How long can thawed chicken stay in the fridge? In this educational article, we take a look at exactly what affects the shelf life and what practices will ensure you have the best-thawed meat.
If you enjoy brushing up on your kitchen skills, you have to check out the many other tutorials I have on my site. From How To Cut Green Onions or How To Freeze Avocadoes to How To Dry Fresh Basil Leaves – I cover it all!
And make sure to keep an eye out for delicious recipes too! Once you’ve successfully thawed your chicken, you can make these delicious Sriracha Chicken Wings or my famous Chicken Pasteles En Hoja recipe.
How Long Can Thawed Chicken Stay In The Fridge?
Today, we are getting right to the point: how long can defrosted chicken stay in the fridge?
The answer is pretty easy if I’m being honest. You can keep a defrosted chicken in the fridge for 3 days at the most. Personally, I always recommend using thawed ingredients immediately or within 24-36 hours of being defrosted.
That being said, many people don’t understand why thawed chicken has such a short shelf life in comparison to fresh chicken. For that reason, a shocking number of people get violently ill from keeping thawed chicken in the fridge far longer than it should.
So, today we will discuss not only why it has a short shelf life but what actually happens during the frosting and defrosting process. We’ll also take a look at what exactly extends or shortens this time frame.
All of these facts will help you store the thawed meat a lot better. Ultimately, this ensures it stays safe to eat for as long as possible.
Let’s take a look!
Why Does Thawed Chicken Have A Short Shelf Life In The Fridge?
Fresh (raw) chicken has a shelf life of around 4-6 days inside the fridge. Obviously, this depends on how fresh it was when you bought it. Always check the use-by date to make sure you use the raw meat before it expires.
Thawed chicken has a significantly shorter shelf life. But why? It all comes down to what happens during freezing.
When meat is frozen, the moisture molecules inside freeze as well, forming tiny ice crystals. These crystals are super sharp and essentially cut through the fibers that help keep the meat texture firm and, as we know it, fresh.
Once the meat is eventually thawed, the ice crystals (shards) melt and leave the meat fibers broken. When they are broken, they aren’t able to withstand elements as well anymore and ultimately, have a shorter shelf life.
Another big reason thawed chicken has a shorter shelf life than raw fresh chicken is that it has already aged prior to freezing.
So, as you can see, it now makes complete sense as to why the estimated shelf life to “how long is chicken good after thawing” is so short.
How Long Can Frozen Chicken Stay In The Fridge?
Now, this may seem like an odd question, but it will all make sense soon.
If you store thawed chicken, it doesn’t account for how long the chicken took to thaw. So, if you thawed a piece of meat at room temperature for 2 hours, the shelf life inside the fridge is only up to two days (sometimes three).
But, if you slowly thawed the chicken inside of the fridge, you can add another full day to this time frame. That’s because it takes quite a long time for frozen meat to thaw in the fridge.
The meat also remains outside of the temperature danger zone. That exposes the meat to fewer bacteria that shorten its shelf life.
So, if you thaw chicken inside of the fridge, it will last between 2-4 days.
Best Way To Thaw Chicken
Now, the “best” method mainly depends on the amount of time you have available. In this section, I will discuss my top 3 favorite ways to thaw chicken.
Room Temperature Thawing
If you are in a hurry, it’s best to thaw the chicken at room temperature. This can take about 2 hours, depending on the size of the cut.
However, it is important to note that this method is generally discouraged due to food safety concerns. Leaving chicken at room temperature allows it to enter the temperature danger zone (40°F to 140°F or 4°C to 60°C), where bacteria can multiply rapidly, increasing the risk of foodborne illness.
If you have time on your hands and can plan in advance, refrigerator thawing is definitely better. Here’s why:
If you thaw ingredients at room temperature, the ice crystals melt quickly. This causes the flavor to leech out of the meat rapidly. If you thaw meat slowly, the crystals still melt.
However, the remaining fibers have the opportunity to “trap” the flavor molecules and keep them in place.
Not only that but more juices are kept inside the meat, making it overall more appealing in texture.
Another big reason it’s better to thaw food in the fridge rather than at room temperature is that you are keeping them out of the temperature danger zone. This helps prevent rapid bacterial growth, which can cause serious food poisoning and reduces the shelf life of your meat.
Cold Water Method
The ice cold water method offers a quicker alternative for thawing chicken, especially whole chickens, although it requires more active involvement.
With the cold water method, you need to place the frozen chicken in a leak-proof plastic bag or freezer bag, ensuring there are no punctures or openings that could allow water to enter.
Then you need to fill a large bowl or sink with cold tap water and submerge the chicken for 30 mins per 500 grams or until fully thawed.
On the other hand, you should never use hot water to defrost chicken. Chicken should stay at a safe temperature when thawing.
Tips For Thawing Chicken
Now that we know how long thawed chicken can stay in the fridge, let’s take a look at some tips for thawing meat.
First, you want to keep the meat in the fridge. As I’ve mentioned above, slow thawing is much better than rapid thawing.
Secondly, you still need to prevent the meat from drying out. Inside the fridge, this is a considerable risk. So, as you are thawing the meat, make sure to keep it covered. Either use plastic wrap or keep it inside an airtight container.
To speed up the thawing process (quicker than thawing meat inside the fridge), you can place the still-frozen meat inside an airtight container or resealable bag. Then, submerge it in cold water at room temperature.
The water is warmer than the fridge and will slowly heat up, causing the meat to thaw more rapidly.
And finally, do not let the thawed or thawing meat sit inside its own juices. It’s best to drain it away when you see it accumulating. The juices provide nutrients and moisture for bacteria to feed off of and thrive.
Can You Thaw Chicken In The Microwave?
If you need to thaw chicken and don’t have the amount of time to let it sit in the fridge, you may have thought of using the microwave to thaw chicken safely. It might not be the best idea, but yes, you can use a microwave to thaw raw or cooked chicken. Check out my article how to defrost chicken in the microwavewith for a step-by-step guide.
Thawing chicken in a microwave, like any other thawing method, must be done with care to ensure food safety. Use the defrost setting if your microwave has it, but if not, you need to cut the chicken into smaller slices to cook it evenly.
How To Tell if the Thawed Chicken Is Ready For Cooking
So now that you know everything about thawing, you should also know when to start cooking after you defrost chicken breasts or whole chicken.
Before you start cooking, check the meat for uniform thawing by checking for visible ice crystals, flexibility, and internal temperature.
How To Tell if the Thawed Chicken Is Bad?
As mentioned, thawed chicken is prone to bacterial contamination that may cause food poisoning. In order to ensure safety when handling chicken, I’ll be providing you tips on how to know that the thawed chicken has gone bad.
- Smell: A strong, unpleasant odor is one of the most obvious signs of spoiled chicken. If the thawed chicken emits a sour, ammonia-like, or foul smell, it is likely spoiled and should not be consumed.
- Color and Texture: Fresh chicken typically has a pinkish color, while thawed chicken may appear pale or slightly gray. Additionally, if the chicken has a slimy texture or is sticky or excessively wet, it may be an indication of bacterial growth and spoilage.
- Appearance of Mold: Mold growth is a clear indication that the chicken has spoiled. If you notice any visible mold or spots on the thawed chicken, discard it immediately.
- Excessive Liquid: Thawed chicken may release some liquid during the thawing process, which is normal. However, if there is excessive liquid or it appears to be cloudy, discolored, or has an off-putting smell, it could indicate spoilage, and the chicken should be discarded.
- Unpleasant Taste: If you detect an unusual or off-taste when cooking or sampling the thawed chicken, it is a strong indication that it has gone bad. Trust your taste buds, and if something seems off, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming it.