Raw chicken is not very interesting to look at. It doesn’t look all that appetizing, but when it’s roasted with some herbs and oils, it tastes fantastic! It explains why so many Americans are ready to put up with this raw flesh and consume 8 billion chickens a year, or 201 pounds per person on average! Did you know that one in four chicken pieces contains bacteria that could harm you? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that poultry is a factor in one million of the 48 million instances of foodborne illness reported annually.
We discussed with Heather Danielson, MA, RDN, director of guest services at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City, Arizona, for guidance on deciding whether your chicken is okay to eat or should be thrown out. Here are some of the dangers associated with chicken, though, first.
How do you Tell if Raw Chicken is Bad?
A TCS (time/temperature control for safety) food is poultry. This indicates that it is most likely dangerous, whether raw or cooked, if not handled properly.
According to Danielson, raw chicken offers a favorable habitat for germs like nontyphoidal salmonella, which can be found in people and agricultural animals. “There are several opportunities for the chicken to be exposed to different pathogens given that most of the chicken we purchase is handled in so many different ways.”
Uncooked chicken and raw chicken that comes into touch with counters, cutting boards, or other foods can spread these harmful bacteria.
To avoid contracting a foodborne illness from eating raw chicken, Danielson advised cooking it to the minimum internal temperature, taking precautions to prevent cross-contamination with other foods, and checking to see if anyone handling the food has any symptoms of illness such as diarrhea or vomiting. To stop the spread of germs, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water is also crucial.
Four Ways to Tell your Raw Chicken is Bad
Sell by Date
To determine whether the raw chicken is safe to consume, look at the “best by” date. The meat quality might not be as good if the printed date has gone.
If the raw chicken has a sell-by date, Danielson advised using or freezing it only 3 to 5 days beyond that date. When kept at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, chicken that has been purchased ready to eat can be kept for up to a week.
Uncooked frozen chicken can be stored in the freezer for nine to twelve months. To properly defrost and thaw your meat, consider these suggestions.
Colour and Packaging
Fresh raw chicken should be pink in colour and have fat white areas. Throw it out if it seems yellow or gray, has mould on it or has a tinge of another hue.
Look for thawing and refreezing traces when purchasing frozen chicken. Danielson states, “This would be liquid stains on the packaging and frozen liquids on the food or inside the packaging.” This has evidence of temperature abuse and ought to be thrown away.
The sour chicken will smell weird and unappealing (funky). Although it might not be completely odorless, fresh raw poultry shouldn’t smell bad. Out it goes if it smells sour.
It’s time to part ways if something feels especially slimy, sticky, or dry from freezer burn but looks and smells fine otherwise. “Raw chicken might feel a little sticky, but if it still feels slimy after being rinsed off and dried with a towel, it’s no longer good,” Danielson added.
Applying pressure on the meat is a further test. It’s probably problematic if the flesh is so soft that it leaves an imprint.
How Long does Raw Chicken Last?
How long will the chicken last in your refrigerator once it has been cooked? The ideal time to eat it is within four days. If you need to keep it for a bit longer, cooked chicken can also be held in the freezer.
Consider yourself fortunate if you’ve consumed iffy leftovers. Even if a food item passes all the testing, eating it could be deadly (five senses). While you might believe you have a steel stomach, remember that 3,000 people die from foodborne infections yearly, and it’s simply not worth it.
What are the signs that raw chicken is terrible? It shouldn’t smell bad at all. A poor chicken smells nasty, like ammonia. You ought to discard it. Instead, search for skin that is slick and glossy. The chicken is terrible if the skin is slimy. Slimy or sticky should not be present. The colour and texture of the chicken are also palpable.
Ask the storekeeper how long the chicken has been stored if you have any doubts. It’s probably terrible if it’s been in the refrigerator for more than four days. Keep it outside for at least two hours if you think it might be harmful. Search for a grayish tint in the flesh. If it’s not, throw it away. If chicken is frozen and kept uncooked, it can survive nine to twelve months.
A poor chicken will have an unpleasant odor. The smell of fresh, raw chicken is delightful. But there are additional indications to watch for if it’s frozen. The fragrance of fresh, raw chicken is subtle and pleasant. Similar to rotten eggs, a poor chicken will likely smell awful. This does not imply that you should entirely avoid it, though. The stench will let you know it has been ruined.
Is there Any Way to Salvage Raw Chicken that May have Already Spoiled?
If wrong, your best option your best it out. Tossing it is usually safe, according to Sidoti. “You drastically increase your risk of becoming ill.” Note: The “sell by” date may be printed next to the expiration date. To ensure the most significant level of safety, only purchase chicken before that anticipated date.
Pathogens such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli are present throughout the chicken’s life. After the animal has been killed and processed, these germs are still there, and their presence leads to spoiling. The meat will spoil more quickly the more bacteria there are and the more circumstances there are for them to multiply.
Under the proper circumstances, referred to as the “Danger Zone,” some bacteria have been reported to double every 20 minutes. Each chicken produced will have a unique distribution of microorganisms in the meat. Because of this, occasionally, when you buy a package of chicken breasts, one breast seems “odd,” but the others look good. The number of infections present will also significantly influence how the chickens are raised and processed.
To lower the number of pathogens in the meat, chickens are frequently bathed in the USA with a chlorine solution. The practice is not hazardous to health while being contentious in some regions, such as the European Union, where chlorinated chicken is prohibited.
It is suggested that chlorine washing would not be necessary if the birds were raised and processed in more hygienic conditions. Even with chlorine washing, up to 2 million Americans still contract food poisoning from poultry each year. This is far greater than in EU nations where chickens are raised in better circumstances and, as a result, the flesh naturally has fewer pathogens.
Risks of Eating Spoiled Chicken
Food poisoning, or a foodborne sickness, can be contracted by eating rotten chicken.
Because it may be infected with bacteria like Campylobacter, Salmonella, and others, chicken has a high risk of causing food poisoning.
These bacteria are typically destroyed when fresh chicken is thoroughly cooked.
Cooking and eating rotten chicken must still be avoided. While reheating or cooking can eradicate surface germs, some toxins produced by bacteria can still cause food poisoning if consumed.
High fevers (over 101.5°F or 38.6°C), chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, and dehydration are among the painful and occasionally severe symptoms of food poisoning.
Severe food poisoning occasionally necessitates hospitalization and even results in death.
Don’t consume your chicken if you think it might be ruined. It’s advisable always to throw away chicken you feel has gone rotten.
What About Cooked Chicken—How Long does it Last in the Refrigerator?
When properly preserved, cooked chicken kept in the refrigerator can be safely consumed for three to four days, according to the USDA,” says Sidoti. “You may put it in the freezer to further extend shelf life; it will stay fresh for about three months. Take it out of the freezer the night before and let it thaw in the refrigerator.
The main lesson: Don’t leave cooked meat in the refrigerator for a week! Cooked chicken will give off a rotten stench or start to turn grey if it has gone wrong. Trust your senses once more.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that raw chicken can be stored in your refrigerator for 1–2 days. For raw turkey and other fowl, the same rules apply. In the meantime, cooked chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for 3–4 days. Since germs tend to develop more slowly in temperatures below 40°F (4°C), keeping chicken in the fridge helps slow down bacterial growth.
To avoid juices from raw chicken spilling and contaminating other meals, it is better to store them in a leak-proof container. Refrigerating cooked chicken in an airtight container is recommended. It’s best to store chicken in your freezer if you need to keep it for more than a few days. A complete chicken can be frozen for up to a year, while raw chicken bits can be kept for up to nine months. For two to six months, cooked chicken can be held in the freezer (1, 2).
How do I Reduce the Bacteria in my Chicken?
The bacteria will already be there when you buy raw chicken meat from a grocery store or butcher. It is inherent to all chickens, as was previously said, and cannot be avoided.
However, whether those present germs have the chance to multiply depends on how you keep and manage the chicken after purchasing.
For food-borne bacteria to survive and reproduce, there must be food, moisture, and favorable temperatures. Every single bacterium has the chance to double every 20 minutes if these criteria are met.
You must eliminate one or more optimal circumstances to stop this expansion. The temperature is the only other factor we control because bacteria feed on chicken, and flesh naturally contains moisture.
We have two chances to stop the spread of these dangerous microorganisms and eliminate them. We keep food in a freezer at or below 40°F and cooking at or above 165°F.
You must ensure that the meat is always refrigerated before using the chicken in your dinner. The optimal storage temperature for chicken is 40°F/4°C or lower, which will reduce or stop the growth of the current bacterium.
When cooking, you must ensure that the meat’s thickest part reaches a temperature of 165°F/75°C or greater. You won’t get sick since this temperature is high enough to eradicate any microorganisms that may be present.
If the food isn’t served immediately, it must be kept at an internal temperature of at least 150°F/65°C.
Even though you can identify raw chicken using this method, you shouldn’t ever chop it too close to it. Even after the chicken has been cooked until the thermometer’s tip reaches the bone, it may still contain harmful bacteria, resulting in foodborne illness. If you have a thermometer, you can use it to determine whether your chicken is done. Also, remember that you may feel the chicken see whether it’s done.
In the refrigerator, cooked chicken typically lasts three to four days. If you’re unsure if the chicken is still edible, use your senses to make that determination. Look out for sliminess, unpleasant odours, and colour changes. Any of these signs could mean your meat is hazardous. If you notice any of these signs, there is probably a problem. If you think the chicken is still safe, cook it and consume it right away.