How long do you keep fresh chicken nuggets
September 26, 2022 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I've been buying fresh (refrigerated) Perdue chicken nuggets. The use-by date is always pretty far in the future - like a month or two - but it says to use within 5 days after opening. Looking for food safety advice.

Here's how I store them: I just open the package a little, remove some carefully with a fork, and put the entire container in a clean ziploc gallon bag, back in the fridge immediately.

I have a kid who doesn't always get through them in 5 days and I feel like it's wasteful to throw them away on day 6. I feel like I should get 7 days out of these, but I'm a little paranoid because I'm feeding a child.

What's the science of these going bad when you open them? If you buy the same ones, how strictly do you stick by the 5 days?
posted by beyond_pink to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The reasoning is that the nuggets are likely sterilized in some way by the factory when being packaged, which makes them safe to keep longer, but as soon as the package is opened, all kinds of things from the exterior are able to get in and start growing.

You could freeze the uneaten nuggets, which will keep them safer for much longer.
posted by mekily at 6:17 AM on September 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

It might also just be that they dry out/take on off-flavors once you open the package and they're not going to taste good. But I agree, sticking a few of them in the freezer (or switching to the frozen version of the nuggets) would remove any doubt about safety.
posted by mskyle at 6:37 AM on September 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The reason the sealed package has a long date but the opened one is short is because of MAP (Modified Atmosphere Packaging). This is also called gas or nitrogen flushing, and it's where the oxygen is removed from the packaging to inhibit bacteria. Once opened the clock starts ticking for that growth to reach problematic levels, there is nothing you can do at home to prevent this process.

I don't eat much meat, and I've become more cautious around it. So my process is one of two methods - first I generally just freeze part of the package. Even if I plan on eating it in 6 or 7 days. I might spice it up before I freeze it, or throw in some bbq sauce etc, whatever the kid likes. The alternative for me is to just cook the remaining meat on day 5 and eat 'leftovers' for a couple of days. For my kids food I will often make more, just to have leftovers. In part because then it doesn't feel like such a restaurant operation just to get dinner done.
posted by zenon at 7:41 AM on September 26, 2022 [7 favorites]

Can you just cook them all when you first open the pack, store the uneaten ones in the fridge, and heat those up when the kid wants more? I wouldn't eat raw chicken that had been open that long but if they were cooked, that's a different story.
posted by jabes at 8:02 AM on September 26, 2022

I don’t think cooking will lengthen the storage life, since chicken nuggets are sold fully-cooked, and also cooked chicken is risky after about 3–4 days in the fridge. If anything, heating and then re-cooling them would give them more time in the “danger zone” of temperatures where bacteria can grow the fastest.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:07 AM on September 26, 2022

Just seconding the MAP they are packaged in a relatively air tight packaging filled with an inert (non-oxygen) gas, usually nitrogen then possibly passed through a flash radiation source that would kill most bacteria or such.

Once you open it and expose it to oxygen and whatever may be floating around in the air, the standard few days to cook or freeze apply.

MAP is also what keeps the ground beef in the grocery store nice and red, open it up and in a day or so it will be a bit brown. Still good, that's just oxygen.

Same thing goes for expensive wine keepers but they use argon because it's also non-reactive and heavier than air.

The 99% non-oxygen atmosphere in that package is what makes it last long, that 1% is the bit that eventually goes bad, leakage and such. But once you open it.... pretty much standard should I eat it rules apply.

Standard industrial process. Replace reactive things with inert things, pasteurize the thing by heat or radiation. But most wrappings are semi-permeable to outside environment. Balloons eventually deflate. So you get longer "shelf life" but the same "once opened".
posted by zengargoyle at 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022

Yeah - as folks are saying, it's the modified atmosphere when they are sealed up that keeps them from going off. Once the bag is opened, the clock starts ticking.

You should absolutely stick to the 5 day limit. But using your freezer to store part or all of a package is an excellent option.

The directions on their website state:
-They can be frozen for up to six months.
-If cooking from frozen, add 2 minutes to the cook time (oven and toaster oven), or add 1 minute if using the microwave.
If you and your kid can tolerate the extra 1-2 min cook time, then the easiest answer is to just store them in the freezer and cook from frozen. This should not significantly impact the quality or nutrition of them at all and will make sure you aren't ever exceeding the 5 day limit.

If you don't want to freeze all of them, I suggest when you initially transfer them to the new gallon bag, only transfer about half and just freeze the other half in the original bag. They'll thaw pretty quickly, so you can just move the frozen ones to the fridge when you use up the first batch. If you do this, make sure you don't reuse the ziploc bag unless you are washing it in between batches.
posted by jenquat at 8:35 PM on September 26, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks for the info about MAP! That makes sense. I have been avoiding freezing them because the fresh texture is so much better, but I guess I'll start doing that, and/or stick to the 5 days.
posted by beyond_pink at 8:43 AM on September 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

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