Chicken is one of the most popular foods on the market, but it can also be one of the most dangerous if not properly managed.
Chicken must be refrigerated or frozen if it is not going to be eaten immediately.
To be safe, especially in summer, raw chicken should not be left out in the open for longer than two-and-a-half hours.
How long will uncooked chicken keep in the fridge?
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) states that refrigerated chicken should be cooked within two days (48 hours) of purchase. This advice applies equally to whole chickens and portioned chicken parts like thigh, breast, and wings. Even though it might seem like an extraordinarily brief interval, the FDA describes it as a “short, safe time limit” that prevents food poisoning.
What length of time does uncooked chicken safely keep in a freezer?
The best way to make sure that chicken doesn’t go bad is by placing it in the freezer.
Whole raw chicken will keep for about a year, while raw chicken pieces will keep for about nine months.
On the other hand, giblets can be stored in the fridge for only a few days and in the freezer for just three to four months, according to the FDA.
Although cooked chicken can also be frozen, it does not last as long as raw chicken.
Fried or baked chicken pieces are good for up to four months. Bare patties and nuggets will keep for up to three months, whereas those covered in gravy or sauce will keep in the freezer for up to six months.
What makes chicken go bad?
Chicken spoils because poultry is susceptible to campylobacter, listeria, salmonella, and E.coli contamination.
Many factors can cause spoilage in chicken, including the materials and equipment used to clean and slaughter them, such as the water used for scalding their carcasses, conveyors, and blades.
Cleaning the insides of dead chickens is an important step in poultry slaughtering and runs a high risk of chickens being cross-contaminated by gut bacteria.
Chicken feathers are yet another source of contamination.
Three steps for safely storing chicken
- Don’t leave the chicken on kitchen countertops for extended periods. Cook, refrigerate, or freeze chicken no longer than two hours after placing it on the countertop.
If chicken is forgotten and left out for longer than two hours, the chicken is best discarded altogether, and no attempt to try and salvage the situation by cooking it should be made. (Salmonella and certain other equally dangerous bacteria are not easily destroyed even by boiling.)
- After purchasing it, if not intending to cook the chicken, it should be refrigerated as soon as possible. Stable refrigeration temperatures of 39°F degrees and lower are essential to prevent bacterial growth.
The USDA recommends double wrapping chicken pieces in plastic.
- Raw chicken should be kept in the freezer if it will not be cooked within three days of purchase. Freezer bags or heavy-duty plastic bags help prevent injury to chicken placed in a freezer.
Frozen chicken stays fresh for between 9 and 12 months. Vacuum-sealed bags are optimal for storing raw chicken in freezers.
Defrosting chicken the safe way
I’ve found that the safest bet when defrosting chicken is to plan way ahead. That way, I can defrost the chicken easily and safely simply by moving it from the freezer into the fridge 24 hours before using it.
Unfortunately, defrosting chicken drips like mad, so it is important to remember to place the freezer or plastic bag on top of a suitable plate or bowl.
Note that by the time chicken has properly thawed on the kitchen counter, it could very well have incubated enough microbes to become dangerous. In short, defrosting chicken on the kitchen counter is a no-no.
When to reject raw chicken
- Be prepared to discard any chicken if it is past its “Use By” date. Just because it has passed its expiration date, I still let my senses guide me to figure out whether or not I need to throw away the chicken.
- Note that the “Use By” date is different from the “Sell By” date.
- Bad smells are a powerful indication that the chicken has gone off. Discard immediately.
- Unfortunately, the chicken that is “sticky” or “gooey” when touched is for the bin.
- Grey or green patchy spots on chicken clearly indicate bacterial contamination or mold. This is positively dangerous chicken that must not be eaten but discarded immediately.
How to preserve chicken
Chicken’s shelf life is extended for up to four months by curing it. Curing chicken is achieved by wrapping it in curing salt (or submerging it in brine), placing it in a bag, and maintaining it at temperatures between 24°F and 30°F.
Before cooking the chicken, all unneeded salt must be removed from it.
Dehydrated chicken will keep for up to two months.
To dehydrate the chicken, cut it up into small pieces, then dry it out in a dehydrator or oven. The dehydrated chicken should be stored in an airtight container.
Chicken’s shelf life is extended by smoking for up to two months. Smoking with mesquite, cherry, or oak wood barbeque sauce imparts a beguiling smokey aroma and flavor to the chicken.
Smoke cured chicken for seven hours at 144°F or for four hours at 154°F.
Can the chicken
Place seasoned chicken slices or cubes into sterilized containers and let them soak in water or broth.
Leaving some headspace, close the lid tightly and cook the containers in a pressure into which the water has been previously heated.
It’s not just raw chicken that can be canned. Chicken boiled or cooked with herbs and spices is also fine for canning.
Frequently Asked Questions About How Long Uncooked Chicken Will Keep in the Fridge
What is the point of “Sell By” stamps on chicken?
Customers sometimes take note of the “Sell By” stamped on chicken packaging, but that’s a mistake as the stamps are meant for the seller, not the buyer. Furthermore, the dates on these stamps don’t follow a universal standard and might vary considerably from store to store.
What length of time will uncooked chicken safely keep outside a fridge?
It is safe to leave raw chicken at room temperature up to two hours or an hour if it is warmer than 90°F. After two hours, bacteria will rapidly multiply and render the chicken unsafe to eat.
Afterword: How long will uncooked chicken keep in the fridge?
The opportunity to safely cook chicken is only two days from post-purchase refrigeration.
While a color change is normal, a darkening or fading of the chicken could indicate that it has gone bad.
Other indicators include a slimy, tacky, or sticky texture, or an unpleasant odor.
Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)
Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.