How to Be Sure Chicken Has Not Gone Bad

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Unless you are slaughtering your own chicken or buying it directly from a farm, there is inevitably some lag time between the day the chicken was killed and when it reaches your grocer's meat case. This means you have a limited amount of time to prepare your chicken before it can spoil and develop bacteria that could cause food poisoning. Sell-by and use-by dates listed on meat packaging are good guides, but physical inspection of the chicken itself is the best way to tell whether or not it has gone bad.

  • Smell the chicken, since fresh chicken that is still good has no discernible smell. Throw the chicken out if there is any kind of odor emanating from it at all.

  • Feel the surface of the chicken. Discard it if it has a slimy texture on the surface. In general, chicken that is still edible will have only a limited amount of moisture on the surface, which will feel like water to the touch.

  • Press your finger against the chicken flesh. Throw it away if it feels mushy to the touch -- fresh chicken should feel firm when pressed.

  • Check the date on the package. Discard the chicken if it is more than two days past the sell-by date listed on the package -- unless the chicken has been recently removed from the freezer -- or the chicken has been sitting in the refrigerator uncooked for more than three days. Throw the chicken out if it is past the use-by date which is sometimes listed on the package.

  • Toss the chicken if it has an off-taste after cooking, which may be an indication of spoilage.



  • Photo Credit Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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