We froze before rigor mortis passed…


In the Brooder
Apr 5, 2020
My husband and I just finished raising our first flock of meat birds - about 60 Freedom Rangers that had pasture access from age 4 weeks. They were 12 weeks at yesterday’s butcher.

We had a processing crew do the butchering directly on our farm. They were shrink wrapped and ready for freezing immediately. Here’s where we made some rookie mistakes:

Over half the chickens we put directly into the freezer. The rest we put into the fridge until we can clear some more freezer space. I immediately roasted one of the chickens for supper and it was horribly tough. I’ve since learned about the rigor mortis rest period that’s needed BEFORE freezing.

I can let the 20 chickens in the fridge rest a couple days before moving them to the freezer. But what of the other 38 that were already in the freezer? Are they doomed to be tough birds, or can I let them rest after thawing? Should I soak them in brine after thawing?

I’m upset with myself for not looking into this more before butchering. I hope we haven’t wasted our time and money on tough chicken. Can this be salvaged?


Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Jun 2, 2020
Near Devil's Millhopper
I freeze immediately after bagging. Though I do take them out of the freezer a week before I plan to cook them and thaw them in the refrigerator, it works great for me, very tender. So I would saw I age them after thawing. Being in the desert, the temps are not conducive to resting in coolers, not to mention the all you can eat large predator signal that would be and I do not have enough refrigerator space to rest 50 birds. so my way works for me.

There is a good argument for resting after freezing, in that the freezing process tends to destroy cell walls, accelerating the issue by allowing more rapid access of the enzymes to some of the proteins. The counter argument, of course, is that destroyed cell walls readily give up moisture...

I use the "freeze first" methods for older birds, then defrost in a flavoring liquid (a brine or marinade) before the bird goes to the stove or crock pot. Classic brines, yogurt and buttermilk based marinades work great for this. Yogurt Curries work great for this. Citrus based marinades (i.e. mojo) and acid-based marinades can be a bit strong, too acidic, and will do unpalatable things to the texture of the meat in a long marinade process as described - so if you use one of those, lower the acidity and let time do the work.


Crossing the Road
Jun 7, 2020
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Resting alone is sufficient.

At the risk of starting conflict, brining does NOT tenderize meat. It imparts flavor and protects against moisture loss in long slow dry cooking methods like smoking. A steak is medium rare perfection about 124F and inedible chargcoal by 155F - but the brisket on the barbie is going to 180... The meat is "past done". Its not tender because of the brining, its tender because the connective tissues - the collagens between the muscle fibers, have gelatinized.

and that connective tissue is why you don't broil brisket. or smoke a new york strip for 14 hours...
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Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
Aging is where you allow rigor mortis to pass.

The definition of brine is "a salt solution". So when we talk about brining them we are talking about salt. The purpose of the salt is to retain moisture. It is beneficial if you use a dry method of cooking like grilling, frying, or roasting, I think the moisture makes it more enjoyable to eat.. If you use a wet method to cook the chicken such as a crock pot or in a stew brining is less useful. I'm not going to get in the argument about whether brining tenderizes or not. People can argue all they wish without me.

Marinading refers to soaking the chicken in an acid solution. The acid in the marinade breaks down the fibers in the meat. That tenderizes the meat. Typical acids used include wine, vinegar, or tomato products but there are others. The stronger the acid and the longer the meat stays in the acid solution the more the fiber breaks down. This can be very useful in an older bird, not all that helpful for a very young one. In some recipes, like Coq au Vin, marinading is an essential tenderizing method. Coq au Vin is how you turn a tough old rooster into a gourmet meal. If you marinade a young bird in a strong acid for too long it can turn to mush.

You can add flavors in any of these processes. Many people do. Or you can wait to flavor them when you cook the meat.

if I thaw 5 or so days before cooking, do I still need to soak them in brine, or will the resting period be sufficient?
Resting to allow rigor mortis to pass is sufficient. The way to test if rigor has passed is to wiggle the meat. If the meat is really limber and has no stiffness it's ready. If you want to soak them in a salt solution you can, it will not harm the meat. It's not absolutely necessary that you do. That's a personal choice.

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