Here’s Where You Should Store Chicken in Your Fridge

published Apr 13, 2018
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Even though chicken is one of the healthiest and most popular of proteins, it can skeeve people out. That’s because raw chicken can carry various bacteria, including the familiar Salmonella and less-familiar Campylobacter and Clostridium perfringens.

If you eat raw chicken, or food that has come into contact with raw chicken juices (which can happen pretty easily during food prep), you run the risk of food poisoning, which is uncomfortable for most of us, but potentially life-threatening for young children, pregnant women, older adults, or anyone with a weakened immune system.

So with all of that in mind, the key with raw chicken is to handle it safely. The CDC has a longer list of guidelines for best practices as you prepare your meals, but one of the biggest questions people ask is: What’s the safest place to store chicken in the fridge?

Why It Matters Where You Store Chicken in the Fridge

Here’s the concern: Even in the shrink-wrapped packaging, there’s a risk that your package of chicken from the grocery store can leak some of the bacteria-laden raw chicken juices. Even if your own package isn’t leaking, it traveled in a truck, and then was stored on a shelf with a bunch of other packs of chicken. At some point, one of those is going to leak — plastic wrap is only so tough! So the risk that your particular container has a bit of raw chicken juice on it is fairly high.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Where to Store Chicken in Your Fridge

The goal: Prevent other items in the fridge from coming into contact with those juices. So your first line of attack is to always store your chicken on the bottom-most shelf in your refrigerator. This way, if your chicken leaks, it’s not leaking onto anything else. And if you’re consistent about storing your chicken (and other meat) there, you’re lowering the risk of contamination overall. (Meaning yogurt wont be sitting where a pack meat once sat because, well, that’s where the meat goes!) Plus, you only have one spot you need to target for the deep, antibacterial clean more often.

Another tip: Before you put your chicken in your fridge, ideally when you’re still at the grocery store, place the chicken in a disposable plastic bag (throw it away when you prepare the chicken). That will give you an extra layer of protection against leaking juices. Then the final step: Eat or freeze your chicken right away! It has a surprisingly short fridge shelf life.