How Long Can Raw Chicken Stay in the Fridge?

Cyd Converse

How long can raw chicken stay in the fridge and still be safe to eat? Find out here!

It's really important to be sure that the chicken you're cooking is fresh and perfectly safe to eat, because food poisoning is no joke!

Chicken can be especially risky, since it carries the salmonella bacteria - the most common cause of food poisoning. So you need to ensure that you're not keeping raw chicken refrigerated for longer than you should.

Hawaiian Chicken Tacos Photo

USDA guidelines say that it is safe to store raw chicken in the fridge for 1 to 2 days at a temperature of 40 degrees F.

Now, most of us assume that our refrigerators are as cold as they should be to keep food safe - but often, this isn't the case. It's a good idea to invest in a proper refrigerator thermometer to keep an eye on your fridge's temperature and be sure you are storing chicken and other foods correctly.

If you've bought raw chicken and you're not sure you'll be able to use it within 2 days, then the best option is to freeze it instead. Ideally, do it on the day you buy it - but it can still be frozen up to 2 days later.

Easy Chicken Curry Picture

Frozen chicken can be store for 9 to 12 months.

How to store raw chicken in the fridge

Keep it in its packaging, unopened. If you do open it, then you need to transfer the chicken to a sealed container or wrap it in food safe wrap and sit it on a plate. This is to stop any juices from the chicken contaminating other items in the fridge.

Chicken Avocado Tacos Image

Has your chicken already gone bad?

There are a few signs to look for that will indicated if chicken is past its best and unsafe to eat.

Mold is the most obvious and so is how it smells! If the chicken is showing any signs of mold or has an unpleasant aroma, toss it immediately.

Chicken Satay Stir Fry Pic

Raw chicken should be pink in color - a grey tinge to the meat is a clue that it's not safe for consumption. 

Another indication is the way that chicken feels - if it's slimy, it may well have gone bad. 

Chicken safety tips

DON’T wash raw chicken before cooking

The risk in washing raw chicken is that you may splash work surfaces and utensils with the water, which may contain harmful bacteria. Any bacteria in the chicken will be killed by cooking it properly, so washing it is unnecessary and increases the risk of cross-contamination.

Slow Cooker Creamy White Chicken Chili Pic

Make sure chicken is cooked thoroughly

Use a food thermometer to check - cooked chicken should be at least 165 deg F when the thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the meat.

If you don’t have a food thermometer, just make sure that the juices run clear if you pash a fork into the thickest part of the meat. If they look at all pink, the chicken isn't cooked.

DON’T defrost frozen chicken on the countertop

It's safer to thaw raw chicken overnight, in the fridge. Just be sure that no juices from the chicken come into contact with other food in the fridge.

Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels Photo

Wash EVERYTHING that has come into contact with the raw chicken 

This means knives, chopping boards and your hands! Otherwise, you risk cross-contamination in the kitchen.

Ideally you should have utensils and boards that are designated just for raw meat.

Some great chicken recipes to try

Shredded Chicken Tacos

BBQ Chicken Flatbread

Chinese Chicken Salad

Cyd is a native of Upstate New York, born to a family of women who love to cook and host parties. She shares her love of all things food, home and entertaining on her blog, The Sweetest Occasion and on Instagram.