Does Chicken Become Less Tender After Being Frozen?

According to the USDA, chicken is one of the most consumed meats in the world, second to pork. It's a versatile protein source that soaks up any flavor you introduce it to and can be fried, seared, boiled, grilled, roasted, spun on a rotisserie, shredded, and much more. According to WebMD, chicken is not only a great source of protein, but also contains amino acids, which help build muscle and maintain bone density, along with its incredible sources of B12, tryptophan, zinc, iron, and copper. With this type of meat being cost-effective, it's easy to buy in bulk and freeze for later. However, did you know that the freezer can offer an expiration date for the texture of your meat?

The tricky part about chicken is knowing how to cook it to perfection — not overcooked and tough to cut, but not raw and running the risk of getting you or someone you know sick. It's difficult enough to tackle the perfect recipe, but when you're working with thawed meat from the freezer, you want it to yield the same results as if you just purchased the fresh chicken from the store hours ago. So is the freezer to blame?

For more than two months, yes

A recent study made by the Journal of Poultry Science states that freezing chicken for more than two months could negatively impact the tenderness of the meat, Cook's Illustrated decided to test it out on six chicken breasts using a Warner-Bratzler shear device, which is a tool that measures tenderness and equates a number indicating the force necessary to cut meat (per USDA).

They froze three breasts for two months and the other three for three months. When cooking and testing the two-month-old chicken, they concluded that its tenderness was similar to fresh chicken, whereas the three-month-old chicken was 15% tougher. That being said, it's best to freeze the meat in an airtight bag and keep it in the freezer for only two months. To learn more about safe ways to freeze your meat, check out this info from NC State University Extension.

Lastly, if you're concerned about the freezer reducing the amount of nutrients in your chicken, the Brazilian Journal of Poultry Science states that purchasing frozen chicken from the store could help. When freezing fresh meat at home, your appliance won't have the same amount of power as the one in a professional setting, and you'll likely lose a lot of those juices, which actually hold a lot of nutrients. According to Five Star Home Foods, the industrial freezing process allows the nutritional profile of frozen meat to remain the same as fresh.