How to: Divide and Freeze Chicken

by Beth - Budget Bytes
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There is one thing I really, really hate and that’s touching raw chicken. I won’t go into details, but I’ll just say that I try to do it as little as possible.

If you’re a regular reader of the blog you know that I always have really low prices listed for my boneless, skinless chicken breast. That’s because I pretty much only buy it when it is on sale. After I buy the chicken I immediately divide, individually wrap, and freeze the pieces for later use so that I can defrost one at a time as needed. When I first started doing this I absolutely hated the chore of wrapping and freezing the chicken… until I discovered this little trick!

This simple technique allows you to wrap each piece of chicken quickly and cleanly, with barely any chicken-skin contact. Woot! Prepare to have your eyes opened.

How to Divide and Freeze Chicken

Supplies to freeze chicken (package of chicken breast, zip lock baggies, pen to mark date)

Step 1: Get your supplies out. You’ll need fold-top sandwich bags and one gallon sized freezer bag (or two if you’re prepping a lot of chicken). Label the freezer bag with the contents and date so that if the chicken ever gets lost in the freezer you’ll at least know what it is when you find it.

Zip lock bags with top folded down to put chicken breast in

Step 2: Get ready. I like to fold back the opening of the freezer bag so that I can just slide the wrapped chicken breasts in without touching the outside of the bag (I’m trying to spread as little raw chicken juice as possible). I also take out the number of fold-top sandwich bags needed (one per chicken breast), so that I won’t be reaching into the box of sandwich bags with sticky chicken hands.

hand put inside baggie and grabbing chicken breast

Step 3: Protect your hand. Take one of the sandwich bags and invert it over your hand so that it is inside out and covering your hand. Open the chicken package and use the covered hand to grab one of the breasts…

Flip bag rightside in to cover breast and remove your hand

Step 4: Now simply flip the sandwich bag right side out and around the chicken breast. Fold the flap in to enclose the chicken breast. Now it’s neatly wrapped in its own little package and you’ve had minimal contact with the chicken. Yay!

Slide individually wrapped chicken breasts into large zip lock bag and seal

Step 5: Slide the wrapped chicken breast into the freezer bag and repeat the process with the rest of the chicken. The thin sandwich bag keeps frost from building up on the surface of the chicken and the thick freezer bag keeps air out and prevents freezer burn. Now you have a freezer full of chicken ready to be defrosted whenever you need it! And that whole process only took about five minutes.

Note: Even though this process is virtually mess-free, you’ll want to wash your hands well and disinfect your countertops afterward. Salmonella is not fun and you don’t want to chance small amounts of it contaminating other foods.

Got any cool tips for freezing your food? Share them in the comments below!

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  2. Okay, first time posting. I have a vacuum sealer. I took purchase my chicken in large quantities and freeze it. I did make the mistake my very first time by freezing BEFORE trimming. There is always veins and other junk on the chicken that I do not want to eat. I have to trim first. That way I can defrost a piece in the instant pot and it is already to go. And I find that my chicken purchased at my hometown local butcher shop is locally sourced and much better QUALITY then my big box store (I’m in the Midwest – I shop at Aldi and Meijer). I pay a bit more (really not that much more)but I feel it’s worth it. Your site is EXCELLENT – thanks for all your tips and recipes!

  3. Please, if you must use plastic bags, wash them with hot soapy water, dry, and reuse. I have read not to do this, but have been doing it for decades with no problem. If we don’t change the way we use plastic, the consequence will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

  4. I know this is an older post but I just had to comment. I love, love, LOVE that you are as cautious as I am when dealing with raw chicken. I’m not nearly as weird when it comes to ground beef or steaks but it’s something about chicken. I love your tips and tricks! Love that are they double sealed, individual (we usually do 2 or 3 together but sometimes you just need one and it’s also a pain to get those 2 or 3 broken apart sometimes) and I love the “sandwhich bag grab” trick! Never thought of that!! Thanks for making me feel not alone with this post! Haha 

  5. For me, a good way to thaw a single breast quickly is to put it on a rack and turn on a mini fan i have for this purpose. It takes about 25 minutes. I use the same fan to cool foods quickly. I usually put hit soup in jars, put lids on, and blow with the fan. They cool very fast!

  6. Good thoughts!

    Freezer burn is nothing but dehydration of the warmer side of the package while ice crystals form on the cooler side. Even while buried deep within your freezer. Wrapping individual breast halves is a good way to isolate each piece while freezing, and if the baggies have the air squeezed out before sealing, minimize freezer burn.

    The great thing about vacuum baggers is the elimination of air through which moisture can travel within the packaging. Their plastic is more robust, as well so air does not pass through the walls of the bag. Yes, plastic film is permeable! Ever have a bottle of pop that goes past its expiration (by a long ways) and the sides cave in? If you open it you find that the gas that makes soda fizz has leaked through the bottle walls, leaving it flat. And zip seals, whether single or multiple, are going to let air molecules pass.

    You can also freeze product on trays then dip in cold water to form an ice shell, which excludes air from the product.

    I signed up just a little while ago and am enjoying it immensely. So many good ideas.

  7. This is really bad for the environment, its very upsetting seeing all this plastic,
    please we need to start thinking of the consequences .

  8. And when you have used the chicken in each baggie, don’t throw the baggie away. Rinse it out well, let it air dry (or you can dry it but that’s a pain) and put it in with any plastic grocery bags that you are going to recycle. Grocery stores that recycle plastic bags also take baggies, cling wrap, any plastic film that is *clean* and *dry*.
    Don’t reuse the baggies (chicken juice!) but don’t sent them to the landfill either.

  9. Game changer. I hate, hate, hate touching raw meat and poultry. I use disposable gloves, but that can still be messy. I can’t wait to give this a try.

  10. If you freezer this assembly in the freezer for an hour and then go back to dislodge the chicken individual wrapped breast, it will unfreeze the block of wrapped breasts and you now have separated individual breast wrapped , but hold they shape so they keep snug. Literally shaking the last frozen contacts of the individual chicken

  11. I just got a large thing of chicken from Costco that has 6 bags of 2 to 3 breasts each but they freeze into a lump that way. I have been obsessed with my Instant pot pressure cooker, which I can cook these babies from frozen but it doesn’t work well when they are clumped. I found this searching for a good way to freeze the breasts individually for easy weeknight cooking. This is BRILLIANT. easier than managing cling wrap too. Thank you!

  12. Hi Beth,

    I’m a first time poster, long time lurker and all I can say is brilliant! Added bonus, less chance of freezer burn with double-bagged chicken. And I don’t know about you, but when I freeze chicken breasts in quart bags (1-2 per bag, depending on size), I always seem to find one lone breast in the bottom of the freezer when I take inventory for my semi-annual “cook the freezer” month. Your smart way of bagging them individually in one large bag means no more lost chicken.