Fresh is always best, and if you’ve wondered how to tell if chicken is bad, you aren’t alone!
There’s nothing worse than opening up a package of chicken for chicken fajitas for Taco Tuesday and noticing that something feels off.
If you bought your chicken on Friday, the odds are that it’s gone bad when Taco Tuesday rolls around.
And you don’t want to take any chances regarding raw chicken.
Below, I wanted to dive into how to tell if chicken is bad, how to store it, and if there is any way to save spoiled chicken (spoiler alert: you can’t)!
How to Tell If Chicken Is Bad
There are a few quick and easy ways to check if your chicken has gone bad.
Things like smell, color, and texture are great ways to ensure your packaged chicken is at the peak of freshness.
Expiration Date. Surprisingly, there are better ways to determine if your chicken is fresh than the expiration date.
Most pre-packaged chicken doesn’t have an expiration date but a sell-by date.
The sell-by date is helpful for grocery stores to help manage inventory but isn’t a great indication of whether your chicken is fresh.
If your chicken is still a week from its sell-by date, it’s still a good idea to check for freshness.
Appearance. Does something look a little off about your chicken?
When raw chicken is fresh, it has a bright pink flesh-like color. As it starts to turn, the bright pinkness fades into a shade of gray.
If your raw chicken looks more gray than pink, it’s time to toss it.
Smell. A good old-fashioned smell test is one of the easiest ways to check for freshness.
Rotten or bad chicken smells of sulfur or like rotten eggs. But it’s not always the case.
If your chicken smells a little fishy, or the smells are just a little off, it’s time to send it to the garbage can.
Texture. Most home cooks don’t like the texture of raw chicken, even when it’s fresh.
Fresh chicken is glossy and slimy, but that slime indicates it’s fresh and moist.
If your chicken feels dry, sticky, or tacky to the touch, it has gone bad. Toss it.
How Long Does Chicken Last?
When stored properly, chicken has a shelf life of up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
Even if the expiration date is a week away, it’s always best to use up any store-bought chicken within 2 days of bringing it home to ensure it’s safe to eat.
If you have no intentions of using up your chicken within 2 days, you have a few options to prevent it from spoiling.
The first option is to cook it! Cooked chicken lasts in the fridge much longer than raw.
When stored in an air-tight container, cooked chicken lasts up to 4 days in the fridge.
If you have no intentions of making any dishes with chicken for the week, pop it in the freezer!
Can Spoiled Chicken Be Saved?
Sadly, you can’t save spoiled chicken. Once it’s past its peak, you have to toss it.
Even if you cook it, it’s still a hotbed for harmful bacteria. Plus, it just won’t taste as good!
Consuming chicken that has gone bad contains many harmful bacteria such as E. Coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella.
Eating foods contaminated with these bacteria can make you sick and cause food poisoning.
Throwing away chicken that’s even a little spoiled is painful, I know. It’s like throwing away money.
But you know what’s even more painful? Giving you and your family food poisoning!
The golden rule for chicken is: “When in doubt, throw it out!”
Storing Chicken in the Fridge
When you bring chicken home from the store, immediately place it in the refrigerator.
You have about a 2-hour window between placing it in your cart at the store and placing it in the fridge before bacteria grows.
The best home for raw chicken is on the lower shelf of the fridge.
Sometimes, those packages of chicken leak, and you don’t want raw chicken juices contaminating the rest of your food!
To prevent leaks in the first place, pop your package of chicken into a freezer bag to keep it nice and fresh, and leak-free.
Raw chicken will stay fresh for up to 2 days in the fridge.
If you want to stretch that shelf life a little longer, cook it!
The cooked chicken stays fresh in the fridge for up to 4 days.
For the best, juiciest chicken, cook it whole, then place it in an air-tight container. Wait to chop it.
When ready to use it in your dish, chop or slice it before serving.
Storing your chicken pre-sliced in the fridge will prevent it from drying out.
And if you have no intentions of using your chicken this week, the freezer is your next best option.
Storing Chicken in the Freezer
Chicken will last up to one year in the freezer when stored properly.
It’s important to note that your chicken’s styrofoam and plastic wrap containers aren’t precisely freezer-friendly.
If you store chicken only in the store packaging, it’s more likely to suffer from freezer burn.
The best way to store chicken in the freezer is to place it in a freezer bag. You don’t even have to take it out of the packaging!
Place the entire package of chicken in a freezer bag, knock out all the air, and date it.
When you’re ready to cook it, place it on a plate or in a bowl and let it thaw overnight in the fridge.
And if you are running short on time, you can also let it thaw in a bowl of cold water.
Just be sure you swap out the water for fresh every 30 minutes!
You can also store cooked chicken in the freezer, but it won’t stay fresh as long.
Cooked chicken has a shelf life of up to 4 months when stored properly in the freezer.
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