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How To Store Raw Chicken After Opening To Keep It Safe & Fresh

Raw chicken is one of the scariest foods out there when it comes to how to store it. But don’t worry. This article will give you the best practices for handling and storing chicken properly after opening. 

So how do you store raw chicken after opening? Put the raw chicken in an airtight container where you can keep it in the fridge for two days. Place the chicken at the back of the fridge where it’s coldest. For longer-term storage double-wrap the chicken in plastic wrap and foil and place it in the freezer.

How to store leftover raw chicken

There are a few hard and fast rules you should always follow when handling raw chicken.

  • Don’t leave raw chicken at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Store any unused raw chicken immediately.
  • The longer raw chicken is exposed to room temperatures, the more likely it is that bacteria will start developing on the meat.
  • Always wash your hands and surfaces after handling raw meat.    

You can either store raw chicken in the fridge or the freezer. If you’re going to eat it later that day or the next day, then the fridge is fine. Any longer, and you should use the freezer (see the section on freezing raw chicken).

In the refrigerator:

To store the chicken in the refrigerator, place it in an air-tight Ziploc bag or wrap it in plastic wrap, then store it in an air-tight container. Any air-tight container will suffice. 

Place the air-tight container on a tray, and put it at the back of the refrigerator. The back of the refrigerator is the coldest part. Every time you open and close the refrigerator you let warm air in. Therefore, the front of the refrigerator tends to be warmer.

Storing the chicken in a rimmed tray means there’s less chance that the juices will drip. Trust me, the last thing you want to be doing is scrubbing grimy, gamey chicken juice out of the inside of your refrigerator.

The chicken will last two days maximum in the refrigerator – try not to forget about it! If you’re as forgetful as I am, using a sharpie and sticky label to write the date can help jog your memory.

Can I store raw chicken in the refrigerator if it’s uncovered?

I would not recommend storing raw chicken uncovered in the refrigerator. Uncovered chicken has a much shorter shelf life than covered chicken. The chicken will dry out very quickly and become inedible. 

Also, you massively increase the risk of the chicken coming into contact with other foods and spreading its bacteria. 

And just in case you need another reason to cover your chicken, uncovered chicken can absorb odors from the refrigerator. So, unless you really want to taste the inside of your refrigerator, keep it locked up and wrapped up.

What’s the correct temperature to store raw chicken at?

In the refrigerator, keep chicken at or below 40°F. If you’re freezing it, aim for 0° or lower. The USDA refers to any temperature above 40°F as the “danger zone” for bacteria growth.

For cooking chicken, the USDA recommends you cook it to an internal temperature of 165°F. 

Stick your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken, or in the center, for this reading. If not cooked to an appropriate internal temperature, you guessed it: potential bacteria trap. 

There’s nothing quite as unsettling as getting to the center of your chicken and realizing it’s cool and discolored, pinkish purple, and terrifying. Don’t mess around. Cook it to 165.

How to freeze leftover raw chicken once opened

You’re a forward-thinking, meal-planning responsible type. You’d rather cut your leg off than waste a perfectly good piece of chicken. After it’s been opened, freezing raw chicken is the best solution for long-term storage, but you should be aware of certain risks, mainly freezer burn. 

Freezer burn is when the food becomes dehydrated due to exposure to outside air. You’ve probably encountered this before, ice crystals have formed on your food, or the food may have become discolored. 

Freezer burnt food isn’t harmful, but it does tend to affect the food’s flavor and texture.

Here are step-by-step instructions for storing your raw chicken in a freezer:

  1. Wrap each piece of raw chicken in plastic wrap. Freezer burn most often occurs when air can penetrate the container. So, make sure you have a nice, tight wrap around the chicken.
  2. Place the plastic-wrapped pieces of chicken into either a Ziploc freezer bag, which is made with thicker sides. Or you can wrap it again in foil before placing it into the bag.
  3. Squeeze all the air out of the freezer bag. You want it to get every last bit out. Even if you have to do it a few times, it’ll lengthen your chicken’s storage life.
  4. Label the bag with the date before putting the chicken in the freezer. This means you can accurately calculate how long the chicken has been in the freezer.

Freezing pre-cut chicken

Chicken strips or chunks require a slight different approach to freezing than whole pieces. No-one has time to wrap 20 individual chunks of chicken in plastic wrap!

To freeze pre-cut chicken, lay the chicken out on a baking sheet so it’s not touching. Then transfer this baking tray to the freezer for 45 minutes.

As soon as the chicken is frozen, you can transfer the individual pieces into a larger bag.

This is a good space-saving technique and the chicken won’t stick together, so you can take out however much you need instead of having to thaw the whole thing. However, flash-freezing contains a higher risk of freezer burn.

How to vacuum sealing chicken for freezing

If you have a vacuum sealer freezing chicken is the perfect use for it.

Vacuum sealing your chicken removes all the air surrounding it, so protects completely against freezer burn and prolongs the life of the chicken.

It’s best practice to pre-freeze your chicken before you vacuum seal it. This ensures any harmful bacteria already present is inactive and seals the juices in so they don’t get sucked out during the sealing process.

Vacuum sealed chicken can last up to 5 times longer than un-vacuumed chicken, but this varies depending on things like the freshness of the meat when it was first sealed. Most vacuum sealed meat will last 2-3 years in the freezer.

How to Thaw Frozen Chicken

When thawing frozen chicken, it’s important to remember to keep it below 40°F. Put another way, stay out of the “danger zone” for bacteria when preparing your poultry. If you defrost chicken at room temperature, you risk bacteria growth. 

Here are three ways to safely defrost frozen chicken:

  • Transfer your air-tight container from the freezer to the fridge. Leave the chicken in the fridge to thaw. The chicken will take a while to thaw fully, so this one is best done the night before.
  • Run cold water over the chicken continuously until it’s thawed. If you don’t want to leave your faucet running, submerge the chicken in cold water, taking care to change the water every 30 minutes or so to make sure it remains cold enough. Never use hot water as this can encourage bacteria growth.
  • Throw the chicken in the microwave and use the defrost setting. This one is great if you need the chicken in a hurry.

Once the chicken is thawed, you have two days to use it or re-freeze it. If you spot any small bits of freezer burn on the chicken, you can cut them off once the chicken is thawed.

Can you re-freeze raw chicken once thawed?

You can safely re-freeze raw chicken as long as it was properly thawed. Properly thawed chicken will never have gone above 40 degrees, and bacteria won’t have had a chance to grow. 

However, since this is hard to guarantee, most people choose not to re-freeze thawed chicken. Also, repeatedly freezing and thawing chicken can dehydrate it and affect the taste.

How long can you keep raw chicken after opening?

Once opened, the USDA advises you to keep raw chicken in a refrigerator no longer than 2 days.

For freezing, the USDA says not to exceed 9 months, but only if you’ve stored at or below zero degrees. Beyond 9 months and the likelihood of freezer burn increases substantially.

Household freezers tend to be opened and closed a lot, thereby causing frequent fluctuations in the freezer’s internal temperature. Due to the frequent temperature changes, it’s common advice to only keep raw chicken frozen for three to four months to ensure the best quality. 

Does raw chicken go bad?

Yes, raw chicken can definitely go bad. Raw chicken is the perfect breeding ground for salmonella and e.coli; two bacteria you do not want to mess with.

Bacteria can start to thrive at temperatures above 40 degrees, so store your chicken below that temperature to prolong its shelf life.

While it’s true that cooking will kill most of the bacteria, it won’t kill the toxins left behind by excess bacteria. These toxins can also make you sick so always check if your chicken is okay to eat before you cook it.

Does raw chicken go bad faster once opened?

Yes, raw chicken does go bad faster once you remove it from the packaging.  As soon as you open the packaging, you expose the chicken to oxygen. Oxygen fuels bacteria growth, and therefore the bacteria levels will become dangerous sooner.

Keeping the chicken in the fridge slows down this growth long enough to keep the chicken good for a few days. And you can wrap the chicken up in plastic wrap to minimize contact with oxygen in order to prolong the shelf-life.

How can I tell if my chicken has gone bad?

Chicken is one of those foods you really don’t want to eat once it’s gone off. I always do a few quick checks of my chicken before I eat it just to make sure it’s still good. Here are four ways to tell if your chicken has gone bad:

  1. Consult the expiration date. If the chicken is past its expiration date, you shouldn’t eat it even if it appears fine. Remember, once the chicken is opened, you have 2 days to eat it. This increases to 9 months if you freeze it.
  2. Give it a sniff. Off chicken will have a sour smell. Trust your instincts. You’ll know if it doesn’t smell normal.
  3. Check the color of the chicken. Bad chicken will have a grey tinge rather than the bright pink skin you’re used to. Any sign of visible mold is a clear indication the chicken is off.
  4. Feel the chicken. Off chicken often develops a slimy layer, kind of like it’s covered in snot. 

If your chicken fails any one of these tests, then chuck it out. As they say, “if in doubt, throw it out.”

How To Store Raw Chicken After Opening

Put the raw chicken in an airtight container where you can keep it in the fridge for two days. Place the chicken at the back of the fridge where it’s coldest. For longer-term storage double-wrap the chicken in plastic wrap and foil and place it in the freezer.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine All
Servings 1 person
Calories 100 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 1 portion chicken breast

Instructions
 

  • Don’t leave raw chicken at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Store any unused raw chicken immediately.
  • The longer raw chicken is exposed to room temperatures, the more likely it is that bacteria will start developing on the meat.
  • Always wash your hands and surfaces after handling raw meat.    

How To Freeze Raw Chicken After Opening

  • Wrap each piece of raw chicken in plastic wrap. Freezer burn most often occurs when air can penetrate the container. So, make sure you have a nice, tight wrap around the chicken.
  • Place the plastic-wrapped pieces of chicken into either a Ziploc freezer bag, which is made with thicker sides. Or you can wrap it again in foil before placing it into the bag.
  • Squeeze all the air out of the freezer bag. You want it to get every last bit out. Even if you have to do it a few times, it’ll lengthen your chicken’s storage life.
  • Label the bag with the date before putting the chicken in the freezer. This means you can accurately calculate how long the chicken has been in the freezer.

Nutrition

Calories: 100kcal
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