How long can you eat chicken after the sell-by date?

This article will answer the question “How long can you eat chicken after the sell-by date?” and how to store and thaw chicken safely?

How long can you eat chicken after the sell-by date?

Chicken remains safe to eat for about 2-3 days after the sell-by date as long as it is stored properly. 

The sell-by date holds more significance for the retailer than the consumer. Because it is an estimate of how long the chicken can be displayed on the shelves. 

Sell-by portrays a different meaning than best-by and expiration. The best-by date tells you how long it takes the product to lose its prie quality. 

If the chicken gives off a putrid smell, develops discolored patches, or feels slimy, toss it in the bin. Remember that chicken can go bad before its estimated shelf-life if stored incorrectly. 

The shelf-life of chicken 

According to the USDA, uncooked chicken can be kept safely in the fridge for 1-2 days regardless if it is whole or not, while cooked chicken will preserve its freshness for 3-4 days in the fridge. 

The safety/quality clock for store-bought frozen chicken starts ticking after the chicken has been thawed once. Raw chicken should be frozen if it is not to be consumed within 1-2 days of refrigeration.

(Unopened)Refrigerator Freezer 
Past Printed Date Past Printed Date
Fresh chicken 1-2 days 1 year 
Cooked chicken 7 days1 year 
Roasted chicken 7 days 6-8 months 
(Opened)Pantry Fridge 
Canned chicken 7 days 

How to tell if the chicken is spoiled?

Chicken that is past its expiration date is not necessarily unsafe to eat. In this case, let your senses guide you.

  • If the chicken smells unpleasant, it is a strong indication of spoilage.
  • If the surface of the meat is sticky to touch, the meat is spoiled. Toss it in the bin.
  • If the chicken develops grey or green-colored patches or spots, it is an obvious sign of mold and/or bacterial growth. Such meat is unsafe for consumption and should be immediately discarded.

How long can you leave the thawed chicken in the fridge?

Thawed chicken can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. This applies only If the chicken was thawed in the fridge overnight. Sometimes, the thawed chicken goes bad or loses its quality to a significant extent by the 3rd way. 

This is due to the poor initial quality of the chicken before freezing. Chicken thawed in the microwave or under cold/tap water needs to be cooked right away or it will go bad.

Storing chicken safely

  • Do not keep the chicken on the counter. Chicken that has been left on the counter for more than 2 hours at 32 degrees celsius should be discarded for safety purposes.
  • Always refrigerate your chicken after purchasing. A stable refrigeration temperature of 4 degrees celsius or lower prevents bacterial growth. Double wrapping your chicken with plastic is recommended by the USDA.
  • If the chicken is not to be used within 2-3 days of purchasing, put it in the freezer. Use a heavy-duty plastic bag or freezer bag to prevent freeze injury. The frozen chicken will stay fresh for 9-12 months. No air should remain in the bag.

How to thaw chicken in the fridge?

Plan your meals ahead of time and always defrost your chicken in the refrigerator. Let it stay in the fridge overnight. Place the freezer bag in a dish before tossing it in the fridge to avoid drips. 

Ground chicken or boneless chicken breasts will take about 24 hours to defrost completely in the fridge. On the other hand, a bunch of bone-in pieces or a five-pound bird will need about 2 days to defrost. 

This method is the easiest and the safest especially to defrost whole chicken or a large amount of bone-in pieces

How to thaw chicken in the microwave?

Chicken can be thawed in the microwave by using the ‘defrost’ setting. Read the instructions in the manual specific for thawing each cut of meat in the microwave. Place the chicken on a microwave-safe plate and pop it in the microwave. 

Heat on the defrost setting and check after regular intervals to prevent overcooking. Despite all the precautions, the microwave tends to leave hot spots in the thawed chicken. Therefore, this method of defrosting is not preferred. 

Other FAQs about Chicken that you may be interested in.

What can I use to coat chicken instead of eggs?

What chicken lays black eggs?

Can you boil chicken thighs?


This article answered the question “How long can you eat chicken after the sell-by date?” and how to store and thaw chicken safely?



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