How Long Can Raw Chicken Stay In The Refrigerator And Why? When To Freeze It

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 29th, 2023

Do you often find yourself debating what to do with leftover raw chicken? It’s a common dilemma. You purchase chicken from the store, throw it in the fridge, and then life gets busy. The chicken sits there, and you start to wonder, “How long can it actually last in the refrigerator?” Understanding the lifespan of raw chicken in different storage conditions isn’t just a matter of food safety; it’s about making informed choices and minimizing waste. In this article, we dive into the specifics to answer your questions, backed by science and expert guidelines.

How Long Can Raw Chicken Be Refrigerated?

The USDA and the US Food and Drug Administration recommend storing raw chicken in the refrigerator for no more than one to two days. This holds whether the chicken is whole, in parts, or ground. The timer starts ticking as soon as the chicken has completely defrosted if it was previously frozen.

Raw Chicken

The Freezing Alternative

If you suspect you won’t be cooking that chicken within the recommended time, freezing it is your next best option. Whole chicken can be frozen for up to a year, while chicken parts can last in the freezer for up to 9 months. Cooked chicken has a different shelf life, usually lasting 3 to 4 days in the fridge and 2 to 3 months in the freezer.

Why Does Raw Chicken Last So Long in the Fridge?

The key to how long chicken lasts in the fridge is tied to temperature and bacteria growth. Refrigerators work by creating a cool environment that slows down the activity of bacteria, making your food last longer. The temperature in the fridge typically hovers below 4 degrees Celsius, a point at which bacteria struggle to multiply.

The Role of the Freezer

The freezer takes food preservation to another level by almost entirely stopping bacterial growth, thanks to its sub-zero temperatures. So, if you’ve got more chicken than you can cook in the near future, the freezer is where you should store it for long-term viability.

How Long Can Thawed Chicken Be Stored in the Fridge?

Thawed chicken’s lifespan in the fridge is subject to various factors, including whether it’s raw or cooked and the method used for thawing. Generally, thawed raw chicken should be used within one to two days. Cooked chicken, however, can last up to four days in the fridge after being thawed.

Opting for the Freezer

If you can’t consume the chicken in time, refreezing it is an option, although the texture may change upon thawing again.

How to Tell if Raw Chicken Has Gone Bad?

If you’re storing chicken beyond these timelines, your senses are your best allies in determining its condition. While “sell by” and “use by” dates are indicators, they aren’t foolproof. Look for changes in color, a strange odor, or a sticky or slimy texture. These are signs that your chicken has likely gone bad and should not be consumed.

Safe Handling of Leftover Raw Chicken

When dealing with raw chicken, safety comes first. Always remember to wash your hands and surfaces after handling raw meat.

In the Fridge:

Store the chicken in an airtight container or bag and place it in the coldest part of the fridge. Don’t forget to mark the storage date to help you remember when it’s time to either cook or discard the chicken.

In the Freezer:

When freezing, make sure to seal the chicken in an airtight container or a specialized freezer bag to prevent freezer burn.

Is It OK to Store Uncovered Chicken in the Fridge?

It’s a risky move to store raw chicken in the fridge without covering it. Uncovered chicken not only has a shorter shelf life but also poses a higher risk of cross-contaminating other foods in your fridge.

The Ideal Temperature for Storing Raw Chicken

For refrigeration, aim for temperatures at or below 40°F. If freezing, it should be 0°F or lower. When it comes to cooking, make sure the internal temperature reaches at least 165°F for safety.

Safety Precautions for Handling Chicken

  • Avoid washing raw chicken, as it can spread bacteria around your kitchen.
  • Always cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Never thaw chicken at room temperature. Use the fridge for safe defrosting.
  • Clean all utensils and surfaces that have come in contact with raw chicken.


In summary, understanding the safe storage time for raw chicken is crucial both for your health and minimizing waste. According to expert guidelines, raw chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. If you’re looking to store it for longer, the freezer is your best bet. Always be mindful of safety precautions to ensure that your chicken stays not just edible but also safe to consume. After all, being informed is the first step to being a savvy consumer and cook.


Editorial Staff

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