Make sure food safety doesn’t go awry. Here’s how long raw and cooked chicken lasts in the fridge-and how to extend its shelf life.
Could you please let me know if this is still good? The eternal question every time you open the fridge and pull out something you vowed to make several nights ago. Maybe you thawed some chicken the day before-or a couple of days ago-and it’s still sitting on the fridge shelf, uncooked. You might have even spent Sunday meal-prepping and cooking a big batch of chicken, but now it’s the end of the week and you’re not sure what’s left. What is the shelf life of food in the fridge, and more specifically, how long does chicken last?
This is an important question, since spoiled chicken can be just as harmful as expired eggs, spoiled milk, or leftovers that have become fuzzy. It’s important to consider sell-by dates, fridge organization, and meat storage guidelines for an accurate answer, but that’s not all, say experts. Find out how long raw and cooked chicken stays fresh by reading on.
How long does raw chicken last in the fridge?
Martin Bucknavage, a senior food safety extension advocate at Penn State, recommends keeping raw chicken in the fridge for up to two days. On the package, you may see a sell-by date that is different from this. In addition to taking the sell-by date into consideration, you should also pay attention to how your food looks and smells.
Ensure the chicken isn’t contaminated by bacteria by ensuring that the refrigerators and freezers are carefully monitored at the grocery store. The workers at the meat counter cut only what is likely to sell that day, then closely monitor the case’s temperature.
Bucknavage sticks to the two-day-in-the-fridge rule. If you buy raw chicken that’s sealed, like from Purdue or Bell & Evans, you have more flexibility. These packages will have more accurate sell-by dates, but when you’re ready to use the chicken, you should always check its condition. As soon as the package is opened and the chicken is exposed to air, follow the two-day rule.
Raw chicken’s shelf life is also affected by how it is stored in the fridge. Bucknavage recommends checking the fridge’s temperature first; it should be below 40 degrees. Chicken should be stored on the bottom shelf of the fridge, which is typically the coldest part. Make sure raw chicken is stored in airtight containers so that it isn’t exposed to air or moisture, which can cause harmful bacteria to grow. In addition, this will prevent bacteria from the chicken from spreading to other foods in the fridge.
How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge?
When you buy a rotisserie chicken from the store, like one of Costco’s famous $4.99 rotisserie chickens, the question “How long does chicken last in the fridge?” will have a different answer. What is the shelf life of cooked chicken in the refrigerator? According to the USDA, rotisserie chicken can last for three to four days in the refrigerator. If you cooked the chicken yourself, whether it was roasted, broiled, baked or fried, the same applies. To put it another way: Don’t expect any chicken you cooked on Sunday to be good by Thursday.
Bucknavage emphasizes the importance of storing cooked chicken properly, just as you would raw chicken. Again, this means storing it in an airtight container so it doesn’t get wet or exposed to air. When cooked chicken is not stored properly or spoils, bacteria can grow that can cause food poisoning. Pseudomonas putida and aeromonas hydrophila are two types of bacteria that can form on spoiled cooked chicken. They make you sick just as much as what you’d find on raw chicken (B. thermosphacta, P. fluorescens, and S. putrefaciens).
How long will chicken last in the freezer?
Raw or cooked chicken you aren’t going to eat right away can be stored in the freezer. Bucknavage says frozen raw chicken can last for months in the freezer. What is the exact number of months? Whole raw chicken can last up to a year, chicken parts for nine months, and giblets and ground chicken for three to four months, according to the USDA. What about cooked chicken? You can keep it in the freezer for four months. In accordance with the CDC, it is safe to refreeze chicken that has been thawed in the fridge. So if you thought you would eat it, but ended up not cooking it for whatever reason, you can place it back in the freezer to thaw out later. There may, however, be a slight difference in taste.
Bucknavage cautions that all this comes with a major caveat: Your chicken must be stored correctly, and your freezer must be kept cold enough (0 degrees). Chicken should be stored in airtight glass or plastic containers, whether raw or cooked, and Bucknavage says wrapping chicken before storing it is not necessary. You can dehydrate and reduce the quality of your chicken if you don’t store it properly.
How to tell if chicken has gone bad
Despite all these guidelines, nothing can replace your senses when it comes to knowing if your chicken is safe to eat. According to Bucknavage, these are the signs that your chicken has spoiled:
- There is a foul smell coming from it.
- The slime is disgusting.
- From pinkish to gray, yellow, or green, the color has changed.
Whether raw or cooked, chicken can last a long time when stored properly in the freezer. In contrast, the fridge shortens its shelf life, so use it up quickly!
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