You know how it is. You go to the grocery store to buy food for the week, but because things got busy, so you ended up ordering take-out a little bit more than usual. It’s fine. It happens to the best of us.
While those canned veggies and boxes of pasta will be fine sitting a little bit longer on your kitchen shelf, you might be wondering about your frozen meats – especially raw chicken. How long can raw chicken stay in the fridge? Will uncooked chicken in fridge go bad? And if so, after how long?
These are all very common questions people ask and below, we’ve compiled answers to them so you know what to expect any time you’re dealing with uncooked chicken.
Whether you want to know how long uncooked chicken will keep in the fridge, or ways to know that it’s spoiled, you’ll find all the answers below.
Let’s get started, shall we?
How Long Does Raw Chicken Last in the Fridge?
First up, let’s answer one of the most common questions people have about uncooked chicken. Generally speaking, raw chicken can last between one and two days in the fridge. Anything longer than this is considered unsafe to consume, according to the USDA.
However, keep in mind that just because raw chicken can be safe to consume after 1 to 2 days in the fridge, don’t automatically assume it is. I’ll explain.
Raw chicken in the fridge develops a lot of bacteria any time it’s not being cooked or frozen, so be on the lookout for any signs of discoloration or even odors when you take it out of the package.
These things can sometimes develop within this one to a two-day window, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution and double-check that your raw chicken didn’t develop any signs of expiration while it was in the fridge.
Remember, you should only take your uncooked chicken out of the fridge when you want to immediately use it.
Letting it sit on the counter for two hours or longer results in major bacterial growth. Unfortunately, by the time you consume it, you’re likely consuming all of that bacteria, as well. Gross.
How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last in the Fridge?
On the other hand, cooked chicken can last twice as long as raw chicken. Between three and four days, in fact. So, if you have a leftover chicken breast you want to eat later in the week or slice up for soup ingredients, you have a little more wiggle room.
Why does cooked chicken last longer in the fridge than raw chicken? Simply put, a lot of the bacteria gets burned off during the cooking process, so it’s not competing with that when it’s sitting in the fridge.
Next time your friend asks, “How long is cooked chicken good for in the fridge,” you’ll have the answer. Plus, knowing the different shelf lives of cooked and uncooked chicken is beneficial to coordinating dinner for the week.
How to Tell if Raw Chicken is Spoiled
As we briefly mentioned earlier, some of the most common signs of spoiled chicken include foul odors and discoloration. Oftentimes, this discoloration will either be gray, green, or yellow. In my experience, gray is the most common color.
Likewise, you can determine if a raw chicken is spoiled if you know it’s been sitting in the fridge for longer than two days or on the counter for at least two hours at room temperature. If these scenarios are present, throw away the chicken right away and buy a new one.
Also, keep in mind the expiration date. While some products may have a shelf life that can go a few days past the expiration date and be mildly acceptable to consume like dairy products that are usually good a week past their sell-by-date, the same can’t be said for raw chicken due to the high levels of bacteria it develops, such as Salmonella.
Remember, studies show that around 24% of all store-bought chickens tested positive for Campylobacter, which can cause gastrointestinal issues. Knowing how to tell if chicken breast is bad is the first step in protecting yourself and your family and/or guests against unwanted illness.
How to Freeze Chicken
You may have heard that the freezer is able to prolong the life of raw meats way better than the average refrigerator. It’s definitely true. In fact, raw chicken pieces, when stored in a freezer, can last for up to nine months! A whole chicken breast can last for up to one year. Pretty wild, right?
While you probably don’t want to eat meat you bought a year earlier, knowing it can last this long can give you more confidence to buy ahead, especially for the upcoming holiday months you want to get a jump start on.
In order to properly freeze your chicken, go ahead and tightly wrap it in some freezer wrap, or freezer paper, depending on what people call it in your area. Freezer wrap has either plastic or wax on one side. Once you wrap your chicken up all nice and tight, put it in a freezer bag. Make sure you squeeze out all the excess air from the bag so nothing circulates inside.
Next, tuck your tightly wrapped chicken in the deepest part of your freezer. This deep part of your freezer tends to keep foods fresher longer. This makes sense, considering keeping it up front exposes it to constant opening and closing.
How Long Does Defrosted Chicken Last in the Fridge?
Say you defrosted your chicken for dinner, but then had to run out for a quick errand. Or, the kids came home and begged you for hamburgers instead of chicken (because of course, right?)
So, you wrap the chicken up and place it in the fridge to eat another night. Is this a good idea? How long is chicken good in the fridge if it’s been defrosted? And can a defrosted chicken last longer in the fridge than if it was raw? The answer is no.
Since the chicken isn’t fully cooked, but only thawed out in preparation to be cooked, it can only last in the fridge between one to two days. And that’s being generous.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you should consume thawed/defrosted chicken as soon as possible, especially if it was thawed via microwave. The same applies if you defrosted it with cold water.
Like raw chicken, thawed chicken can still rapidly develop bacteria, so consuming it as soon as possible is not only recommended for your safety but encouraged.
Tips on How to Further Prevent Raw Chicken From Going Bad
At the beginning of this article, we answered how long does chicken last in the fridge and variations of the question, including how to recognize the signs of an expired chicken. However, what if you want to prevent your chicken from going bad in the first place?
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place because we have some tips. First and foremost, keep your chicken cold. As cold as possible – and never let it sit out anywhere that is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Colder temperatures will fight off bacterial growth.
While I wish there were a bunch of secrets I could share with you, keeping it cold and eating it sooner rather than later are the most common ways you can prevent the raw chicken from going bad.
They may be extensive, but these methods are definitely effective.
How Long is Raw Chicken Good in the Fridge After Thawing?
How long is uncooked chicken good for in the fridge if it’s been defrosted? Unfortunately, not too long. As mentioned earlier, thawed chicken is still very bacteria-prone so it will only keep in the fridge for one to two days.
If you plan on thawing your chicken ahead of time, it’s best to only do so if you know you’re going to use it for dinner over the next night or two. Otherwise, you’re inadvertently wasting your chicken if you decide to put cooking it off for another night. And we don’t want that – not only because of time but money, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
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- How Long to Bake Chicken Breast at 400?
- How To Reheat Rotisserie Chicken
Is Raw Chicken Good After 3 Days in the Fridge?
Is it okay to eat raw chicken if it’s been sitting in the fridge for three days? Unfortunately, it is not safe to consume raw chicken in the fridge for 3 days. It’d be great if it was, of course, but based on the recommendations from the USDA, doing so should be avoided at all costs.
By the time the third day arrives, your uncooked chicken will already be covered in a variety of bacteria that can make you and anyone else who consumes it sick with gastrointestinal issues and other viruses.
If you take your uncooked chicken out of the freezer and into the refrigerator to defrost it for dinner, only do so one to two nights ahead of time, as this is how long it can keep without going bad. While it could be tempting to try and cook it since it’s only been an extra day, try to avoid it as best you can.
Can Raw Chicken Stay in the Fridge for 4 Days?
How long can chicken stay in the fridge? If you thought the number of bacteria a raw chicken breast can develop in three days was bad, just wait until you see what happens on the fourth. Unfortunately, raw chicken cannot stay in the fridge for four days and still be safe to eat.
However, that doesn’t mean that all types of chicken can’t. Pre-cooked chicken or cooked chicken leftovers can keep for up to four days, however, you shouldn’t push it longer than this unless you decide to freeze it.
Is Raw Chicken OK in the Fridge for 5 Days?
The answer? No, no, no, no. Unfortunately, uncooked chicken has an incredibly short shelf life, which is why it’s recommended to cook and eat it relatively soon after you buy it from the grocery store.
Eating raw chicken in the fridge for 7 days, 6, days, 5 days…and even 4 days is highly discouraged because it’s unsafe due to the high levels of bacteria living in it.
Raw chicken has been known to have a variety of different types of bacteria on it, including but not limited to Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens, and Salmonella. Salmonella is probably the one you’re most familiar with, but all of them can lead to severe food poisoning once digested.
How Long Can Raw Chicken Stay in the Fridge?
Now that you know how long chicken lasts, let’s fire up a delicious recipe. This one for herbed slow-cooker chicken sounds great!
- 4 bone-in chicken breast halves
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 c chicken broth
- In a bowl, mix olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, dried basil, dried thyme, and paprika together.
- If you want, go ahead and add browning sauce and rub it on the chicken. Once done, place the chicken in a 5-quart slow cooker.
- Add chicken broth and cover. Cook on low until the meat is fully tender, usually between 4-5 hours.
- Serve and enjoy!
If you don’t have dried thyme, go ahead and swap it out for some fresh rosemary, marjoram, or oregano. The flavors will be slightly altered, but still delicious. Keep in mind, if you’re using marjoram, that it’ll be a 1:1 substitute.