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Tender Time Limit for Chicken

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2009

Can storing chicken breasts in the freezer for longer than two months negatively affect tenderness?

According to the May 2008 issue of the Journal of Food Science, storing chicken breasts in the freezer for longer than two months negatively affects tenderness. Ever the skeptics, we wanted to double-check the results. So we bought six whole chicken breasts and split each one down the center. We immediately tested one breast from each chicken using a Warner-Bratzler shear device that measures tenderness by quantifying the force required to cut meat. We wrapped and froze the other breasts at 0 degrees (the temperature of the average home freezer). We tested three of the previously frozen breasts for tenderness after two months and the remaining three after three months. Our results confirmed the study’s findings: Two-month-old chicken was nearly as tender as fresh chicken, while three-month-old chicken was about 15 percent tougher. We recommend freezing chicken wrapped and sealed in an airtight zipper-lock bag for no longer than two months.