I can’t even count how many times I’ve purchased chicken with the intention of preparing it within a couple of days, only to be sidetracked or forget about it entirely.
When I eventually wanted to prepare it, I was left wondering whether the chicken was still suitable for consumption.
I take food safety very seriously, so I talked with a registered dietitian and checked what the USDA says. I also experimented with leaving raw and cooked chicken in my fridge for a week to see what would happen.
Here’s exactly how long chicken lasts in the fridge.
- The duration of chicken's freshness in the refrigerator varies based on whether it is in raw or cooked form.
- Storing chicken is extremely important for prolonging its shelf life.
- Check chicken smell, color, and texture to ensure food safety.
How Long Does Raw Chicken Last in the Fridge
Raw chicken lasts in the fridge for two days. This goes for all types of raw chicken, regardless if it’s whole or in pieces.
Keep in mind that a chicken’s shelf life can be different from the sell-by date . The sell-by date tells the date up to which the store is allowed to sell chicken, not the date by which you can consume it.
You should take the sell-by date into consideration, but it’s not crucial for determining if you should consume the bird.
If you buy sealed raw chicken, you have more flexibility. Sealed chicken can last longer as long as you don’t open the package.
Check the expiration date to find out how long raw, sealed chicken will stay good. In case you open the sealed package and the chicken is exposed to air, the two-day rule applies.
Freeze chicken if you aren’t sure you’ll cook it before it goes bad. Frozen chicken pieces are best used in nine months, while a whole chicken can stay frozen for a year.
Also Read: How Long Can Chicken Sit Out
How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last in the Fridge
Cooked chicken lasts for three to four days in the fridge at 40 degrees or below. This applies to chicken salad, nuggets and patties, and leftover cooked chicken (no matter the cooking method you used).
However, fully cooked chicken sausage and lunch meat can last up to a week in the fridge. It contains a lot of sodium, and salt preserves the meat for longer.
Generally, refrigeration slows the spread of bacteria but doesn’t stop it. Pseudomonas putida and aeromonas hydrophila are the two most common types of bacteria on cooked chicken .
They always develop if you leave the meat in the fridge for a long time. Eating spoiled chicken, both raw or cooked, can lead to food poisoning.
You can freeze cooked chicken for two to six months without losing its quality.
“Spoilage bacteria can cause meat or poultry to turn a dark color, develop an objectionable odor, and become slimy from the high bacterial numbers. Meat with these characteristics should not be used.”
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
7 Tips on Storing Chicken
Here’s how to store chicken so it stays fresh for as long as possible:
- Never leave raw or cooked meat at room temperature for over two hours, or bacteria will spread, and the meat will be unsafe to eat .
- Store cooked chicken in an airtight container so it’s not exposed to air or moisture. You can also use a food-grade plastic bag to retain meat quality.
- Store raw chicken in a leak-proof container so the juices don’t contaminate other foods.
- Keep the fridge temperature at 40 degrees or below.
- Label the chicken with the date you placed it in the fridge, so you can keep track of how long it’s been stored properly.
- Keep chicken in its original packaging and only open it when you’re ready to use it.
- Keep chicken on the bottom shelf of the fridge to avoid drippings leaking and contaminating the fridge and other food.
Read More: Tips for Meat Preservation
3 Ways On How to Tell Chicken Has Gone Bad?
You can tell chicken has gone bad by checking its smell, texture, and color.
A spoiled chicken will emit an acidic smell that resembles ammonia. This goes for both spoiled raw and cooked chicken. If you eat chicken that smells sour, you risk food poisoning.
Note: It can be difficult to tell a chicken smells bad if it’s marinated with herbs, sauces, and spices. This is why you should check for other signs of spoilage as well.
Cooked chicken is firm and dry to the touch. If you touch it and notice a slimy texture, or if the chicken feels soft, it’s a sign of spoilage bacteria.
The same goes for raw chicken. It should be firm with a little give, smooth, and moist. If it has a slimy texture, throw it out.
If your raw or cooked chicken has a gray-green color or spots of mold on the surface, it’s spoiled.
Pro tip: Sometimes, fresh or frozen chicken doesn’t show all signs of spoilage, but only one, such as a foul smell. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to throw out the chicken.
Is Raw Chicken OK in the Fridge for Five Days?
No, raw chicken isn’t OK in the fridge for five days. Raw chicken should be cooked in two days.
Is One-Year-Old Frozen Chicken Still Good?
Yes, one-year-old frozen chicken is still good. Chicken can be frozen indefinitely, so you can use it if the package date expires. However, the longer it stays frozen, the lower its quality will be.
Can You Eat Expired Chicken?
No, you can’t eat expired chicken. You can eat chicken past the sell-by date but shouldn’t eat it if it’s past the expiration date.
Can You Refreeze Chicken?
Yes, you can refreeze chicken, but it has to be cooked first in case it’s been thawed in the microwave or cold water. In case it’s been thawed in the fridge, you can refreeze it within two days of defrosting.