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Jul 12, 2014 06:01 AM

Freezing chicken portions in Non-Freezer Zip-Lock Plastic?

I've been trying to cook in bulk and freeze ready-to-go lunch portions for meals for the week.

Normally I use these glad-ware cheap food containers and have been microwaving lunch in it. I know that microwaving in plastic is bad and I've never really liked doing it, but it is really convenient.

Anyway, I didn't have enough of the plastic containers ready so here's what I did: I slow-cooked 8 pounds of chicken thighs for 7 hours overnight. I separated the meat from the bones. I spread it out on three plates so it would cool faster. I put one in the fridge, and the meat got down to about 100 degrees. I then put 4oz in a generic ziplock bag (which had 2 zip seams, rolled the chicken to get rid of the air, and close the bag. I put in freezer.

It was pretty fast and took up much less freezer space than my half-filled plastic containers.

And, because I was able to squeeze the air out, I think it will be less subject to freezer burn (though too soon to tell).

I certainly won't nuke my chicken in the plastic bag so my vision is I'll take a portion to work, hopefully by lunch I'll be able to get the frozen chicken out of the plastic bag and into a ceramic bowl. If it turns out the plastic is rolled into the chicken, I guess I'll have to leave it out some time before so I can get the chicken out.

I intend to freeze 6oz broth servings in the glad-ware plastic. Hopefully, I can pop it out of the plastic while still frozen and put in the same ceramic bowl.

I'm going to be cooking white rice and I think I'll freeze it in plastic bags like I did the chicken, and likewise put the frozen rice in the bowl and nuke the 3 components together.

I kinda wish I could manage assembling the meals before freezing but I cook the broth 10 hours more after separating the chicken.

However, using the small glad-ware isn't really big enough for lunch for me and the larger size is too large and there's too much air inside and I think it's worse from a freezer burn perspective.

Anyway, sorry for this rambling account but I was hoping for any tips for any of the steps I've identified.

I don't think I want the hassle of a vacuum sealer. I was able to put the chicken in the plastic bags pretty quickly and I'm not freezing for more than a week or 2.

Thanks for any tips!


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  1. I'd probably roll up chicken in a nice big hunka plastic wrap before putting in zip bags. The plastic wrap can give you a wrestling match, but think you could get rid of a lot more air. Then I'd put individual servings in small zips and then into a gallon size bag... getting rid of as much air as I go. Vac sealer would be more of an expense than a hassle, imo!?!

    2 Replies
    1. re: kseiverd

      I'm with kseiverd on this one.

      I wrap with cling film and then toss in to plastic zip bag of choice to help get out air and limit spillage.

      I store a LOT in Glad conmtainers as well as leftover Chinese and Indian take-away 16oz and 8oz tubs found at any restaurant supply store are also used all the time.

      For under 90 days of freezer storage, I don't see freezer burn.

      I also do not microwave in plastic so teh containers last a long time and hold up well, although when frozen and dropped, they can split or shatter. BTDT . Lol.

      I don;t freeze cooked rice, but most bulk make ahead meals cook and freeze well. For pasta, I;ll freeze sauce and then cook pasta night before and chill in seperate container and then combine and cook togehter in microwave in ceramic bowl.

      I'll grill offf a half dozen or dozen brats or beirwurts and then individ. wrap and freeze and then just pull, thaw and lightly nuke and use for lunch on a bun or as a pritien add in to a dish.

      I don't like to make lunches fussy, so for me it;s quick and easy.

      For dinners, I get a little more fussy over fresh and good ingredients. But since I mainly cook for one or two, we are back to freezer use and half batches of recipes.

      1. re: kseiverd

        That's what I do when we grind meat. I wrap each patty tightly in plastic wrap and then they go into freezer bags. It usually takes us two or three months to eat them all and they're still the original color.

        PS to OP: I think the danger of plastic and MWs has been either completely debunked or certainly reduced.

      2. I think you're fine, since you're only freezing the chicken short-term.

        Freezer bags would be better, but I don't think it's a big deal short-term.

        You might also plunk the small bags inside a bigger bag, too -- that would also help give you some extra protection against freezer burn.

        8 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          I guess I don't understand how freezer burn works. How could air get past the double-seam zip. If it's freezer burning, is it likely due to the air that's already inside?

          1. re: mike2401

            yes, it's the air that's already inside, but remember that the plastic bags are still gas-permeable to some degree, and the thinner they are, the more permeable they are.

            The good news is that freezer burn looks funky and wrecks the texture, but it's not harmful at all You're not freezing long enough for it to really destroy your cooked chicken, so even if you end up with a little freezer burn on a corner or two, you may not even notice it, especially if the chicken is reheated with other things.

            having said that -- I have very good luck with storing chicken -- I buy in bulk at the warehouse club, then individually wrap a breast or thigh in plastic wrap, then stack them all in a gallon-size freezer bag. I keep them on hand at all times, and have zero loss from freezer burn.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Thanks for the explanation! I had no idea it was air permeable. I assumed because you can put water in a bag and it doesn't leak out, that it's air tight too !

              1. re: mike2401

                Mike, Sunshine is spot-on.

                The thicker the guage of plastic, the less air permeable, but all plastic breathes.

                I found out long ago by buying soda i n bulk for a party and having to slowly use up the leftovers.

                Soda in cans, like most items packed in glass jars have a LONG shelf life. Total seal for the most part.

                Flash forwaed to 20 oz. plastic soda bottles and the fizz/carbonation slowly will find it's way out of the platic over time leaving yo with a flat sugar drink. Not due to cap seal, but teh whole bottle breathes.

                Same with mayo and ketchup in platic jars. Over time, they will go rancid due to osmosis and gas permeablility. Oil based foods go rancid. Items like ketchup and mustard just dry out and go bitter/loose flavor due to moisture loss over time due to the plastic breathing . Which is basically what freezer burn is.

                You cant' stock up on plastic container food items any more due to it.
                Kinda sad really.

                1. re: jjjrfoodie

                  OMG: How did I get to be 45 years old and not know that!

                  WOW! Thank you all for the explanation !!!

                  1. re: jjjrfoodie

                    I have ketchup - an item seldom used in our house - that is YEARS old and is just fine.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Open ketchup or even closed ketchup kept in a plastic bottle in a cool dark place will keep ro some time (thank you vinegar and acid tomatoes). But NOT as long as glass bottled ketchup.

                      It's just a matter of science and osmosis.

                      Let storage temp creep above 72 to 75F and it will go off quicker.

                      At higher storage temps., even glass jar stored pickles, peppers, mustard etc. will go bad.

                      c. oliver, your ketchup, if kept refridgerated will last a long time, but the truth is plastic breathes and pantry items in plastic containers will go bad far quicker than other forms of long term storage like glass or metal cans.

                      It's not opinion , It's science fact.

                      1. re: jjjrfoodie

                        My ketchup is in a plastic bottle, stored upside down, in the fridge. Almost the only thing I use it for is (rarely) making cocktail sauce. It tastes fine. I can't think of anything else in the condiment category that's in plastic.

          2. I put my individual portions in the small bags, then put them all into a bigger ziploc freezer bag just to store in the freezer. I found that helps w/ freezer burn. Plus, helps keep things more organized and easy to find.

            8 Replies
            1. re: juliejulez

              I could totally stand to be more organized.

              I do wonder how much air traverses the plastic, vs. how much air I'm leaving inside when I seal it. I'm not as good as a vacuum sealer :-)

              1. re: mike2401

                i'm still missing the part why you can't freeze the rice and broth along with the chicken? the cooked chicken will hold just fine overnight if you want to then freeze it along with a portion of broth. if you're nuking it for lunch, it will reheat better in liquid vs. dry too.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Good question. I guess I could hold all the chicken overnight, and assemble the complete meal then freeze.

                  Originally, the problem I was solving was I didn't have enough gladware containers on hand so I resorted to the plastic bags which I liked because I could squeeze all the air out.

                  I have the impression that broth freezes fine in the glad ware (better than chicken), but maybe for under 2 weeks, it doesn't matter.

                  I did like how much less space the bagged chicken took in the fridge.

                  I suppose if I end up with 12 cups of broth, I'll need 12 containers anyway. I guess if I put the chicken and rice in, there won't be enough room for broth in that size containers.

                  (Just thinking out loud. I guess I need to see how much broth fits in a container, and if I add chicken and rice, will it all fit)

                  1. re: mike2401

                    I freeze stock/broth in bags, too. I'm cooking for a family, so I freeze it 2 cups in a bag, but it would work for less, too.

                    Just pour the cooled (cool enough to handle, not cold) broth into a ziplock, seal it **very well** and lay them flat in a casserole dish. When they're frozen you can stand them on edge like magazines.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Thanks, that's a great idea!!!

                      If I find something the diameter of my ceramic lunch containers, I could make discs that would freeze as that shape!

                      1. re: mike2401

                        put a plastic bag into the ceramic lunch container. Fill with broth to the desired level, and seal.

                        Remove when frozen = discs in the right shape.

                2. re: mike2401

                  I assume you know the trick where you crimp a plastic straw into the seal of the bag, suck out the air, and complete the seal as you pull out the straw. Another method is to close most of the seal, then submerge the bag to the level of the zipper. Water pressure will force the air out, but you have to be careful about the depth so you don't get water inside the baggie.

                  Definitely put your individual bags into a container or large, proper freezer bag.
                  Even though not stored for long enough to get freezer burn, your chicken will lose moisture in the thin bags.

              2. Nothing wrong with freezing the chicken in bags like that, just don't try to nuke them or the plastic will melt! But apparantly you know that already... (if the wrap is stuck to the chicken use the defrost setting on the microwave and then you'll be able to seperate it without cooking the plastic bag.)

                7 Replies
                1. re: Kajikit

                  good idea, but I don't think I'd want to even defrost (50% power) in the microwave. I'd probably leave out, or run under hot water in the morning before I go to work.

                  In fact, I guess that would be an option: find a ceramic container that could contain the chicken, rice brick and broth brick. Then, it will be easier when I'm at work: just nuke the ceramic.

                  I LIKE WHERE THIS IS GOING!

                  1. re: mike2401

                    I don't think Kajikit is talking about doing any cooking to speak of -- just defrosting it enough to get the plastic bag/plastic wrap off....

                    ...then continue as before.

                    1. re: mike2401

                      In many MW models, defrost is 20% power.
                      Regular temp/cool tap water will do just fine for defrosting your stuff enough to transfer to the ceramic dish.
                      Trouble with freezing in the ceramic, is that the container will be cold when you heat your food in the MW at work. So, even if the food itself is hot, the temperature will drop quite a bit, due to the container still being cooler.

                      1. re: KarenDW

                        That makes total sense, thank you!

                    2. re: Kajikit

                      I freeze stock in zipping freezer bags and, if in a rush, will begin the defrost process in the MW. A couple of minutes usually gets it where I can break it up, put in a MW-safe bowl and finish defrosting. Never had a problem with the bags at all.

                    3. You could freeze the chicken and broth together in bags. Flatten for freezing/storage, then stack the frozen bricks into an outer bag to stave off freezer burn.
                      Freeze rice in separate flattened bags. Keeping separate from the chicken will allow for some flexibility of future uses.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: KarenDW

                        I do like flexibility. I really like the idea of freezing in disc shapes that could fit into my white 20oz pyrex food mug things :-)