Learn how to properly store your chicken to keep you and your family safe! Read more to find out how long cooked or raw chicken can last in the fridge.
What makes chicken go bad?
We love chicken because it’s versatile, healthy, and easy to cook. Unfortunately, bacteria loves it, too! Chicken provides a moist, protein-rich environment perfect for food borne bacteria and pathogens. Some bacteria, like Salmonella or E.coli, prefer chicken when it’s alive or uncooked, but even more kinds prefer taking over after the meat has been cooked.
When chicken is processed, it retains a ton of moisture on its surface, so this is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria will grow when in the “danger zone,” a temperature range between 40 and 140 degrees F (or about 4-60 degrees C). This is why it’s important to store chicken in the fridge if you plan to cook it within the next two days or in the freezer if you want to store it longer.
How long does raw chicken last in the fridge?
Raw chicken lasts just 1-2 days in the fridge (maybe 3 if you keep it very cold during transport and don’t leave it out at room temperature at all), so it’s important to have a plan for it when you bring it home from the store. Ground chicken and organs (liver, heart, gizzards) do spoil quicker, so do your best to use them within a day or so.
Keeping it in the coldest part of your fridge will help prevent bacteria from growing. Wrap it in plastic or store it in an airtight container to prevent any juices from spreading to other food.
How can you tell if raw chicken has gone bad?
The smell, appearance, and feeling of raw chicken can all be good indicators that your chicken has spoiled. If it smells sour, like raw eggs, or otherwise unpleasant, toss it. If the color is less pink and more tan, beige, yellow, or gray, toss it. Touch it–Overly slimy chicken is bad. Sure, fresh chicken might feel a little slimy anyway, but if it’s noticeably more slimy than usual or if you pat the chicken dry and it’s STILL slimy, then it’s best to throw it away.
How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge?
Once cooked, there’s a new timer on that chicken. First, make sure that the chicken goes into the fridge quick enough. It can’t safely sit out for more than 2 hours without beginning to grow a colony of bacteria that could make you sick. Allow the food to cool a bit on the counter, then transfer it to the fridge. Loosely cover it so that it chills quickly, then later go back and secure the lid/zipper/top so that it remains airtight the rest of the time.
Cooked chicken can generally last 3-4 days in the fridge. This is most often the case for dishes with chicken (like casseroles or soups), fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, etc.
How can you tell if cooked chicken has gone bad?
Cooked chicken that has gone bad starts to change color, develops an odor, and can feel mushy or sticky. Don’t eat it if the chicken looks a bit gray-, green-, or blue-tinged. It might be softer and have white patches or spots of mold, too.
Chicken Storage Tips:
- Consider the surface area. If a large percentage of the chicken is exposed to air (like wings, sliced chicken, etc.), there is a greater opportunity for air to dry out the meat. These pieces will go bad quicker than larger pieces (like a full chicken or a whole chicken breast).
- Make sure chicken is wrapped tightly or stored in an airtight container in the coldest part of the fridge but NOT above or beside fresh, ready-to-eat foods. Chicken juices can accidentally leak very easily, so you need to make sure to protect the rest of your food. One simple way to keep yourself safe is to wrap the package of chicken in one of the plastic grocery bags, then keep it located at the very bottom of the fridge.
- If you live more than 30 minutes from the grocery store, keep a freezer bag or cooler in your car. Often the time spent between the meat freezer in the store and your freezer at home is longer than you expect. Prevent bacteria growth by keeping the chicken as cold as possible the entire time.
- You cannot partially cook chicken, then refrigerate it to finish later. This can cause bacteria to grow extremely quickly.
- It is not safe to leave cooked chicken out in the “danger zone” temperatures for more than 2 hours. Picnic meals, potlucks, and cookout food should be kept either colder than 40 degrees or warmer than 140 degrees. This means you should set that bowl of chicken salad inside a larger bowl with ice, and that hot buffalo chicken dip should be kept in the slow cooker on “warm.”
More helpful kitchen tips:
- How to cut up a whole chicken
- What to do with chicken giblets
- How to make chicken stock
- Cast iron seasoning guide
- Chicken meal prep tips, ideas, & recipes
How to Store Chicken in the Fridge
- Plastic wrap and
- Bowl or
- Airtight container
- Chicken raw, cooked, or included in a dish
- When grocery shopping, make sure you pick out your chicken last so that it stays as cold as possible. If the package seems sticky or wet, consider wrapping it in a plastic produce bag to prevent cross-contamination.
- If it will take you more than 30 minutes to get home, make an effort to keep your chicken as cold as possible to prevent it from spending too much time in the "danger zone" temperature. You can keep a cooler or insulated bag in your car or allow the AC to blast the chicken the entire ride.
- Once home, either wrap the chicken package in clean plastic or transfer it to a bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the coldest place in your fridge with NO already-cooked or ready-to-eat foods stored below it to prevent cross contamination.