Raw chicken still within best-by date, is it still good to eat?
February 22, 2015 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I purchased chicken thighs from a grocery store several days ago. They have a Best-By date that comes up 3 days from now, so according to the package they should still be good. They have been kept refrigerated (and chilled in the winter cold on the way home) and sealed in their original package.

I ask this because all of the information I can find says that chicken only lasts 2-3 days in the fridge at home, though this makes little sense to me if it can last several times longer in an open air-chiller at my grocery store.

So if thoroughly cooked (to 160F internally), would it be safe to eat? I'm not asking for a literal guarantee, but whether one could reasonably assume it safe.
posted by Willz to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd say still good to eat, but make sure they are cooked through (as you always should with chicken).
posted by mumimor at 4:29 PM on February 22, 2015


Smell them before you cook them. I've has chicken in the fridge for a week or so, and at the end of the time it definitely smelled yucky. I didn't eat it.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:43 PM on February 22, 2015


If it's still by the use by date, and not smelly, use it. The things you have to worry about are ground meats, which, unless they are in a vacuum pack, will go bad very quickly.

Thigh meat is very fatty and should keep well within the date set by your package. Open it up, smell it. Do you smell anything bad? No? Then cook it. Yes? Then toss it.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:46 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have eaten chicken under similar circumstances, and as long as it smells okay, it's fine.
posted by kimberussell at 4:50 PM on February 22, 2015


The one issue with the smell test is that I tend to be very sensitive to smells; I tend to find even fresh raw chicken smells odd to me. Is there a specific smell I should expect from bad chicken (aside from the obvious foul smell of very gone chicken)?
posted by Willz at 4:56 PM on February 22, 2015


Raw chicken generally smells bad to me. In general I'd say that the best-buy dates on things are more conservative than I am. I'd cook it without worrying about it. If you want to be more confident that it's fine you can always pan roast the chicken, taste it, and if all seems fine, use it however you'd use leftover roast chicken (soup, salad, pot pie, etc)...
posted by foodgeek at 5:00 PM on February 22, 2015


It's a pretty distinctly bad smell. I don't like the smell of raw chicken either, but it's hard to miss "off" smell versus just kind of gross raw chicken smell. It's dank.

Thigh meat will keep quite some time, and if they put it out quickly (rather than cutting it off a larger unit that's been sitting out for sale already) it will have a pretty long best-by date, and I would have no concerns at all about it 3 days before the best-by.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:01 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd say it was perfectly okay to eat, unless it smells like decay, in which case 86 it. There's no mistaking the smell of bad chicken for the nasty smell of chicken in general.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:19 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Smell it when you take it out of the packet. Although you shouldn't really wash meat and poultry (it can spread germs), if it smells wash it under cold water. As it could just be the juices that smell. Then sniff it again. If it still smells, try cutting a bit and smelling the cut part. If the cut part smells throw it out. Though to be honest if it's under the use by date it should be fine. If it isn't and it smells then take it back to the store for a refund.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 5:44 PM on February 22, 2015


Oh, you'll know the smell of off chicken. It isn't anything like regular raw chicken.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:09 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've cooked/eaten chicken under these circumstances and been just fine. No guarantees, obviously, but I've personally had good luck with it. :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:14 PM on February 22, 2015


The 2-3 days is for when it's been bagged up for you at the shop, and you don't know anymore info. If it's packaged with a best before date, then it will be fine.
posted by kjs4 at 7:06 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sournous would be a bad smell, as its an indication of extensive bacterial metabolism and lower pH from the production of short chain acids.

Rinse it off and take a whiff.
posted by porpoise at 7:07 PM on February 22, 2015


You're fine!
posted by rossination at 7:17 PM on February 22, 2015


The one issue with the smell test is that I tend to be very sensitive to smells; I tend to find even fresh raw chicken smells odd to me. Is there a specific smell I should expect from bad chicken (aside from the obvious foul smell of very gone chicken)?
posted by Willz at 7:56 PM on February 22 [+] [!]


Yes. It will look and feel slimy. If you ever have a question about your protein of choice, particularly seafood, but chicken or pork or beef: slime is bad. If it is still plump and smells okay and is within the date of the package, you are good to go.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:56 PM on February 22, 2015


A bunch of grocery stores in my area (even some fancy ones) have been caught repackaging meats, and thus falsifying the Use By dates. So don't put too much faith in that date! Personally, if it was bought any earlier than Friday, I probably wouldn't eat it.
posted by hasna at 7:59 PM on February 22, 2015


I find that chicken does not always stay fresh, even if it is prior to the sell-by date. I usually cook chicken on the same day that I purchase it. Unless it smelled perfect, I would probably toss.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:16 PM on February 22, 2015


You could buy a new package of chicken and compare the smells. If they both smell equally icky, all good. (Freeze the extra.) And if it turns out the questionable one really is bad, now you aren't out of chicken.
posted by lakeroon at 8:24 PM on February 22, 2015


I can't imagine that anything would be wrong with this. You're well within the basic parameters for safety.

Normally someone would have been along by now to say you can't tell anything from smell. Well, you can't detect foodborne illnesses just from smell (it can be on very fresh chicken, anyway). But you can detect rot, and frankly, when chicken is rotting it smells like rot. Like decaying flesh. It makes a person recoil and I don't think you'd miss it.

I'm a sensitive smeller too and I often find that chicken smells a little eggy/sulfury, especially if it's packaged on one of those foam trays with a juice-absorbing towel inside. That doesn't mean anything is wrong and that characteristic scent is not the same as the rotting-chicken smell.
posted by Miko at 9:21 PM on February 22, 2015


Take it out of the packaging. Rinse it, then smell it.
posted by cookie-k at 9:33 PM on February 22, 2015


re: rinsing
The current food safety advice is NOT to rinse raw chicken, as all that does is splash the bacteria all over your kitchen, and cooking kills the bacteria anyway so there's no need to wash it off.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:49 AM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Instead of rinsing, you could brine it in a zip-top bag. I have found (by accident) that brining removes the weird chicken smell but will not remove the smell of actual bad chicken.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:45 AM on February 23, 2015


cooking kills the bacteria anyway

Yes, but you can't get rid of microbial endotoxins (of which lipopolysaccharide is one of many).
posted by porpoise at 12:32 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


You should be fine.

And at the risk of being a broken record: the smell test will only tell you if something is definitively bad. Lack of a bad smell does not necessarily mean the product is okay.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:09 PM on February 23, 2015


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