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Extend the Freshness: The Ultimate Guide to Storing Chicken in the Fridge

Keeping it Fresh: The Basics of Storing Chicken

When it comes to storing chicken, knowing the basics can make a significant difference in preserving its freshness and ensuring it's safe to consume.

Understanding the Importance of Proper Storage

Proper storage of chicken in the fridge is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it helps extend the shelf-life of the chicken, thereby reducing waste and saving money. Secondly, it preserves the quality and taste of the chicken, ensuring that your dishes are flavorful and delicious. Lastly, and most importantly, it prevents the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.

When storing chicken, it's also important to consider the temperature of your refrigerator. According to the FDA, your fridge should be set at or below 40°F (4°C) to safely store perishable foods like chicken. For more on this, see our article on what temperature should a refrigerator be.

The Shelf-Life of Chicken: Raw and Cooked

So, just how long can you keep chicken in the fridge? The answer depends on whether the chicken is raw or cooked.

Raw chicken, whether it's whole, in parts, or ground, can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Beyond this, the risk of harmful bacteria growth increases, so it's best to use or freeze the chicken within this timeframe.

Cooked chicken, on the other hand, can last a bit longer in the fridge. If properly stored, cooked chicken can be safely consumed within 3-4 days.

Here's a handy table to reference:

Chicken Type Shelf Life in the Fridge
Raw Chicken (whole, parts, ground) 1-2 days
Cooked Chicken 3-4 days

Remember, these are general guidelines and the actual shelf life of chicken can vary depending on several factors, such as the freshness of the chicken when it was purchased, the temperature of your fridge, and how the chicken is stored.

For more on how long other foods can be kept in the fridge, check out our articles on how long does fish last in the fridge and how long can steak stay in the fridge.

By understanding the basics of storing chicken, you can help extend its freshness, save money, and most importantly, keep your meals safe and delicious.

How to Store Raw Chicken

Storing raw chicken properly is crucial for maintaining its freshness and preventing foodborne illness. By following these guidelines, you can make sure your chicken stays safe to eat until you're ready to cook it.

The Do's and Don'ts of Storing Raw Chicken

When it comes to storing raw chicken, there are a few key points to remember:


  • Store chicken in the fridge as soon as you bring it home from the store.
  • Keep it in its original packaging until you're ready to use it.
  • If the chicken won't be used within 2 days, freeze it.


  • Leave raw chicken at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Store raw chicken above other foods in the fridge to avoid cross-contamination.

Remember, the question of how long can you keep chicken in the fridge largely depends on how you store it.

Proper Packaging for Raw Chicken

The packaging can significantly impact how long the chicken remains fresh. Raw chicken should be stored in its original packaging until it's time to cook it. If the original packaging is damaged or if you want to store the chicken in smaller portions, you can transfer it to an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. This will prevent any leakage and help maintain the freshness of the chicken.

When freezing raw chicken, it's best to wrap the chicken tightly in freezer paper or a freezer bag to prevent freezer burn and maintain its quality.

Ideal Spots in the Fridge for Raw Chicken

The placement of raw chicken in your fridge can affect its shelf life. The best place to store raw chicken is on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. This ensures that the chicken is kept at the coldest temperature and prevents any juices from dripping onto other food items, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

Food Item Ideal Storage Spot
Raw Chicken Bottom Shelf
Raw Meat Bottom Shelf
Dairy Products Top Shelf
Fruits and Vegetables Crisper Drawer

By following these tips, you can ensure the safety and freshness of your chicken. For more information on how long different types of food can be stored in the fridge, check out our articles on how long can steak stay in the fridge or how long does fish last in the fridge.

How to Store Cooked Chicken

Once you have cooked your chicken, the way you store it can significantly influence its shelf life and safety. Storing cooked chicken properly can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and maintain its delicious taste. So, let's dive into the best methods for storing your cooked chicken in the fridge.

The Suitable Containers for Cooked Chicken

The container you choose to store your cooked chicken in plays a crucial role in keeping it fresh and safe. For optimal storage, you should use airtight containers or resealable plastic bags. These types of containers prevent air from entering and protect the chicken from potential contaminants in the fridge.

When placing your chicken in the container or bag, ensure it is cooled down first. Storing hot food in the fridge can raise the overall temperature, potentially putting other foods at risk. Once the chicken has cooled, transfer it to the container and seal it tightly. If possible, try to store individual portions. This prevents the need to repeatedly reheat all the chicken when you only need a portion, reducing the risk of bacterial growth.

The Ideal Temperature for Storing Cooked Chicken

To keep your cooked chicken safe and fresh, it's essential to maintain the right temperature in your fridge. The temperature should be set below 40°F (4°C), as this prevents the growth of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. If you're unsure about the temperature of your fridge, you may find our article on what temperature should a refrigerator be useful.

Once stored at the correct temperature, cooked chicken can safely be kept in the fridge for about 3-4 days. If you don't plan on eating it within this timeframe, consider freezing it for longer storage.

Food Fridge (40°F or below)
Cooked chicken 3-4 days

Remember, these guidelines on how to store cooked chicken safely in the fridge are crucial in answering the commonly asked question, 'how long can you keep chicken in the fridge?'. Following these steps will help to ensure that your chicken remains safe to eat, tasty, and fresh for as long as possible.

Detecting Spoilage: How to Know When Chicken Has Gone Bad

Knowing when chicken has gone bad is crucial for your health and safety. Here are some methods to detect if your chicken is no longer safe to eat.

Visual Indicators of Spoilage

Visual signs often give away the freshness of the chicken. If you notice a change in color to gray or greenish shades, it's a clear indicator that the chicken has spoiled. While raw chicken can often have a slightly yellow or light pink hue, any drastic color changes are usually a sign of spoilage.

Another visual sign of spoiled chicken is the presence of mold. If you notice any mold growth on the chicken, do not consume it. Mold may appear as fuzzy spots of white, blue, green, or black.

Smell Test: How Bad Chicken Smells

The sniff test is another reliable method to check if your chicken has gone bad. Fresh chicken has a mild smell or may not have any smell at all. On the other hand, spoiled chicken often has a strong, putrid odor. If the chicken smells like rotten eggs or sulfur, it is not safe to eat.

What To Do If Your Chicken Is Spoiled

If you detect any signs of spoilage, it's best to err on the side of caution. Do not taste or cook the chicken. Instead, dispose of the spoiled chicken properly to avoid any potential health risks. Always wash your hands and any utensils or surfaces that came into contact with the spoiled chicken to prevent cross-contamination.

Remember, the key to prolonging the freshness of your chicken is proper storage. By understanding how long you can keep chicken in the fridge, you can prevent spoilage and ensure the safety of your meals. For information on how to store other types of food, check out our guides on how long do eggs last in the refrigerator and how long does cooked steak last in the fridge.

Safety First: The Risks of Improperly Stored Chicken

When it comes to food storage, safety should always be your top priority. This is especially true when dealing with chicken, as improper storage can lead to foodborne illnesses. By understanding the risks and practicing safe handling, you can keep your chicken fresh and safe to consume.

Foodborne Illnesses Linked to Chicken

One of the most serious risks associated with improperly stored chicken is foodborne illnesses. Chicken can harbor bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can cause illnesses if the chicken is not stored, handled, or cooked properly.

Symptoms of foodborne illnesses can range from mild (such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea) to severe (including high fever, bloody diarrhea, and even death in extreme cases).

Bacteria Illness Symptoms
Salmonella Salmonellosis Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps
Campylobacter Campylobacteriosis Diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, fever

That's why you should always adhere to the recommended storage guidelines for chicken. This includes knowing how long you can keep chicken in the fridge, using the right storage containers, and maintaining the proper refrigerator temperature.

The Importance of Safe Handling of Chicken

Safe handling of chicken is just as important as proper storage. This includes washing your hands before and after handling chicken, using separate cutting boards for chicken and other foods, and cooking chicken to the right internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria.

Here are some key safe handling practices:

  • Wash your hands: Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling chicken.
  • Use separate cutting boards: To prevent cross-contamination, use a separate cutting board for chicken and other foods.
  • Cook to the right temperature: Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill harmful bacteria.

By following these safety practices and understanding the risks of improperly stored chicken, you can ensure that your chicken stays safe and fresh in the fridge. Remember, when in doubt about the freshness of your chicken, it's best to err on the side of caution and not consume it. Safety should always come first in your kitchen.

Tips for Extending the Freshness of Your Chicken

Properly storing chicken can ensure its freshness, but there are additional steps you can take to extend its shelf life. Here are some tips to help you maximize the freshness of your chicken, from proper thawing techniques to the role of marinating and knowing when to freeze chicken instead of refrigerating it.

Proper Thawing Techniques

The first step to maintaining the freshness of your chicken is proper thawing. Incorrectly thawing chicken can encourage bacterial growth, reducing its freshness and potentially leading to foodborne illnesses. The safest way to thaw chicken is in the refrigerator, where it can remain at a safe temperature throughout the thawing process.

Here are some steps for proper thawing:

  1. Remove the frozen chicken from the freezer.
  2. Place it in a dish or bowl to catch any drips and avoid cross-contamination.
  3. Put the dish in the refrigerator, allowing about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of chicken.
  4. Once the chicken is thawed, cook it within 1-2 days for maximum freshness.

By following these steps, you're ensuring your chicken is thawed safely, maintaining its freshness, and reducing the risk of bacterial contamination.

The Role of Marinating in Keeping Chicken Fresh

Marinating not only enhances the flavor of your chicken, but it can also extend its shelf life. The acid in the marinade slows down the bacterial growth, keeping the chicken fresher for longer. However, it's important to marinate the chicken in the refrigerator, never at room temperature. Also, remember to discard the used marinade or boil it before using it as a sauce to kill any bacteria from the raw chicken.

When to Freeze Chicken Instead of Refrigerating

While refrigeration is ideal for short-term storage, freezing chicken can significantly extend its shelf life. If you're not planning to cook the chicken within 1-2 days of purchasing, it's best to freeze it.

To freeze chicken:

  1. Remove it from the store packaging.
  2. Wrap it carefully in freezer paper or place it in a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible.
  3. Label it with the date and place it in the freezer.

Frozen chicken, if stored properly, can maintain its quality for about 9-12 months, though it will remain safe to eat indefinitely if kept at 0°F.

Also, remember that once frozen chicken has been thawed in the refrigerator, it should not be refrozen. However, if the chicken was thawed in the microwave or in cold water, it should be cooked before it can be refrozen.

By following these tips, you can answer the question, "how long can you keep chicken in the fridge" and ensure that you are not only maximizing the freshness of your chicken but also keeping it safe to eat.