How Can I Tell When Chicken Has Gone Bad?

How to Tell if Chicken Has Gone Bad

We fry it, broil it, stew it, bake it, roast it; it’s without dispute one of the more versatile and maybe most affordable meat products to ever grace our kitchens.

It’s also one of the key sources of foodborne illnesses which may be a good enough reason to want to determine if it’s gone bad before we eat it.

Occasionally, it can be quite obvious when chicken is no longer fit for consumption, but sometimes that isn’t the case, and it will require the employment of some of our key senses to figure it out.

Some simple ways to know if your chicken has gone bad or not is to look at the color, smell, and feel of it.

Raw chicken that has spoiled will typically have a gray color, but sometimes can be yellow, or maybe green in color whereas fresh chicken has a light pink color, somewhat of a fleshy color.

Chicken that is Safe-to-eat safe-to-eat shouldn’t have any form of foul odor.

In this article, we will take an in-depth look at how to tell if a chicken is bad and much more to provide you with more detailed guidance on how to tell if chicken is bad.

How to Tell If the Raw or Cooked Chicken in Your Fridge Is Bad

1) Check the expiration date

One of the first ways to spot bad chicken is to take into account the expiration date before you make a purchase.

Always try to find the ‘best used by’ or ‘sell by’ date, as this is the date recommended by the distributor.

It basically tells you the shelf life and indicates when the chicken is fresh and of “peak quality”, so, if it’s well past this date, presumably it’s no longer good.

Further, the USDA recommends that you cook raw chicken within one or two days of the date on the package for the best quality and food safety.

Raw chicken should only be refrigerated for about two days, if the chicken was previously frozen, especially for a long time then the two days timeline takes effect after it’s been defrosted.

2) Take a look at the coloring

Very often, visual cues can assist when wanting to know if a chicken is bad or not.

As chicken expires, the color changes, which means rotten chicken will lose its pink and fleshy color.

It will begin to take on a dull grayish color and later develop yellow spots.

When these signs appear, it’s best to just toss it out.

3) Smell the chicken

The smell test is additionally very helpful to get some insight into whether or not chicken has become spoiled.

Generally speaking, chicken is not totally odor-free; however, it should never have a very potent odor or a very noticeably sour smell.

If it has a potent or sour odor, it’s no good, toss that chicken immediately.

To get the most accurate results from your sniff test, take the package of chicken out of the fridge, let it sit for some minutes.

Once you are ready to conduct your sniff test, open the package rather than trying to smell the meat through the plastic.

In fact, once you open the packaging, if the chicken is spoiled, it will smell bad right off the bat. That strong odor will hit you right away.

4) Feel the chicken

If you still aren’t sure how to tell if chicken is bad, feel the chicken, particularly chicken breasts.

Chicken naturally has a glossy, slightly slippery texture.

However, if it feels like it has a slimy texture or like there’s something over the chicken and it feels like an especially sticky and thick layer of slime, it’s best to not use the chicken.

Slimy chicken is not good.

If your raw chicken is slimy or sticky then it is presumably spoiled and should not be consumed.

Typically, you will find that if it is slimy then it most likely has a smell to it also.

Therefore, it shouldn’t be eaten by even animals, as they can get bacteria and parasites from it. Raw chicken should also be soft and squishy, if it feels tough or rubbery then it should be thrown away.

How to Tell if Cooked Chicken has Gone Bad?

1) Discolored appearance

If your chicken is looking slimy after cooking, looks gray, or has visible mold, don’t eat it. Properly cooked chicken must be carefully stored to stay safe for consumption.

Freshly cooked chicken will have a brown or white color to the meat, and, over time, as it approaches its expiration, the prepared chicken looks gray or green-gray.

2) Smells bad

Just like raw meat, another sign of spoiled cooked chicken is a nasty, offensive smell.

In these cases, or whenever doubtful, throw away the chicken instead of risking potential contamination.

Like raw chicken, cooked chicken can go bad whether or not you keep it in the refrigerator and freezer. Spoiled chicken smells like rotten eggs.

If you smell anything fishy or bad, then it is time to throw away the chicken irrespective of how delicious it was.

Avoid undercooking chicken as well, this is often noted to be one of the initial causes of foodborne illnesses.

Usually, when cooking chicken people tend to check the color, smell, and texture while cooking to determine safety for consumption.

However, recently it’s been discovered that sometimes this method is not so reliable.

Experts recommend thoroughly cooking raw meat to eliminate bacteria and other potential contaminants.

Furthermore, USDA advises that the safe cooking temperature for all poultry products, including ground chicken and turkey is at 165 ºF.

Your best bet is to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature before eating chicken that just might be bad.

Is it OK to Eat Slightly Spoiled Chicken?

The straight answer is no, it is never OK to eat spoiled chicken at any level.

Consequences of eating spoiled chicken

Eating spoiled chicken can cause foodborne illness, also referred to as food poisoning. Foodborne illnesses can come from raw or cooked chicken and result in cross-contamination — bacteria spreading from raw to cooked foods.

Or from meats to vegetables, especially if you do not use different cutting boards for the two.

Eating chicken is a major source of food poisoning, as it may be contaminated with bacteria like Campylobacter, Salmonella, listeria, E. coli. and more.

The CDC estimates that every year in the United States about 1 million people get sick from eating contaminated poultry.

Normally, these bacteria are eliminated after you cook fresh chicken thoroughly.

However, you still need to avoid cooking and eating spoiled chicken.

Although re-heating or cooking can kill surface bacteria, it won’t eliminate a number of the toxins produced by bacteria, which can cause you to become ill once you eat chicken that is spoiled.

Food poisoning can cause uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous symptoms, including a high fever (above 101.5°F or 38.6°C), chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, dehydration, abdominal pain or cramps, and possibly respiratory complications.

In some cases, severe food illnesses can require hospitalization and even cause death.

To determine the best course of treatment, you need to seek medical attention immediately.

This will reduce the risk of more severe symptoms, including muscle paralysis and possibly death, depending on the type of bacteria.

If you believe that your chicken is spoiled, do not eat it. It’s always best to discard chicken that you simply suspect has gone bad.

How to Properly Store Cooked and Raw Chicken

If your chicken is stored properly, that can help to slow or prevent spoilage.

Consequently, it is strongly recommended to store all chicken, cooked or raw, at the correct temperatures.

Storing prepared chicken in the fridge and freezer

Keep your fridge at 40 degrees F or below and refrigerate your leftovers within two hours of eating or one hour if you’re in hot temperatures of 90 degrees or more.

Leaving food out longer than two hours may cause harmful bacterial growth.

It is also not recommended to eat cooked chicken that’s been in the fridge for seven or more days.

In general, cooked chicken, if properly covered in the fridge, can be stored for three to four days.

For your freezer, the temperature should not be beyond 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, your chicken can keep upwards of four months in the freezer.

If you are keeping your chicken warm before serving, keep it at 140 degrees or higher, and when reheating cooked chicken, bring it up to 165 degrees F.

Cut-up chicken is best when refrigerated for two days or less; whole chicken baked or otherwise for three days or less.

Storing raw chicken in the fridge and freezer

Raw chicken parts can be stored for one to two days in the fridge, or between three to 12 months in the freezer.

There is an easy trick to making sure your chicken does not quickly spoil:

Fresh chicken must be kept cold, it should never be left outside of anywhere that isn’t refrigerated below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, when you purchase your chicken from the store it’s best to get it to a refrigerator as soon as you are able to.

Packaged, raw chicken may be refrigerated in its original wrapping in the coldest part of the refrigerator for 48 hours after purchase.

If it is not to be used in 48 hours, freezing is usually recommended.

For convenience and to stop freezer burn, wrap separate pieces in foil or plastic bags.

Then place all wrapped or bagged pieces into a bigger freezer bag or foil wrap.

It’s also recommended that you simply store fresh, uncooked chicken on either a low shelf of the refrigerator or somewhere where it does not drip onto other items.

Final Thoughts

Chicken is a delicious form of protein enjoyed across many countries in various dishes. As delicious as it is, chicken can have harmful effects if eaten when it’s spoiled.

We highly recommend checking for signs of spoilage by accessing its color, smell, and appearance before attempting to cook and eat the chicken.

Remember, prepare your chicken within a few days of purchase.

Don’t leave the chicken out too long after it has been purchased or prepared and it should have enough time to cool before you store it.

Never eat chicken that shows signs of spoilage.