
The skin may be thin and cracked or have a powdery appearance. And while you might not want to eat it, there’s no need to toss it out.
What Does Freezer-Burned Chicken Smell Like?
The smell of freezer-burned chicken is often described as musty or stale, and it’s definitely not something you want in your food! If you think that your chicken has freezer burn, give it a sniff.
If it smells like wet cardboard or cardboard mixed with ammonia, then it’s safe to say that you have freezer-burned chicken on your hands.
Can You Eat Freezer-Burned Chicken?
The answer is yes—as long as it’s only slightly freezer burned. If the entire package has taken on a grayish color, however, it’s best to toss it and try again.
The truth is, there are two kinds of freezer burn: one that affects the texture and one that affects the taste. In order for freezer burn to have an impact on the texture and appearance of your chicken, it must be pretty far along in its development.
The grayish-brown leathery patches that form on the surface of meat are actually dried-out areas where water molecules have evaporated from the food.
These areas are safe to cut off or scrape away before cooking with the rest of the meat—but if they’re left unattended for too long (causing them to dry out entirely), they can become tough and unpalatable.
Does Freezer-Burned Chicken Taste Bad?
Freezer-burned chicken doesn’t taste bad, but it does have a slightly unpleasant taste and texture. This can be caused by the oxidation of the meat’s fat. When the fat oxidizes, it turns into a yellowish color. Once this happens, the food will no longer taste as fresh as it should.
Can Freezer-Burned Chicken Hurt You?
It’s a common misconception that freezer-burned chicken will hurt you. While it’s true that freezer burn can affect the taste and texture of meat, there is no evidence that it can make you sick.
Freezer burn, though often considered a sign of food spoilage, is actually just dehydration caused by exposure to air. Although it won’t make you sick, the meat may look and taste dry and tough.
Freezer burn can also affect the texture of cooked chicken. The properly stored frozen chicken will maintain its quality for about six months.
How To Tell If Chicken Is Freezer-Burned?
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of eating freezer-burned chicken, you know how bad it can be. It’s dry, stringy, and has a funky taste.
But how can you tell if the chicken has been affected by freezer burn? Here are some common signs that your frozen poultry isn’t fresh enough to eat:
Freezer-burned raw poultry will show signs of dehydration on the outside of the meat. This happens when air reaches the flesh while it’s in storage. If you notice this discoloration on any cut of meat, look for signs that it might be contaminated with bacteria or parasites like salmonella or listeria.
If you’re buying boneless skinless chicken breasts from the grocery store, check for discoloration around the outside edges of each piece. Any sign of browning or yellowing means that there has been some damage to the meat during storage or transportation.
When you’re buying chicken wings, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a great price.
Unfortunately, cheap chicken wings can mean that you are getting freezer-burned chicken wings. And that means that what you think is a great deal may turn out to be a waste of time and money.
Here are two ways to tell if your chicken wings are freezer-burned:
- Look at the color of your chicken wings
If they look pale or grayish-brown, this means that air has gotten into them and dried them out. If they’re brown all over, then they’re probably okay; however, if there are white spots on them, then they have been exposed to air and maybe freezer burned.
- Feel for bumps
Inspect your chicken wings for bumps or other signs of damage like tears or dents in the packaging before cooking them or eating them raw (if you’re going that route).
There’s a reason why many people consider chicken nuggets to be fast food. You can buy them at the store, heat them up and eat them. Or you can make your own using ground chicken or turkey. Either way, it’s not uncommon for these nuggets to become freezer-burned over time.
So how do you know if your frozen chicken nuggets are freezer burned? Check out these signs:
- The color is off
Freezer-burned chicken nuggets are usually darker in color than they should be because they’ve lost moisture through exposure to air. So look for discoloration on your nuggets and make sure they aren’t too dry or stiff before heating them up in the oven or microwave.
- There’s an off-odor
If there’s an unpleasant smell coming from your frozen chicken nuggets, then it’s possible that they’ve been exposed to freezer burn during storage or transport. A rancid odor is a sure sign that your product has been compromised by air exposure and isn’t safe for consumption anymore.
- They’re hard to chew through
Frozen chicken nuggets should be soft enough to bite into with ease — not so much that they crumble apart when you try chewing through them.
How To Cook Freezer-Burned Chicken?
While freezer-burned chicken may not be the most appetizing, it is still safe to cook and eat. It will not cause food poisoning or any other health issues. The only downside is that it won’t taste very good.
If you have freezer-burned chicken and want to cook it, the best way to do so would be to bake or roast it in the oven. However, it may also be grilled, fried, or boiled on the stovetop.
As with cooking any type of chicken, make sure that the internal temperature reaches at least 165°F (74°C) before eating. This should kill any harmful bacteria that could be present in the meat.
How To Prevent Freezer-Burned Chicken?
We’ve all had freezer-burned chicken before, and it’s not pleasant.
Chicken is lean meat that has less fat than other types of meat—which makes it more prone to drying out when exposed to cold temperatures and air.
The best way to avoid freezer-burned chicken is also the age-old trick for keeping food fresh: wrap it in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and put it in a freezer bag.
If you want to keep your chicken fresh for as long as possible, remove any excess air from the freezer bag before sealing it shut. You can also use plastic containers with lids, but make sure they are completely sealed before putting them in the freezer.
If you’re worried about your chicken developing freezer burn, place the container of chicken on its side in the freezer, so that it will freeze quickly and evenly.
Can Dogs Eat Freezer-Burned Chicken?
Yes, but it’s not good for them.
Freezer burn can make meat appear unappetizing and inedible; however, it does not affect the nutritional value of the chicken.
If you have a large bag of frozen chicken that has turned to a pale white color due to freezer burn, it is safe to feed as is or cook it with other ingredients to add flavor and moisture back into the meat.
It also depends on how the chicken was cooked originally.
If the chicken was boiled or steamed before being frozen, then it is safe for dogs to eat. This means that if you have some leftover chicken from dinner last night, you can thaw it out and give it to your dog as a treat without any problems.
However, if the chicken was baked or fried before being frozen, then it will probably be too dry for your pup to enjoy.
Some dogs have sensitive stomachs, and some breeds are more susceptible than others. If your dog has had recurring diarrhea or vomiting after eating, you should consult with your vet.
If your dog is healthy and hasn’t had any digestive issues after eating previously, then it’s probably safe to feed him freezer-burned chicken.
However, if your dog has had repeated gastrointestinal issues after eating other foods (or no foods), then don’t feed him any food that may have been affected by freezer burn until you’ve consulted with your vet.
What To Do With Freezer-Burned Chicken?
Don’t toss out your freezer-burned chicken! While it’s not ideal, it is edible, and you can use it in a variety of ways to avoid wasting your food and money.
The trick is to make the most of the parts that haven’t been damaged and find a way to incorporate them into a dish that hides the rest—you can usually get away with eating the chicken in thicker pieces like breasts or thighs, while smaller cuts like wings or strips may be too far gone to salvage.
Chicken breasts are probably one of the easiest things you can cook with freezer-burned chicken: they’re thick enough that you can cut around any damaged areas, or even cut off the whole top layer if needed.
They’re also very versatile when it comes to flavor, so you can easily use them in any recipe without worrying about whether your seasoning will mask the freezer-burned taste.
If you don’t have access to another fresh piece of chicken for comparison (or are just not very good at identifying tastes), I would recommend using your freezer-burned chicken for a soup or slow-cooker recipe where other strong flavors will help mask any bad aftertaste.
If your freezer-burned chicken is still in good condition (i.e., it has just a few small spots), try roasting them with some potatoes and carrots for an easy meal!
You could also make a stir fry or soup with these cuts of meat; just be sure not to overcook them because they’ll dry out quickly if cooked too long on high heat.
Chicken In Soup
Freezer-burned chicken can be added to soups. You may use the chicken in any soup recipe, but it works best in brothy soups with a lot of liquid, such as broth-based soups or chili. The extra liquid helps to cover up the taste of freezer burn.
You can also make chicken wings with your freezer-burned meat. This works especially well if you have already cooked the chicken and just want to reheat it for dinner. Just bake or grill the wings as you would normally do with fresh meat and serve them as an appetizer or snack before dinner is served.
Another easy way to use up your freezer-burned chicken is by making chicken strips out of it and serving them with a dip like salsa or ranch dressing.
You can either slice up the chicken breast into strips yourself or purchase frozen strips from the grocery store and cook them according to package directions (usually baking or frying). Once they are cooked through, serve them with a delicious dip.
Freezer-Burned Chicken Recipes
Freezer-burned chicken is not something you want to serve your family, but it’s even worse when you have to throw away a whole bag of meat. The good news is that freezer-burned chicken can be salvaged with these simple steps.
If you’re looking for freezable recipe ideas, try these:
Chicken Noodle Soup. You don’t need to throw out a bunch of frozen chicken breasts if you’ve got a head cold; just make soup instead! This quick and easy recipe uses only five ingredients and will cure what ails you in no time.
Chicken Pot Pie. If you don’t have many other options in the freezer, here’s another great way to use up leftover or freezer-burned chicken. This recipe has all the flavors of a pot pie without any fussiness — just pop it into the oven and dinner will be ready before you know it!
Casseroles. Casseroles are always a good choice because they’re easy and delicious. You can use any kind of meat or poultry in a casserole with veggies and seasonings, so it will taste great no matter what kind of ingredients you have on hand.
Lasagna. It isn’t exactly something you’d expect to make with freezer-burned chicken, but it can work in a pinch if you don’t have any meat or if you want a vegetarian lasagna recipe. Just make sure not to overcook it so that the lasagna doesn’t get mushy and gross!
I am Anand, and I am a business owner and consultant in my day job. I have spent years studying what’s inside the products we buy. ‘Feedrer’ is a wordplay on you-know-who and talks about all things food.