If you have recently taken chicken out of your freezer and placed it in the fridge to defrost, you may be wondering how long it will last in the fridge. It’s important to use meat products up promptly to reduce the risk of foodborne bacteria, but it can be difficult to know what the limits are on thawed meats.
How long does thawed chicken last in the fridge? Thawed chicken can last in the fridge for one to two days after it has completely finished defrosting. A large chicken that takes longer to thaw will still be good for a couple of days after it has finished defrosting. Don’t thaw chicken more than a few days before you want to use it, but do allow enough time for it to defrost fully.
How Long Can You Keep Thawed Chicken in the Fridge?
The shelf-life of the chicken will depend on its state; raw chicken will not last as well as cooked chicken. If you have thawed raw chicken, you need to use it up within a couple of days, but cooked chicken that has been thawed in the fridge should last for three or four days after it has finished thawing.
It’s often a good idea to cook chicken before freezing it, because this will give you more leeway once it has thawed. However, both raw and cooked chicken can safely be frozen and then thawed in the fridge, as long as you use raw chicken up quickly enough once it has defrosted.
Should You Thaw Chicken in the Fridge?
Yes, it is important to thaw chicken in a controlled, cold environment. This may seem frustrating because it takes considerably longer to thaw chicken this way, but it is the best way to maintain the food’s safety.
If you need to speed things up, you can thaw chicken either using cold water (not hot water) or by placing it in the microwave and heating it rapidly. Both of these are viable options, but you should never defrost chicken at room temperature or in hot water.
That’s because the outside of the chicken will warm up far faster than the inside, and if it reaches and stays at temperatures of above 40 degrees F, it will quickly start to become a breeding ground for bacteria.
You need to make sure that the outside of the chicken is not raised above 40 degrees F, or that the thawing time is greatly reduced and the outside of the meat becomes too hot for bacterial infection.
Cold water will successfully ensure the former conditions are true and the meat stays cold, while microwaving it will ensure the meat is heated as it thaws.
Either of these methods should be suitable for safely defrosting chicken, but otherwise, you will need to keep chicken in the fridge while it is thawing. Any other defrosting method, such as leaving it on the counter or placing it in warm water, will compromise the meat’s safety and increase the risk of food poisoning.
Can You Keep Thawed Chicken in the Fridge?
Thawed chicken should always be kept in the fridge when it isn’t being cooked. Make sure you place it there immediately when you take it out of the freezer, and keep it there until you are ready to use it.
Try to choose the coldest part of the fridge for storing the chicken. This may be beside the icebox if you have one, or might be at the bottom of the fridge (since cold air sinks). Keeping the chicken there will maximize its longevity.
Can You Refreeze Raw Thawed Chicken?
If your plans have changed, you might be wondering what you should do with the raw thawed chicken. Fortunately, in some circumstances, it is safe to refreeze it, which is a great way to reduce the risk of food waste.
If you have defrosted the chicken in your fridge, it should be safe to refreeze. However, you must do so promptly, since defrosted raw chicken only has a short shelf life even in the fridge, and you don’t want any risk of the chicken being spoiled before you put it in the freezer.
If you have defrosted your chicken using the microwave or cold water, you cannot refreeze it, or put it in the fridge. The outside of the chicken will have been in the “danger zone” above 40 degrees F for too long to do anything but cook it. You must not try to store it raw after this.
However, you can cook it and then put it back in the fridge for a few days.
If you have defrosted cooked chicken in the fridge, it is also safe to refreeze it, as long as you do so promptly. Make sure you are using good judgment about how the chicken has been handled in terms of cooking, cooling, freezing, and thawing.
Does Cooking Chicken Kill Bacteria?
Cooking does kill bacteria, but it will not make spoiled chicken safe to eat again. Bacteria leave toxins in the meat that can make you sick even if the bacteria are no longer alive. Don’t use cooking to try and make unsafe meat fit for consumption. If chicken has gone off, throw it away.
This is even more true for freezing; it stops microbial spread, but it doesn’t kill bacteria or get rid of toxins. Don’t freeze chicken that you think has gone off or is on the edge of going off. It won’t make it safe to eat later.
Does Chicken Change Color When It Goes Bad?
Raw chicken that has gone bad will often turn green, gray, or yellow, instead of light pink. Cooked chicken may also develop a green or gray hue, instead of being brown or white. Spoiled chicken will frequently take on a slimy texture and an unpleasant, sour smell.
Don’t eat chicken that shows any of these signs of spoiling.
Raw thawed chicken should be safe to cook for one to two days after it has fully thawed in the fridge, and cooked thawed chicken should last for up to four days. Make sure you defrost meat according to food safety guidelines, and never leave it at room temperature.