Skip to Content

How To Tell If Raw Chicken Has Gone Bad

Eating chicken that has gone bad means that you risk becoming ill. This is due to the bacteria that is present within chicken, and this can become worse when the chicken is way past its eating point.

How To Tell If Raw Chicken Has Gone Bad

Fortunately, it is not that difficult to tell when a chicken has gone bad. There are some very obvious telltale signs – from its smell, appearance and the way it feels. 

Using your senses every time you cook chicken is always the best way to get a good understanding for when a chicken might not be safe to eat. 

In this article we shall take a look at how to tell if raw chicken has gone bad in more detail. This often also applies to cooked chicken, but we shall discuss that too.

Why Should You Not Eat Fresh Chicken Past Its Expiration Date?

The biggest reason why you should not eat fresh chicken that has gone past its expiration date is that it can cause food poisoning, otherwise known as a foodborne illness. 

Chicken is a type of meat that has a higher risk than most at causing a person to suffer from food poisoning. This is because it may have bacteria present such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and many more. 

When Can You Eat Chicken Past Its Expiration Date?

The only time you can eat chicken past its expiration date is when it has been frozen. As soon as you buy fresh chicken, you will want to freeze it straightaway.

The chicken is always kept cold during its distribution from wherever it has come from, all the way to the grocery store or butcher shop. 

This happens because the cold helps to keep any bacterial growth down, and it will increase the overall shelf life of the chicken.

You can also put it into the refrigerator too, but you must eat it within one to two days to avoid bacteria taking over the chicken and making it unsafe to eat. 

How Can You Tell If Chicken Has Gone Bad?

Here are the best ways to check if a chicken has gone bad:

Check Expiration Date

Always check the expiration date because it is there for a reason. While some foods have an expiration date for freshness, a chicken’s is all to do with whether it is safe to consume or not.

If the date has been and gone, discard the chicken. If you do not plan to eat it by its expiration date (and you have only just bought it) then freeze it immediately.

Look At The Appearance

If the raw chicken is within its expiration date, then take a look at its appearance. The color of raw chicken should be pink with some white bits of fat. 

If the pink appears dull, then it often just means that it isn’t as fresh as it once was.

If the color of the chicken is gray or green, then it may not be safe to eat. While yellow chicken is a sign that the poultry may have been cornfed, if it doesn’t say it on the label (or wasn’t yellow when you bought it), then it should be discarded.

Check The Smell

Healthy raw chicken doesn’t tend to have a smell. If you find that the chicken you have smells terrible, then it should not be eaten. This is an obvious telltale sign that bacteria is present.

If the cooked chicken has gone bad, then it may smell sweet rather than like eggs or sour. 

Feel The Texture

If the chicken is slimy or has a stickiness to it, then it means it has gone bad. When this is teamed up with a bad smell too, it means it shouldn’t be eaten. 

If it feels hard rather than firm, that also means the raw chicken is not fit to consume. Raw chicken tends to feel squishy.

What Is The Best Way To Avoid Chicken Going Bad?

There are plenty of ways to ensure chicken does not go bad. Here are some tips:

  • Always buy a cold fresh chicken and refrigerate it or freeze it as soon as you get home. Eat the former within one to two days.
  • Once you cook chicken, never leave leftovers out at room temperature for more than two hours. Give it time to cool but then put it straight into a cold environment.
  • If you do not plan to eat your chicken within a day or so of buying it, put it into the freezer to eat at a later date.
  • Never eat fresh chicken past its expiration date.
How To Tell If Raw Chicken Has Gone Bad

How Can You Tell A Raw Frozen Chicken Has Gone Bad?

It is often quite difficult to notice whether frozen chicken has gone bad. Because of this, the best thing to do is let it thaw first.

You can do this by placing it on a plate and putting it straight into the refrigerator. Leave it overnight and check it the following day. 

One thing to never do is thaw it at room temperature. Doing so will invite bacteria to get comfortable on the chicken. 

If the chicken looks good (no appearance or smell problems), then it should be eaten that day. If you do notice anything wrong with it, then you should discard it.

How Can You Tell A Cooked Chicken Has Gone Bad?

When you cook chicken it goes a white or light brownish color. If you notice that the cooked chicken has taken on a green or gray color, then it has gone bad and you should throw it away.

You should also throw it away if it smells too! If you do eat it, then there is a good chance you will become sick and it will not taste very nice.

To avoid cooked chicken becoming bad, store leftovers properly in the fridge or freezer, and consume the former as quickly as possible.

Also, never leave cooked chicken out of the cold for more than two hours. Doing so will promote bacteria from entering the chicken, and it will grow in size at a quick rate. 

How To Buy Chicken From A Store?

When you buy a chicken from the grocery store or butcher shop, you will want to make sure that it feels cold. If it is warm, then you will want to steer clear from that chicken because it may have lots of bacteria within it.

You should also make sure that this is your last stop before heading home, because you will want to get the chicken back into a cold environment as quickly as possible.

Once you purchase the chicken, place it in a separate plastic bag to ensure that any leakage from the chicken does not cross-contaminate the rest of your shopping. 

How To Freeze Raw Chicken Properly?

Once you get a store-bought chicken home, you will want to get it straight into the refrigerator or freezer immediately to ensure it stays cold. 

If you are placing the chicken into the freezer, it should be at 0 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure it is at a good temperature to keep bacteria levels down. 

You must keep it frozen at a continuous temperature and rate. This means you should avoid taking the chicken out of the freezer to check on it. You should also avoid thawing the chicken in the fridge and then putting it back into the freezer.

However, the longer you leave a chicken frozen, the quality of the meat will begin to decline. This means that it may not be as nutritious a few months down the line.

Final Thoughts

It is more often than not easy to tell when raw chicken has gone bad (see also “How To Tell If An Onion Has Gone Bad“). Healthy chicken is pink and juicy – ready to be cooked for your dinner. It may also have some white fatty areas too.

By using your senses you can often tell straight away that the raw chicken has gone bad. For example, the smell, its appearance, and how it feels.

If the chicken looks green or gray, then it is never a good idea to eat it. If the chicken is yellow and hasn’t been cornfed, again, it is not safe to eat.

The chicken also should not smell terrible. This can be really sweet or really sour, so keep that in mind when checking whether the raw chicken is safe to eat.

If you keep these points in mind every time you cook raw chicken, then you will be taking important steps to keep you and those you feed healthy and well. 

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Tell If Raw Chicken Has Gone Bad

How Long Can You Freeze A Chicken For?

It depends on what kind of chicken you are freezing, but a whole fresh chicken can be frozen for up to a year. 

Fresh chicken parts should only be frozen for 9 months in total. If it is leftover cooked chicken, then you can only freeze it safely for 4 months. 

How Do You Know Cooked Chicken Has Gone Bad?

If the chicken has a sweet smell or discoloration, then this often indicates that the cooked chicken has gone bad.

Justin Roberts