How Can I Tell When Chicken Has Gone Bad?

How Can I Tell When Chicken Has Gone Bad?

Kelli Foster
Apr 10, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

The other day I got a text from a friend asking for advice on what to do with a pack of chicken she forgot about in the fridge. Was it still okay to cook for her family of four or was it better to toss it? I walked her through the same reliable steps I always take when making the same assessment.

4 Ways to Tell When Chicken Has Gone Bad

Sometimes it is totally obvious when chicken is no good to eat, but more often that isn't the case, and it takes a little more detective work to figure it out. The best approach is a combination of knowing how long the chicken (either pieces or the whole bird) has been in the fridge, and also relying on your senses for cues.

1. Check the date.

As a rule of thumb, raw chicken should only be left in the fridge for two days. According to the USDA and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, raw chicken should be stored for no longer than one to two days in the refrigerator. If the chicken was previously frozen, this timeline goes into effect after the meat is fully defrosted.

Also take a look at the "best by" date on the package. If you're well past that date, the chicken likely isn't safe to consume.

2. Look at the coloring.

If you're still not sure, use visual cues to help you out. What does the chicken look like? Does it still have a pinkish, fleshy hue, or has it started to take on a dull grayish color?

As chicken spoils, its coloring fades from pink to dull gray. If the chicken has a grayish hue, it's best not to use it.

3. Smell the chicken.

As with many things in life, the smell test is also a helpful tool to gain some insight into whether chicken has gone bad. Do remember that chicken is not totally odor-free, however it should never seem pungent or very noticeably foul. If it has a potent or sour odor, it's no good.

4. Feel the chicken.

Chicken naturally has a glossy, slightly slippery texture. However if it feels like there's a layer of something over the chicken and that feels especially sticky and thick, it's best not to use the chicken.

How do you determine whether chicken has gone bad or not? Share your tips in the comments.

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