How Long Should Raw Chicken Stay in the Fridge?

The USDA suggests storing raw chicken in the refrigerator for one to two days prior to being cooked or frozen, before discarding anything that has passed its sell-by date, has a foul odor, slimy texture or changes color as an indicator that it has gone bad.

At the end of your grocery run, it’s advisable to pick up raw chicken so it has less time in its “danger zone.”


When purchasing chicken from the store, it must be refrigerated immediately upon reaching home. Otherwise, its exposure to unsafe temperatures increases exponentially. Furthermore, you should store it in an airtight container that prevents leaks; otherwise bacteria could form and contaminate its contents.

Bacteria flourishes rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so any package of raw chicken sitting for more than two days at such temperatures has outlived its sell-by date and should be thrown away immediately.

Even without a thermometer in your kitchen, you can still assess the freshness of raw chicken by its texture and aroma. Fresh poultry typically has a soft, tender feel while old meat becomes sticky and slimy over time; its aroma may also be off-putting.

All raw chicken contains Salmonella bacteria that could potentially make the bird unsafe to consume; by cooking to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and discarding within two days after its sell-by date, however, any bacteria present should be destroyed and make the meat safe to eat. However, storing raw poultry for too long in your fridge could expose you and your family to dangerous strains of Salmonella which could lead to food poisoning.

Uncarefully stored cooked chicken can quickly turn rancid if stored improperly, harboring potentially hazardous bacteria such as pseudomonas putida and aeromonas hydrophila that can make you sick. If your cooked chicken seems less flavorful or has an off odor, discard it immediately!

To extend the shelf life of raw chicken, it is crucial that it is stored in a cold and dark area protected from light and heat sources. Refrigerator storage will also help preserve its quality if done for extended periods of time; for this purpose, overwrap the original store packaging with airtight heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap so as to avoid freezer burn.


Food can go bad quickly in the fridge depending on a number of factors such as temperature, moisture and bacteria levels; additionally it’s also essential to consider how much time has passed between when you bought it from the grocery store and opening your refrigerator door to prepare it.

Storage guidelines published by the USDA indicate that properly stored fresh, raw chicken should remain edible in the refrigerator for two days when kept at refrigerator temperatures between 40-50F (approximate). According to Martin Bucknavage, senior food safety extension advocate at Penn State, this estimate should serve as a good estimate in most refrigerators temperatures.

Refrigerator temperatures should remain at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, with chicken stored in its own sealed package to prevent its juices from seeping into other food in the fridge and becoming contaminated. For optimal cooling results, place it at the bottom shelf in order to get maximum chill. Also important is using leakproof containers like Glad(R) FLEX’N SEAL(tm) Food Storage Quart Bags so bacteria from one item doesn’t spread to others.

Moisture levels also play a key role in how long raw chicken should remain in the fridge, since moisture encourages food rot faster. Therefore, as more time goes by in your refrigerator without being used or expired food begins to smell unpleasant or rancid quickly – signifying it’s past its prime and should no longer be eaten!

No matter how tempting, throwing away chicken that you had planned on is sometimes necessary. If its scent or color suggests that it has gone bad, most likely it has and should be disposed of. Furthermore, guidelines for storing raw poultry don’t begin until after it has been thawed and stored in the fridge; after sitting out for any extended amount of time its bacteria counts could have grown rapidly and therefore no longer safe to eat (1)


Bacteria are single-celled organisms found virtually everywhere: on land, sea and in your gut. Although some bacteria may be harmful, most actually provide us with many benefits and help our immune systems function more efficiently. Their forms range from minute spheres, cylinders and spiral threads to flagellated rods and filamentous chains – some even possess flagella for signaling purposes!

Food poisoning occurs when raw meat is exposed to room temperatures for too long, where bacteria thrive and produce heat-resistant toxins which cause food poisoning in humans. Symptoms may include fever, nausea and diarrhea – these symptoms vary in severity depending on where in the world one lives.

Avoid illness by discarding any spoiled chicken you discover in your refrigerator. A quick way to tell whether a piece has gone bad is through giving it the smell test; if its aroma has an offensive or pungent smell, dispose of it right away. Also look out for signs such as mold growth or discoloration that indicates spoilage as well as sliminess on its texture.

Even though spoilage bacteria can be neutralized through cooking, it is wiser to err on the side of caution and consume only fresh chicken. Extending its sell-by date beyond its sell-by temperature of 165 degrees can waste money and time; only fresh poultry has this guarantee of safety.

When it comes to raw chicken storage, freezing is always the safest choice. This may mean placing it into your freezer as soon as it hits its sell-by date or no later than four days post. Once in your refrigerator for this long it could spoil regardless of its temperature and should be discarded immediately to reduce food waste and save both money and resources.


Chicken is at its most vulnerable when traveling from its slaughterhouse to your butcher counter, so even if you plan on cooking it right away, don’t keep it in the fridge more than several days; otherwise bacteria growth could occur and spoil its quality.

According to Huffington Post, proper storage of raw chicken upon its arrival at home is of the utmost importance. Airtight containers such as Glad’s FLEX’N SEAL food storage quart bags or Tupperware with tight-fitting lids are suitable for this task, as is squeezing out excess air before sealing or bag sealing will help your poultry last longer and remain fresh for consumption. In addition, place it in the coldest part of your refrigerator so juices don’t spread to other foods and keep it away from other foods to avoid cross contamination of contaminate other dishes.

Bucknavage cautions that while it is perfectly fine to consume past-the-sell-by or “best if used by” dates of rotisserie chicken, keep in mind it won’t taste quite as fresh and delectable.

When purchasing chicken, look for packages which indicate it was inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition, check that each package features an expiration date or best before date as well as safety instructions regarding handling and storage. Place the chicken in a plastic bag so its juices do not contaminate other foods with harmful bacteria, and store it in an area of your refrigerator with cool temperatures so the meat stays cold. When planning an elaborate meal, purchasing multiple packages of chicken from your grocery store can ensure you have enough for cooking purposes and for future meals in the freezer. Keeping some raw chicken on hand for future dishes may also be wise. Make sure that you store and prepare poultry correctly and you won’t risk making your family sick with salmonella, campylobacter, and Clostridium perfringens – these illnesses affect approximately one million people each year! Don’t risk becoming one of them!

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