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

In this article, we will answer the question “How long can you leave the raw chicken in the fridge?”, and why does chicken spoil?

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

According to the USDA, raw chicken can be left 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.

Why does chicken spoil?

This is because meat and poultry are highly susceptible to contamination by Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli, and campylobacter. Various factors contribute to the spoilage of chicken and poultry like the equipment like blades, conveyors, and the water used for scalding in the slaughtering process.

The evisceration step is a critical point in slaughtering and it has a high potential of cross-contaminating chicken by the gut bacteria of the bird. Bird feathers also play an important part in contamination.

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.

You can put a floured chicken in the fridge.

How to defrost frozen chicken?

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.

If the chicken is thawed at the counter, by the time it is thawed completely, the microbial load of the chicken has become high enough for it to be discarded. 

How to tell if the chicken is spoiled?

  • Keep track of the expiration date. If the chicken is past its ‘Use-by’ date, discard it.
  • 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 and spoiled. Toss it in the bin.
  • If the chicken develops patches or spots of grey or green color, it is an indication of mold and bacterial contamination. Do not consume and throw away immediately.

What happens if I ate spoiled chicken?

Eating spoiled or raw chicken can lead to food poisoning. If these microbes or the toxins produced by these microbes are ingested, food-borne illness is the result.

Cooking raw chicken to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees celsius is a must to avoid contamination. Cooking spoiled chicken will not destroy the harmful toxins.

Symptoms of food poising include an anxious stomach resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, and bloody stools. Fever, nausea, and chills are also common. In case of severe dehydration, you must see a doctor.

Preserving your meat

Cure the chicken

Curing the chicken extends its shelf life for 3-4 months. For curing, chicken is covered in curing salt or submerged in brine and is allowed to stay in a plastic bag at temperatures from -1-4 degrees celsius. Excess salt is rinsed off before cooking.

Dehydrate the chicken

Dehydrating chicken can preserve it for 1-2 months. Slice the chicken into thin pieces and dehydrate it in an oven or a dehydrator. Keep the dehydrated pieces in an airtight container.

Smoke the chicken

Smoking not only extends the shelf life of the chicken for 1-2 months but also adds a smokey aroma and flavor to your meat due to the oak, cherry, or mesquite wood. Smoke your cured chicken at 62 degrees celsius for 7 hours or 68 degrees celsius for 4 hours.

Canning the chicken

Heat water in a pressure cooker. Put your seasoned chicken cubes or slices in sterilized jars and submerge them in water or broth. Leaving the headspace, close the lid tightly and cook it in the pressure cooker.

Instead of using raw chicken, boiled or cooked chicken with herbs and spices can also be canned. You can cook raw chicken with sauce.


In this article, we answered the question “How long can you leave the raw chicken in the fridge?”, and why does chicken spoil?


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.