How Long Does Chicken Last in the Fridge And Freezer? (Both Raw and Cooked!)

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S.A. Yanes Published: August 24, 2021 Modified: September 22, 2021
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There’s no denying that chicken is the most loved poultry there is. Whether roasted, fried, or grilled, chicken meat never fails to satisfy! So, it’s not surprising if you often come home from the nearby farmer’s market carrying bags of fresh chicken pieces. At some point, there are bound to be some leftovers after a meal. In that case, into the fridge, they go! But how long does chicken last in the fridge or the freezer, both cooked and raw?

Here’s how long this dinner staple can stay in the refrigerator as well as in the freezer. Plus, a few tips on how to store both cooked and raw the right way.

Trussing your chicken before roasting helps yield a succulent result. So, here’s How to Truss a Chicken: An Easy Guide and Recipes To Try

How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last in the Fridge?

roast chicken with cloves, How to Truss a Chicken

If you’ve prepared some breaded chicken inspired by Church’s Chicken for dinner and there are leftovers, you’ll place them in the refrigerator so they can be consumed or reworked later. But it begs the question, how long is cooked chicken good for in the fridge?

As per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), cooked chicken can be kept in the fridge for three to four days. Note, this rule applies whether the cooked chicken is store-bought, homemade, roasted, or fried. The next question, most likely, will be: can you still eat cooked chicken five days after you’ve kept them in the fridge? Well, likely, your chicken might not be safe to eat anymore. More importantly, you should note that consuming stale food can lead to food poisoning. 

If you have a lot of leftover cooked chicken, you can also store them in the freezer. By doing so, you can reheat them in a few days and still enjoy them as if they’re freshly cooked.

How Long Does Raw Chicken Last in the Fridge?

raw and fresh whole chicken with other ingredients

USDA says that you can store raw chicken in the refrigerator for one to two days after the purchase date. The same rule applies whether it’s whole chicken or in pieces like breasts, wings, thighs, or gizzards.

Chicken gizzards are also as delicious as the other chicken parts. Discover everything you know about this chicken part in this article on What are Chicken Gizzards and How To Prepare Them.

As they’re delicious protein-rich poultry, it’s likely that you always have some chicken meat pieces stacked in the fridge. And there are significant reasons why keeping fresh foods like chicken or any meat in the refrigerator is a good idea. Beyond extending their shelf-life, refrigerating them also helps slow down bacterial growth, provided the temperature is around 40 degrees F and below.

However, each type of food has a different food-storage duration. So, if for chicken it’s one to two days, it might not be the same for other kinds of meat. Despite all this, if you really want to keep your meats fresh for a much longer time, you can try storing them in the freezer instead.

How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last in the Freezer?

If stored in the freezer, cooked chicken can last for up to four months. Meanwhile, if covered with broth or gravy, it has up to six months of life in the freezer. On the other hand, chicken nuggets or patties can be frozen for one to three months.

Give a sweet and fruity spin to your savory chicken dishes! Try your hand at these Top 10 Fruit Glazed Chicken Recipes.

There are myriads of ways to savor the tastiness of a dinner staple like chicken. Whether fried or glazed, it’s downright delicious. Thankfully, you can store leftovers in the fridge or the freezer, so you can still eat them at a later time.

How Long Does Raw Chicken Last in the Freezer?

Put your raw chicken in the freezer if you don’t have any plans of cooking them immediately. Doing so can extend their shelf life for three months up to a year, and will surely maintain their quality, taste, and texture.

For instance, a whole raw chicken can keep for up to one year in the freezer. On the other hand, you have nine months before the quality of raw chicken pieces diminishes. Giblets and ground chicken, meanwhile, can be frozen for around three to four months.

How To Tell If Chicken Is Bad

raw chicken breast

The worst-case scenario is forgetting how long your chicken has been sitting in the fridge or the freezer. Just relax! Here are some of the tell-tale signs that your chicken is not safe to eat anymore. 

  • Color – One way to tell if your chicken is spoiled is through color. If you notice that the chicken has turned green or grayish, then it’s time to toss it out. 
  • Smell – Still unsure? Try to give your chicken a whiff. If it smells off, bordering on pungent or ammonia-like, your chicken is already on the verge of spoilage.  
  • Texture – Another factor you can look into is the texture. Fresh chicken usually has a glossy and soft surface. If your poultry turns slimy or sticky, it’s a sign that it’s no longer safe to consume.

How To Store Raw and Cooked Chicken

storing chicken

U.S. Department of Agriculture | Flickr.com

Are you one of those people who buy this mealtime staple in bulk? Lucky for you, we got some handy tips to help you prolong their shelf life! The first thing you should know is that keeping them at room temperature for two hours and more is not the best idea. Remember, bacteria thrive at temperatures ranging from 40 to 140 degrees F. Storing them in the fridge or the freezer, instead, will do the trick. Now, here is a more detailed breakdown:

In the Fridge

Before placing your cooked chicken in the fridge, let it cool first. Once it has cooled down, wrap it tightly with heavy-duty foil. Placing the meal in an airtight container also helps maintain its quality. Now, remember not to store raw and cooked chicken side by side to prevent the foodborne pathogens present in the raw meat from spreading. 

Much like the cooked chicken, you should place the raw chicken in an airtight container, Ziploc bag, or plastic wrap. We also suggest that you put the package or container on a tray or dish, so the meat juices that might leak won’t drip on other foods. Lastly, don’t forget to put the container in the coldest part of the fridge.

In the Freezer

Freezing chicken is the best way if you want to lengthen its shelf life. For instance, cooked chicken meals can be frozen for months. Now, to ensure food safety, pack them tightly in an airtight container. If you don’t have an appropriate container, you can use freezer bags or plastic wraps. Make sure to wrap each chicken piece well to avoid any air contact. Place it in the freezer after wrapping well.

If you want a more systematized food storage plan, get a high-quality freezer container! Here are the 12 Best Freezer Containers to Keep Your Food Fresh and Organized

When storing raw chicken in the freezer, remove it from the package first. Then, transfer it to an airtight container. Another option is to wrap the chicken tightly in freezer bags or plastic wraps.

Whether stored in the fridge or the freezer, label the container of the starting date of its storage. By doing so, you’ll know how long the chicken has been staying in the said storage options.

How to Defrost Chicken

So you’ve set your heart on this savory mock City Chicken legs recipe. You got your ingredients and the pans are ready. But you forgot to take the chicken meat out of the freezer! Don’t panic! Here are some easy ways to defrost your frozen chicken. 

  • Use the microwave Defrosting your chicken in the microwave is the quickest way to go. The only downside of this method is that the result might be uneven. There’ll be warm spots, and there’ll be frozen parts. Still, after thawing, make sure to cook the chicken straight away and at the proper temperature to kill off whatever bacteria. 
  • Use cold water – This process takes a bit longer than using the microwave, about two to three hours. First, you have to place the frozen chicken in a leakproof plastic bag. Doing so prevents the bacteria from damaging the meat. Then, fill a large bowl with cold water. Lastly, completely immerse the bagged chicken in the bowl. You have to change the water every 30 minutes. Do so until the frozen food has completely been thawed. 
  • Use the refrigerator – This method, however, is the best way to defrost a chicken. Just make sure to transfer the frozen chicken from the freezer to the fridge at least a day before cooking it. Place the chicken in a bowl first before putting it in the bottom section of the fridge. 
  • Skip the thawing process – Per USDA, you can cook chicken straight from the freezer! However, you have to adjust and add more time to your cooking.

Knowing How Long Chicken Lasts in the Fridge And Freezer Is Important

In a nutshell, keeping raw and cooked chicken in the fridge or freezer is a surefire way to lengthen their shelf life. A fresh chicken will last for one to two days if stored in the refrigerator and up to one year in the freezer. Meanwhile, cooked chicken can keep for three to four days in the fridge and four to six months in the freezer. Follow our handy storage tips so you can explore many delicious ways to prepare this dinner staple for days or months to come!

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S.A. Yanes

S.A. Yanes is a fiction writer, poet, book blogger, and content editor. At Recipes.net, she writes food ingredient guides, product reviews, and more. Prior to that, she has worked in a publishing house and was the brand manager of an up-and-coming writing and reading online platform. She has written numerous short fictions as well as engaging bible stories for children. She's also a certified foodie with an immense love for anything cheesy and chocolatey.

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