It’s happened to the best of us. You look in the fridge, grab that raw chicken you meant to cook a few days ago and doubt creeps in.
If you’ve wondered how long you can keep raw chicken in the fridge before it goes bad, this post is for you.
How Long Can Raw Chicken Stay in the Refrigerator
Whether you bought chicken for the week and days later, you realized that you meant to cook it sooner, or used the fridge to thaw chicken, many of us have had doubts if we kept it in the refrigerator for too long.
Given that your fridge is set to the right temperature, more on that below, raw chicken can be kept in the refrigerator up to its best-by date or for up to two days once the packaging has been opened.
Unopened Raw Chicken in the Fridge
Typically, when you purchase chicken from the store it comes in a sealed package. When kept unopened, it’s generally best to cook it before the “best by date” marked on the packaging label. Once open, you have one, maybe two days, to cook the chicken because the storage environment is no longer sealed and it begins to deteriorate.
Is Chicken Safe After 5 Days
While cooked chicken can last up to 4 days (5 is pushing it), raw chicken has a much shorter lifespan. Raw chicken is safe to eat at or before the expiration date and one or two days after buying it when purchased from the butcher or meat counter and not in a sealed package.
What Happens if Raw Chicken is in the Fridge for a Week
If your chicken has a foul odor, slimy coating, and noticeable discoloring from being stored in the fridge for a week, it’s very likely that it’s gone bad -this sucks but it happens!
Of course, if the chicken is still stored in the original sealed bag and it’s still within or at the “best by” date on the label, you’ll have to determine if the chicken has gone bad –more on this below.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to cook the chicken immediately and it’s still within the expiration date but it’s been in the fridge for a week, you might want to consider freezing the chicken so it doesn’t go to waste.
How to Make Chicken Last Longer in the Fridge
As someone who purchases chicken weekly and lives in a hot-weathered area, I also want my chicken to last longer in the fridge after I get home. I’m going to assume you went home straight from the grocery and that your chicken did not hang out in a hot car for an extended period of time.
Insulate during transport
I recommend keeping one or two insulated zippered bags in the trunk of your car so you can keep the chicken (and other chilled foods) cooler on your way home. During hot days, consider keeping your groceries inside the car instead of the trunk, since the main part of the car will be temperature-controlled (AC).
The first thing to do is refrigerate your chicken, as is, as soon as you get home. After you put away the rest of your groceries, you can decide whether you divide your chicken and marinate it, freeze the chicken for later, or turn it into an epic chicken meal for dinner.
Don’t leave it out for long
Even if you’re planning on cooking the chicken pieces in a pan later for dinner and need to prep it first, it’s likely you’ll get distracted and the chicken might sit out for too long. Refrigerate it, then focus on the chicken.
Store it in an airtight bag
If the chicken isn’t already in a sealed bag, say, you purchased it behind the meat counter of your store, and they wrapped it in paper, I recommend placing it in a zip bag or air-tight container for proper storage.
Line the shelf
If you don’t have a meat drawer, consider storing raw proteins inside a protein tray and then placing the tray inside the fridge to prevent any possible leaks of chicken juices from contaminating the rest of the fridge. While this won’t extend the life of your chicken, it will keep your fridge mess-free!
Where in the Fridge Should Raw Chicken be Stored?
If your refrigerator only has shelves, raw chicken should be stored at the bottom shelf and towards the back of the refrigerator. This tends to be the coolest area. If you have a protein or meat drawer, store it there.
How Cold Should a Fridge be for Storing Chicken?
The recommended temperature of a refrigerator should be 40F. Modern refrigerators that have an app or a digital display will let you set the temperature and tend to be pre-programmed with this recommended temperature –check your owner’s manual. If you have an older refrigerator, consider getting an inexpensive digital thermometer for an accurate reading.
How Long Can Chicken Stay in the Fridge Before Freezing?
More than once I’ve opened a package of chicken on the expiration date and gotten a whiff of something “off” and thought to myself: I should have frozen it sooner!
After purchasing, raw chicken that is not in a sealed tray is good for 1 or 2 days. If you’re not going to cook it, freeze it. If it’s in a sealed bag or tray and it’s not expired yet but it’s been in the fridge for 3 days, and you don’t think you’ll have time to cook it, freeze it so it doesn’t go to waste.
How to Know if Chicken is Spoiled
Whether you purchased a chicken or defrosted it a couple of days and now are wondering if it’s spoiled, there are some telltale signs that will let you know if your raw chicken has gone bad.
It’s recommended you dispose of the chicken if it has an “off” smell, developed excess slimy coating around the meat or on the tray, and discoloration with a greyish tone.
How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last in the Fridge?
Whether you pan-grilled chicken or bought a rotisserie from the store, the USDA recommends using up your cooked chicken within 4 days. Meaning, you can store it for up to 4 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
If you have cooked chicken and need to use it up immediately, consider tossing it with a delicious Alfredo sauce, a Creamy Garlic Sauce, or a Lemon Garlic Sauce. All you need is a simple healthy side and you’ve got a meal!