Fresh is always best! However, there are times when you may have to freeze down chicken, e.g. interruption of trade due to a Covid 19 lockdown, a natural disaster, or when chicken suppliers run short of supply during peak times, i.e. Christmas.
Knowing what to do, and when to do it, will save your stock and allow you to quickly recover on the other side of the interruption.
Freezing-down chicken, in a manner such as free flow, allows you quick access to individual pieces of chicken, in easy to manage layers, for quick defrosting and recovery.
What you will need:
- Appropriate PPE, i.e. hairnet, disposable apron, and food handling gloves
- Sanitised work bench
- Re-use 15kg chip cartons. These are clean and fit for use.
- Gusseted plastic food grade lining bags (we recommend the liners you use for your flavouring buckets, as these are the ideal size, however, any large plastic bag or sheet will do.)
- Traceability labels – use the Jayen flavouring labels which are fridge/freezer safe, as these are ideal for recording dates (masking tape will do if you do not have these). Ensure you record the dates.
How to freeze chicken using free flow:
- Line the empty 15kg chip carton with a food lining bag.
- Evenly lay out individual pieces of chicken, either from your flavouring buckets or from the cartons the supplier has sent them in. Space the chicken pieces out evenly.
- Lay a fresh lining bag on top of the first layer and repeat with another layer of individual chicken pieces. Fold over the ends of that bag to seal the second layer. Repeat with another liner bag and layer of chicken pieces if space available.
- Using tape, seal the first bag used to line the carton, and label it with a traceability label with that day’s date and the best before date of the chicken.
- You will now have a few individual layers of evenly spaced-out chicken in the carton. Record the dates on the labels and seal the box to prevent freezer burn.
When you are ready to use the chicken:
- Pull out a layer of chicken and, if already flavourised, defrost overnight in the fridge, or break off the individual pieces and speed-defrost in your salt-flavouring solution in the fridge. Cook when soft.
- Once defrosted, you can carry your best before dates forward, for example:
- I freeze down my chicken today, 18/8/2021. Its best before date is in 3 days’ time, 21/8/2021.
- I then defrost my chicken overnight on 25/8/2021.
- The best before date for this chicken is now 3 days from this date, which is 27/8/2021.
The pictures below show 10 kg boxes of fresh chicken pieces, frozen down over 3 individual layers per box. Each layer comes out cleanly, and each piece can be easily separated for fast defrosting.
It is important to be mindful of the following:
- Try not to have your chicken frozen down for any longer than a few weeks.
- Use the defrosted chicken as quickly as possible as chicken frozen down for months does not cook well.
- Do not cook icy or hard chicken.
- Chicken must be fully defrosted and soft before cooking.