Most people keep chickens in the fridge or freezer for a while before using them to prepare meals. However, storing meat for too long may jeopardize your health, so it is vital to know how long does raw chicken last in the fridge or freezer.
That period depends on a few things, but the crucial is whether you want to store raw, cooked, or marinade meat. Besides, you should know how to freeze and defrost chicken without the risk of meat spoilage. Let’s see.
Safe period for raw chicken meat storing
|Whole chicken||2 to 3 days||12 months|
|Chicken pieces||2 to 3 days||6 months|
|Ground chicken meat||1 to 2 days||3 months|
|Marinated chicken||2 days||/|
How Long Does Raw Chicken Last In the Fridge?
Remember that one in every 25 chicken packages is contaminated by Salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimation. The only way to prevent health issues is to store your raw meat appropriately since most bacteria grow and multiply faster at higher temperatures.
Storing raw chicken can be challenging, particularly when temperatures are high in summer. The only way to keep it safe until preparing the meal is to place an unopened original pack on the refrigerator’s bottom shelf. However, this meat type can stay there for a short time before getting spoiled. Let’s consider your options.
1. Raw whole chicken or pieces (breasts, wings, and thighs)
Bacteria rapidly grow at temperatures from 60 to 140 F (15.5 – 60 C), so you shouldn’t leave your chicken on the kitchen counter for more than two hours. On the other hand, placing your meat in the fridge is a safe way to keep it healthy and unspoiled for a while.
However, the raw chicken won’t last forever at the fridge temperatures of 35 to 40 F (1.7 – 4.5 C). In ideal conditions, you can store that way for 24 to 72 hours before preparing the meal. The best option is to leave the meat in the original package or an airtight food storage container to maximize its shelf life.
Be aware that exposure to fresh air and moisture speed up bacteria growth, causing premature meat spoilage. Therefore, you should inspect chicken meat before using it to be sure it is fresh and safe for consumption.
Never buy chicken before checking the expiration date printed on the label. Be careful with this information because meat left in the fridge for over two days can get spoiled despite being within this time limit. Therefore, you should prepare or freeze fresh and ground poultry within two days of purchase.
Unlike this absolute guideline, the use-by date note printed on the package only suggests when the chicken is at its best quality. There is no reason to worry even when it expires within these two days. This note refers to the period when the chicken meat has a peak quality but is still usable and edible afterward.
In other words, you can use it after that period, but its condition will be lower. However, you should never consume meat left in the refrigerator for too long, despite the information on the label.
There is one more thing! Unlike freezing, when the storing period depends on whether you keep the whole chicken or its parts, the meat will last equally in the fridge.
In other words, the whole raw chicken is safe for consumption for about two to three days. It is the same with separately stored ground meat or cut breasts, boneless breasts, wings, drumettes, and drumsticks.
Relying on chicken appearance is the easiest way to check whether it is usable or spoiled. Fresh raw chicken safe to eat is light pink, yellowish, or pale bluish-white with bright white fat. Any yellow, green, or gray discoloration is a sign of spoilage, and such meat is not edible anymore.
Spoiled and rancid raw chicken has an unpleasant odor resembling putrid. Once this meat type goes bad, you will feel that beyond any doubt when opening the package.
The fresh raw chicken looks shiny and is moist and slippery. It sometimes happens that your fingers go through the soft flesh when trying to take it. Once it becomes too soft, slimy, and sticky, it is time to throw it away.
2. Marinated chicken
Always place marinated chicken into a covered food-safe bowl and avoid using metal ones. Such prepared meat arranged in a single layer can stay in the fridge for approximately 48 hours.
After that period, the marinade starts breaking down the meat fibers and making the texture mushy. Avoid using the same marinade for cooking because of accumulated bacteria. It is the best way to prevent possible foodborne illnesses.
3. Cooked chicken
It often happens to get chicken leftovers after a meal you want to save for later use. In this case, you can store cooked meat in the fridge for three to four days before it becomes inedible and potentially harmful to your health.
4. Defrosted chicken
In ideal conditions, prepare chicken immediately after thawing or keep it in the fridge for a few hours. Never leave it there for over a day or two after the meat is entirely defrosted.
You should consider a few defrosting methods. For instance, thawing chicken on the kitchen counter where the temperature is 40 to 60 F (4.5 – 15.5 C) represents a danger zone. Therefore, placing it in the fridge and letting it defrost for roughly 24 hours is better.
|Microwave defrost setting||5 minutes per pound (10 minutes per kg)|
|In cold water||1 hour per pound (2 hours per kg) with several water changes|
|In refrigerator||5 hours per pound (10 hours per kg)|
If you need to speed up the process, the best option is to use the microwave. That way, you can defrost chicken within a few minutes. The precise time depends on whether you want to defrost the whole chicken, pieces, or ground meat.
Some cooks use the so-called cold water method to thaw chicken. Put still-packaged frozen meat in a bowl with cold water and let it sit for several hours.
If you change the water every half an hour, the whole chicken weighing 3 to 4 pounds (1.35 – 1.8 kg) needs about two to three hours to defrost. If you have pieces, the process typically lasts less than an hour. It is crucial to start cooking such thawed chicken immediately.
The final option is to skip the thawing process and start cooking chicken immediately after taking it from the freezer. The only thing to take care of is to prolong the period of preparation.
How Long Does Raw Chicken Last In the Freezer?
When having raw or cooked chicken and wanting to save it for later use, the best option is to put it into the freezer. It is enough to wrap each piece in an airtight bag, squeeze out extra air, and seal it tightly. Store this meat in the deepest freezer part to prevent defrosting while opening your device.
However, even storing chicken at a temperature below 0 F (-17.8 C) can’t keep it edible forever. The safe storage period depends on the type, so you should follow the guideline to prevent possible food poisoning. You can store:
- Whole raw chicken for a year
- Raw chicken pieces for approximately nine months
- Giblets and raw ground chicken meat for 3 to 4 months
- Chicken patties and nuggets for max three months
- Cooked chicken for about 2 to 6 months
Remember that the only way to keep your chicken edible is to keep it continuously frozen. Once you thaw it, you should prepare it immediately. Avoid re-freezing once defrosted chicken to prevent quality decrease and bacteria growth.
Marking the bag is a convenient way to track the chicken’s freshness. The written date will show you how much time you have before it expires. Keep it in the original package or sealed bag to prevent freezer burn resulting from moisture loss.
Chicken Storage Tips
Besides safe storing, you should follow a few other pieces of advice to prevent chicken quick spoilage. For instance, always bring raw meat directly from the grocery store to home to prevent it from becoming too warm.
Store chicken in the original package or place it in an airtight box before putting it in the fridge. Avoid placing it above veggies and ready-to-eat foods. When deciding to freeze meat, pack each piece separately to speed up freezing and never thaw it at room temperature.
Finally, consuming spoiled chicken or those contaminated with Salmonella or Campylobacter may cause food poisoning and foodborne illness. Therefore, be careful and always double-check for signs of spoilage.
The best way to keep raw chicken meat fresh and harmless for your health is to store it in a fridge or freezer. It is edible after sitting in the refrigerator for two to three days, while the defrosted chicken is safe to consume for a few hours. On the other hand, you can keep it in the freezer for at least nine months before use.