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Should Frozen Chicken Have a Smell?

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Most people will agree that fresh chicken has a noticeable smell like most other foods. Fresh chicken has a poultry-like smell, but it is not a bad or horribly unpleasant.

Thankfully, most frozen meats usually do not have a strong smell, but does that include chicken?

Should frozen chicken have a smell?

Frozen chicken, like most foods, will have an odor to it, but it should not be strong one. Frozen chicken typically has a slight poultry smell, sometimes compared to that of an egg. It should not, however, have a pungent, sour, or rotten egg smell unless it spoiled before being frozen or while in the freezer.

Frozen chicken legs in a yellow tray

People with a strong sense of smell will argue that chicken, even fresh unexpired chicken, smells bad. When fresh chicken goes bad, the pungent smell will leave no doubt in your mind.

It is a little more difficult to determine whether the smell of frozen chicken indicates if it has gone bad.

What Does Bad Frozen Chicken Smell Like?

Frozen chicken that has gone bad may or may not have a strong pungent smell. The frozen state of the meat may lessen the bad smell or veil it completely, but you will know for sure when it thaws.

Spoiled chicken will smell rancid, especially when it has thawed, and you will have no doubt it has gone bad.

Does Frozen Chicken Smell When Defrosted?

Good frozen chicken that is defrosted will not necessarily smell exactly like fresh chicken that you buy straight from the grocery store or poultry farm.

It should smell like chicken, but it might smell a little different due to the freezing process. However, it should not smell rancid or spoiled.

Thawed chicken, even though it was previously frozen, should not smell like rotten eggs or have a strong odor to it. Defrosted chicken with an intense smell should be thrown out immediately.

How to Tell if Your Frozen Chicken is Bad?

Frozen chicken that has gone bad will fade completely in color and sometimes develop an unappealing off-grey color. Slight color changes in chicken are normal, even in the freezer, but darkening is an indication of spoilage.

Frozen chicken will not be as vibrant as fresh chicken, but it will look similar. Basically, it should still look like it is chicken.

The second you begin questioning what kind of meat it is, you know it is ready for the garbage bin.

Frozen chicken on a plate

How Long Does Chicken Last in the Freezer?

A whole frozen chicken will last up to one year in the freezer as long as it is wrapped and stored properly.

Fresh chicken pieces will last up to 9 months in the freezer. Poultry giblets are only good in the freezer for around 4 months. 

If you plan on freezing chicken, wrap it and freeze it as soon as possible. Never let chicken go past its expiration date before you freeze it.

Why Did My Frozen Chicken Go Bad?

Chicken that frozen when it is past its expiration date will go bad quicker than chicken that is frozen earlier.

Chicken can start to spoil before it is completely frozen. There is also the chance that your freezer stopped working for some time or was left open long enough for the chicken the thaw and begin spoiling.

What is Freezer Burn?

Freezer burn occurs when chicken or other meats are not properly wrapped before they are placed in the freezer. It can also happen when the chicken has been frozen for a long time.

Freezer burn looks like white dry patches on the meat itself. It does not necessarily mean it is inedible, but those areas should be removed because they will not taste good at all when the meat is cooked.

Does Freezing Kill Bacteria in Chicken?

Many people mistakenly believe that freezing something will destroy any bacteria inside it. This is simply not true.

Any bacteria or mold that exists in fresh chicken before it is frozen just lay dormant until the meat is thawed. Then, they become active again and can still be dangerous.

Safe handling and thorough cooking is still required before consumption even if the chicken has been frozen.

frozen chicken meat on a white background

How to Properly Freeze Chicken

Preparing chicken for the freezer is the most important step in making sure it will not expired. Fresh chicken can be placed into freezer-quality storage bags as well.

You should lay the bag on a flat surface, put the chicken inside, and the push out the air inside before sealing it.

Aluminum foil and butcher paper also works well. Be sure to use oversized pieces when wrapping the chicken, making sure that you wrap it as tightly as possible.

Chicken can be safely frozen in the package you bought it in, but it is recommended to wrap that package with a freezer-safe wrapping material to allow for long-term freezing.

Chicken can also be vacuum-sealed in plastic to minimize the amount of air in the package.

Be sure to mark all your frozen chicken with the date that it was frozen. This will help you later on when determining if it is past its prime.

A package of chicken parts after it's been frozen.

How Long Will Frozen Chicken Last in Power Outages?

Frozen chicken can stay safely frozen in a freezer for a short period of time in the occurrence of a power outage.

The important step that many people do not follow is try not to open the freezer door when the power goes out, unless you are adding ice or other freezing aids.

If the freezer is full of fully frozen food, the food will stay safely frozen for up to two whole days if you do not open the freezer. If it is half-full, you only have up to 24 hours.

You can try to hurry and stack your frozen food together if it is not full, but you risk letting out vital cold air.

If the climate outside is below freezing, some people place frozen foods outside to keep them safe if the power is off for longer than a day or two.

Final Thoughts

Frozen chicken should usually have a slight poultry smell, but it should never be horribly unpleasant or rancid smelling. There is a difference between the often unappealing chicken smell and spoiled chicken.

With the right preparation and attention, you can safely freeze most chicken for 9 months to a year with no worries about it spoiling too quickly.

When dealing with frozen or even fresh chicken, any time you smell rotten eggs or a sour, putrid smell that almost takes your breath away, throw the chicken away immediately. Well, put it in a sealed bag and then throw it away so that you do not have to smell it!