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Freezing Cooked Chicken Wings: 5 Things to Know

Finally! Frozen chicken wings that come out as crispy when thawed as they did when you first took them out of the oven.

Chicken wings are a delicious appetizer and finger-lickin’ side dish for many. Whether you’re hosting a party or just want to stock up on some thawable and ready-to-eat snacks, freezing cooked chicken wings is the bona fide way to go.

Cooked chicken wings can be frozen. Although they will stay safe to eat indefinitely, they will keep their best quality for up to 6 months. After that, the chicken wings will slowly but surely begin to dry out and lose their appeal.

We have a few ground rules for you to help you do this properly and safely. Read on to find them out.

Don’t leave cooked chicken wings out for more than 1-2 hours:

Pathogenic bacteria—the kind that can give you and those at your table food-borne illness—multiply most in the temperature range from 40°F to 140°F (for readers familiar with metric units, that’s 4.4°C to 60°C).

This is why, according to the USDA, you should never leave cooked chicken wings out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. On sultry summer’s days, when the outside temperature is 90°F (32°C) and higher, that time is reduced to 1 hour.

Cool the chicken wings in ice water immediately after they’re done:

We’ve already established that, for reasons of food safety, cooked chicken wings shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for more than a few hours. To preserve their best quality, you should not only put them in the freezer right away, but help them freeze quickly once they’re in there.

The best way to do this is to put the chicken wings in a ziplock bag, press as much of the air out as you can (without pressing on the poultry itself to keep it intact), and seal it tightly to prevent water from getting in.

Submerge the bag in a large bowl (or your sink) filled with ice water and add a few tablespoons of salt to the ice water; this will lower the temperature and make the ice melt more slowly.

Stir the bag in the ice water every 5-10 minutes. Within 20-30 minutes, the cooked chicken wings will have cooled enough to be ready for freezing. Transfer the chicken wings to a freezer bag and store in the freezer.

Eat up the chicken wings within a few months:

“Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely,” an article on the website of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service states. This, the agency says, is because “freezing inactivates any microbes,” which—under normal conditions—would cause the food to spoil and cause food-borne illness.

With the above said, time does affect the freshness and quality of cooked chicken wings, so it’s best to eat them all up within 6 months after freezing. Otherwise, they just won’t be as appetizing after thawing as they once were.

A good habit to get into is labeling zipper bags and food containers with the freezing date. That way you know when to use up raw foods and cooked snacks and replace them with new ones.

Thaw properly to keep the cooked chicken wings safe:

By far the safest and most effective way to thaw cooked chicken wings is to take them out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, the wings will be thawed and ready to be reheated.

It’s a good idea to place them in a tray with a wire rack or in a deep plate or dish to catch the moisture that drips off the meat. Place them in the lowest shelf of the refrigerator, where it is coldest (as hot air rises to the top and cold air sinks to the bottom).

Alternatively, you can thaw cooked chicken wings with your microwave’s “Defrost” setting. Remove them from the bag they’re stored in, transfer them in a microwave-safe plate, cover with plastic wrap, and follow your microwave’s instructions to thaw.

If you choose to defrost the cooked chicken wings in the microwave, it is important that you reheat and eat them immediately afterwards. Otherwise, they may become unsafe to eat.

Reheating cooked chicken wings:

Reheating cooked chicken wings and bringing them back to crisp perfection is easy:

Put the cooked chicken wings on a sheet pan fitted with a wire rack (or some crunched up aluminum foil), baste them with olive oil (or rub the oil onto them with your fingers), slide them in a 350°F (160°C) oven, and leave them to reheat without interruption for 5 to 10 minutes.

The olive oil helps transfer heat from the hot air to the skin. The wire rack or crunched up foil lifts the wings from the bottom of the bakeware and promotes air flow on all sides for more even reheating.

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Written by

Jim is the former editor of Home Cook World. He is a career food writer who's been cooking and baking at home ever since he could see over the counter and put a chair by the stove.