If you have an ample supply of chicken on hand or just bought a lot of chicken and don’t know what to do with it all then you may want to figure out how to store it so the chicken doesn’t spoil.
Generally, freezing chicken will help extend the shelf life of chicken before it spoils but there are a few things to keep in mind which we’ll cover below.
So, how long does raw and cooked chicken last in the fridge and freezer?
You can keep the raw chicken in the refrigerator for 1-2 days and cooked chicken for 3-4 days. In the freezer, a whole chicken can be stored for a year while chicken pieces should be used within 9 months. Cooked chicken should only be frozen for up to 4 months.
The most important step before freezing chicken is knowing how to properly store it so the chicken’s taste and texture do not change too much.
So let’s cover the best way to store chicken whether it’s cooked or raw and whether you decide to store your chicken in the fridge or freezer.
Note: Both raw and cooked food should be stored correctly to prolong their shelf life.
How to Store Chicken in the Freezer
There are two common scenarios when it comes to freezing raw chicken.
Either you are going to freeze the chicken in the original packaging or you have opened the package and want to store some extra raw chicken.
Afterwards, we’ll also cover how to store cooked chicken in the freezer.
Freezing Raw Chicken in Orignal Packaging
Generally, it is best to not freeze raw chicken in the original packaging since there may be extra moisture and an absorption pad underneath the chicken.
Ideally, you will want to remove the chicken from the original packaging and place the raw chicken in an airtight bag such as a zip lock bag or a vacuum-sealed bag.
Any extra air or moisture will lead to frost inside the bag which will ultimately degrade the chicken’s quality when you want to thaw out and use this chicken.
You do not need to wash raw chicken before freezing.
Freezing Leftover Raw Chicken
Make sure to store any used raw chicken immediately. Whether you decide to place the excess raw chicken in the fridge or freezer, do not leave the raw chicken at room temperature for more than two hours, as this will cause the chicken to spoil.
If you plan on freezing leftover raw chicken, place the raw chicken in an airtight bag such as a zip lock bag or vacuum-sealed bag.
Place the chicken near the bottom or back of the freezer so the chicken stays consistently frozen.
Keep in mind that the quality of the chicken may decrease the longer it is frozen, so make sure to use it within that time frame.
Freezing Cooked Chicken
Similar to raw chicken, cooked chicken should be placed in an airtight bag such as a zip lock or vacuum-sealed bag. Make sure to label the bag with the date before placing the cooked chicken into the freezer.
Generally, you will want to thaw out and eat the cooked chicken within 4 months of being placed in the freezer.
How to Store Raw Chicken in the Refrigerator
Raw (packaged) chicken can be refrigerated for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. If you do not use the raw chicken before the 2 days in the fridge, make sure to freeze the unused raw chicken before it spoils.
Make sure that the temperature of the refrigerator is less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Generally, most refrigerators are set to temperature below 40F.
How to Store Cooked Chicken in the Refrigerator
It is recommended that cooked leftover chicken should be eaten within three to four days, as bacterial growth can still occur even after the chicken is cooked. The cooked chicken must be stored in a fridge that has a temperature below 40F.
If you forget how long the chicken has been stored in the fridge or freezer then there are a few methods to determine if the chicken is still edible.
Signs The Chicken is Still Edible
To know whether the chicken (stored in the freezer or fridge) is still edible, check the following signs:
- Color change: Chicken turning greenish-gray is an indication of bad chicken. The greenish-gray color indicates that the chicken has developed some bacterial growth.
- Change in odor: If you notice a strong or unpleasant odor coming from your chicken, it’s best to throw the chicken away. The smell can sometimes be sour or ammonia-like.
- The texture: Sliminess indicates that the chicken has spoiled
- Passed the expiry date: The expiration date on the chicken should be checked before the chicken should be used or frozen. There’s a high chance that chicken past the expiration date has spoiled and should not be eaten.
If your chicken passes all the four checks above then generally the chicken will be safe to cook and eat.
Chicken is one of those meats that should either be cooked or frozen relatively quickly.
Chicken can spoil relatively quickly if left in the fridge for more than 2 days. Once meat spoils, the spoiled meat cannot be cooked or frozen in order to make the meat edible again.
So always have a plan when it comes to chicken.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to thaw frozen raw chicken?
The quickest way to defrost frozen chicken is through the refrigerator. Place it on a plate or bowl to catch the droppings. To ensure you have enough time for your meal prep, plan for at least 24 hours ahead. Additionally, factor in the necessary thawing process so that nothing goes wrong.
If you need to defrost your chicken fast, the cold-water method is quick and works the same day. Wrap it in a leakproof plastic bag, then put it into a bowl filled with tap water. However, never use warm water.
See this article for 3 methods for safely thawing frozen raw chicken.
How to know thawed chicken has gone bad?
Feel the thawed chicken. If it lacks a color change, you can slowly rewrap it and leave it in the refrigerator for thawing. Use the procedure described above. Take it out. If the chicken is sticky, then rinse it under running water. If it retains sliminess, it indicates that the chicken has gone bad. Do not consume it.
Is thawed chicken good for consumption? How long can you use it?
The USDA says that if you defrost chicken in the refrigerator, it can stay there for one to two days before cooking. You can even safely refreeze it within this time limit.
Can you refreeze thawed chicken?
You can refreeze chicken thawed in the refrigerator, but there will be a decrease in quality because of moisture loss during thawing. Also, if you cook previously frozen raw chicken, you can freeze them again.
See this article for more information on refreezing thawed chicken.
What happens if you eat ‘bad chicken’?
If you eat spoiled chicken, you may experience food poisoning. Some symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, food poisoning can lead to dehydration and even death. If you think you have eaten spoiled chicken, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.