How Long is Chicken Good After the Sell-By Date? A Comprehensive Guide

how long is chicken good after the sell-by date

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If you are a food lover like me, you probably wondered about the expiration dates on food packaging, more specifically, if you can eat them after that date. When it comes to chicken, one common question that many people ask is: how long is chicken good after the sell-by date? 

Sometimes it is confusing to determine whether it is still safe to consume or it is time to toss it out. To deliver you the best information possible, I’ve done some research to cover everything you need to know about this topic. So without further ado, let’s jump in and learn more about food safety.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

Is Chicken Safe to Eat After the Sell-By Date?

thawed raw chicken

To know if it’s safe to eat chicken after the sell-by date, you should know the difference between the chicken sell-by date and the use-by date. The sell-by date is the manufacturer’s suggested deadline for stores to sell the product while still fresh and of good quality. The use-by date of the chicken is when it must be consumed to ensure safety and avoid the risk of foodborne illness.

Please keep in mind that the sell-by date does not determine whether the chicken is safe for consumption or not. If the sell-by date has passed, the chicken might still be safe to eat. Nevertheless, you should inspect factors such as how it was stored, the smell, and the appearance of the chicken prior to consuming it.

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, it’s recommended that you either cook or freeze chicken within 1-2 days of buying it, regardless of the sell-by date. This is because bacteria can develop on the chicken at any point, even before it reaches the sell-by date.

To summarize, the sell-by date can give an idea about the freshness of the chicken, but it’s crucial to consider the use-by date and other factors when deciding if the chicken is safe to eat. To ensure the safety and quality of the chicken, it’s recommended to cook or freeze it within a few days of buying it.

How Long is Chicken Good After the Sell-By Date?

The length of time chicken can be consumed after the sell-by date is affected by its storage conditions and whether it was cooked or raw when purchased. Raw chicken can usually be eaten safely for 2-3 days after the sell-by date if kept correctly in the fridge. Cooked chicken can last a bit longer, up to 4-5 days, if kept in the fridge.

raw chicken breast

It is important to remember that the chicken’s quality may decline after the sell-by date, even if it is still safe to eat. You may notice that the chicken has become dry or tough or developed an unusual odor or taste. If you observe any concerning signs, it is best to play it safe and dispose of the chicken.

Proper storage is important for extending the shelf life of a chicken. You should store raw chicken in the coldest part of the refrigerator at or below a temperature of 40°F. Also, the cooked chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge to prevent contamination.

If you are not planning a delicious meal from the chicken you just bought within a few days of buying it, it’s better to freeze it. Freezing the chicken helps preserve its freshness for 9-12 months, while cooked chicken can be stored for up to 6 months; make sure to label it with the date it was preserved. As a bonus tip, use freezer-safe containers or wrap the chicken tightly to avoid freezer burn.

Related >> How long can raw chicken sit out?

How to Tell if Chicken is Bad?

No one wants to get sick from eating bad chicken, so make sure to check for the signs of spoilage. Here is how you can tell if the chicken has gone bad.

  1. Smell: The smell of the chicken is always the first indicator that it may have gone bad. The fresh chicken will have a mild, slightly sweet smell.
  2. Appearance: If the chicken is spoiled, its texture may feel slimy or sticky, and the color may not be pink but instead appear gray or yellow. Additionally, there may be discoloration or dark spots on the chicken.
  3. Texture: If the chicken feels slimy or sticky, it can be an indicator that it has spoiled.
  4. Expiration date: Although the sell-by date is not a definite way to tell if the chicken is still safe to eat, it is important to take it into account. If the chicken is past the sell-by date and shows any of the signs of spoilage mentioned above, then it is better to throw it away.

To determine if a chicken has gone bad, be on the lookout for various indications. Before consuming chicken, rely on your senses to check for any indications of spoilage. If you’re uncertain, it is best to discard it.

Read more >> How to tell if chicken is undercooked?

How Long Does Raw Chicken Last in the Freezer?

raw chicken sit out

Properly freezing raw chicken can make it last longer and prevent spoilage. The freezer can help keep raw chicken fresh for 9-12 months if the correct storage, quality, and safety guidelines are followed.

To freeze chicken, first, make sure it is fresh and has not passed its sell-by date. Then, store it in freezer-safe containers or wrap it securely using freezer bags. Be sure to eliminate any excess air to avoid freezer burn.

Remember that freezing chicken does not eliminate bacteria, so you need to handle the chicken carefully both before and after freezing. If you want to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria, it’s best to defrost it in the fridge.

When cooking your defrosted chicken, make sure to reach the internal temp of 165 F for maximum safety. One important thing to remember is that you should never refreeze a chicken that has been thawed because this can cause bacteria to multiply.

How to Store Chicken?

To avoid the growth of harmful bacteria and maintain freshness and flavor, it is crucial to store chicken correctly. Here are some helpful tips for doing so:

  1. Store in the fridge: To properly store fresh chicken, place it in the refrigerator at or below 40°F while keeping it in its original packaging or in a sealed container or bag.
  2. Use separate cutting boards and utensils: While this is a step some people neglect, it is important to avoid cross-contamination. Using different cutting boards and utensils for raw chicken is an important safety precaution.
  3. Freeze for long-term storage: Freezing is an excellent option for storing the chicken for an extended period of time. Remember to label the chicken with the date it was preserved so you know how long it has been in the freezer.
  4. Thaw safely: To avoid bacteria growth, it’s recommended to thaw frozen chicken in the fridge rather than at room temperature. Be sure to give enough time for the chicken to thaw before cooking.
  5. Cook thoroughly: The internal temperature of the chicken should reach 165F, according to USDA, so you can be sure that harmful bacteria are eliminated.


How long is frozen chicken good for after the expiration date?

  • If the frozen chicken is stored correctly and has no spoilage, then it can still be safe to consume even after the expiration date. Typically, properly stored frozen chicken can last for 9-12 months in the freezer. However, it’s crucial to inspect for any indications of freezer burn or spoilage and use your own discretion before consuming.

What happens if you eat spoiled chicken?

  • Eating spoiled chicken can lead to several health problems due to food poisoning, such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and dehydration. To avoid this, always check the chicken for spoilage signs before eating it, and store and cook it properly to stop harmful bacteria from growing.

Can you eat chicken that smells bad but is not expired?

  • Eating chicken with a bad smell is unsafe, even if it has not expired yet. The bad odor means the chicken is already starting to spoil and might have dangerous bacteria that can cause food poisoning. It is necessary to always inspect chicken for spoilage signs before eating it and to store and cook it correctly to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria.

Conclusion: How Long is Chicken Good After the Sell-by Date?

To sum up, the sell-by date on chicken does not necessarily mean it’s unsafe to eat. However, you should handle and store it properly and use your own discretion to check for spoilage before consuming it. Following safe handling and cooking practices is crucial to avoid harmful bacteria that may lead to food poisoning. These simple steps can help guarantee the safety and quality of the chicken you are consuming.


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Tom Wilmer

Tom Wilmer

I'm Tom Wilmer, an award-winning pitmaster and BBQ judge. I share my passion for barbecue through my blog, BBQ Soldiers, offering recipes, tips, and smoker reviews. Let's grill together!

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