Expired Chicken?
August 20, 2004 7:27 PM   Subscribe

POULTRY FILTER: I bought a pound and a half of chicken last weekend. The sell-by date on the package was August 18. I usually cook all the chicken I buy before the sell-by date, but screwed up and haven't cooked one of the pieces. It's now two days past that date. Do I freeze this piece or throw it away? How do you know if chicken has gone bad? If its any help in this diagnosis: It looks and smells fine ... thank you, ask metafilter, as always, for your time and wisdom on these pressing concerns of mine! I for one would hate to throw away perfectly good chicken.
posted by Peter H to Food & Drink (28 answers total)
I'd hit it. I mean, cook it.

Although I'd certainly probably give it a good rinsing first, just out of superstitution.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:30 PM on August 20, 2004

BTW, marinade in lime-peach-gin with a bit of oil, then BBQ.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:31 PM on August 20, 2004

Response by poster: DELICIOUS!

Does anyone know the actual diagnosis for foul chicken? I mean, fish is easy but what about chicken and beef? I ask this so, you know, I don't need to bother anyone about this later.
posted by Peter H at 7:36 PM on August 20, 2004

I'd eat it, but if you want to be sure, take it off the bone, chop it up and nuke, then stir fry or broil or something to be sure it's cooked thru. this says you have 3 days after the date is past
posted by amberglow at 7:42 PM on August 20, 2004

I'd pitch it, unless you're sufficiently strapped for cash that $2 or whatever is a serious hit. Do not mess with the chicken gods, for they are quick to anger and their anger is directed pointedly at your bum.

Upside of eating it: you save a couple bucks and are moral for using all your chicken.

Downside: you might spend a day being tubgirl.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:22 PM on August 20, 2004

If you cook it, whatever you do, be sure you cook it up to an internal temp of 165F. If you do so, you should be fine.
posted by jmd82 at 8:43 PM on August 20, 2004

If you want to risk it- take it out, rinse it with cold water, and smell it. If it smells sharp, then pitch it. If it doesn't smell, cook it and try a little piece. If it has a "mealy" mouth-feel to it, or it smells or tastes sharp after cooking, pitch it. Personally, if it's two days after, I'd just go ahead and pitch it. Fridges get opened and closed so often, they can't maintain a really ideal temperature for safe poultry storage for very long.

(This makes me wonder about the tinned (seafood) question we had here a while back, and whether or not the petitioner's wife ever got sick from eating it...)
posted by headspace at 8:47 PM on August 20, 2004

Response by poster: HA - from amberglow's great link

"When shopping,look for a well-shaped bird with a plump, rounded breast, and more breast than leg. You can tell the approximate age of a bird by pressing against the breastbone; if it is pliable the chicken is young and will have tender meat. Chicken parts should be moist and plump. Both whole chicken and chicken parts should have a clean smell.

The color of the skin has no bearing on quality or nutritional value."

Jesus I'm a pervert but I have to agree with this entire statement.

Note to all: I am trusting the three day and rinse method. The chicken is currently frozen awaiting a cleaning and then a grilling for a sandwich tomorrow afternoon or included in a sauce for pasta the following evening. I will have friends online with my mefi account, and instructions to post if I do, in fact, not survive.

(on preview - scrap that, headspace's post has persuaded me to pitch it. an emergency room visit is 100 dollar copay to the two dollar poultry cost)

posted by Peter H at 8:53 PM on August 20, 2004

Biff it. Even if you destroy all bacteria through cooking, the toxins they have produced can still make you feel very sick. Two days past is a bit much.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:59 PM on August 20, 2004

Yeah, the "technical" side of me says that as long as you cook it thoroughly (like jmd said), you're probably fine. The "safe" side, though, says "Chuck it".

I've gotten seriously ill a couple of times on bad chicken that looked and smelled just fine--almost always at lame catered events, but still--unless you're really strapped for cash, err on the side of caution. (If you are strapped, then nuke it till it's jerky.)
posted by LairBob at 8:59 PM on August 20, 2004

(This makes me wonder about the tinned (seafood) question we had here a while back, and whether or not the petitioner's wife ever got sick from eating it...)

She lived to tell the tale (lots of good food poisoning links in there for ya, Peter).
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:08 PM on August 20, 2004

I wouldn't take any chances; i'd throw it out. Believe it or not, the date they put on there is pretty accurate and food products "out of date" shouldn't be consumed after that date without your risk for contamination being greatly increased.

So you won't for sure get some kind of food poisoning from consumption after the sell by/use by date, but you sure to increase your chances.
posted by bob sarabia at 12:22 AM on August 21, 2004

I'd never take any risks with chicken. It's riddled with salmonella, and we all know what hygiene standards are like in chicken farms... Unless you're a poor student - bin it. If you're immune system is compromised - bin it. If you want to avoid an almost guaranteed case of the squits - bin it.

Asking for advice about food hygiene on Ask.Me is like asking about that smelly pustule on yer todger: we can't see that thing, TG, but in the end, it's your body & your decision. Is it worth the risk?
posted by dash_slot- at 6:48 AM on August 21, 2004

I'd pitch it, unless you're sufficiently strapped for cash that $2 or whatever is a serious hit.

If it's a 2 $ chicken I'd throw it in the garbage can even if the sell by date was next week.

Ask yourself how anyone can produce a chicken (= feed it) during the x number of weeks it takes to get it ready for slaughter, transport it, have it slaughtered and packaged and still make some profit. Where do you think the margin of profit will be? Then think about this: a chicken will transform nearly all sorts of fat into meat (this includes motor oil). Put two and two together and steer clear from mass produced meat. Buy your chicken at a reputable fowl shop, which will mean spending at least 5 $, or - if you want Coucou de Malines (Belgian specialty chicken), 12 $ - or - if you want Poulet de Bresse (French specialty chicken) - somewhere around 30 $. Bon app├ętit.

The executive summary: throw the foul beast away and don't look back.
posted by NekulturnY at 7:39 AM on August 21, 2004

I'd cook it. My rule of thumb is that if the raw chicken smells okay, it's fine. (Cooked chicken can smell fine and still make you sick but raw chicken alerts you instantly when it's time to chuck it.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:08 AM on August 21, 2004

Throw it away. If you have doubts about its safety, you probably won't enjoy eating it anyway.
posted by Tarrama at 8:17 AM on August 21, 2004

The test for bad chicken is a simple one - does it smell funny, has it turned colors? The "chicken gods" can do precisely jack if the chicken's been raised to a sufficient temperature for sufficient duration to kill off all the bacteria contained therein.

I cook for my family every night, and honestly, the test I use for questionable fowl is "is it sufficiently spoiled that it will taste bad even after cooking?" I've never poisoned anyone abiding by these rules, nor can I see how it's possible if I cook everything properly and don't allow contamination. (And I'm fanatical about keeping things clean while I'm cooking and not allowing contamination to spread across foods.)

I was raised by my grandmother, who lived through the depression, and she considered it a huge personal failure to ever throw away uncooked foods, so it's likely that's where this originated.

Even if you're not going to be as liberal as I am about chicken, please don't view the expiration date as some sort of trump card that overrides all observation and common sense. If it's not bad, it's not bad. People once actually ate chicken without expration dates, and did a fine job of determining when their chicken was no longer edible.
posted by mragreeable at 8:20 AM on August 21, 2004

My rule, if it doesn't smell too foul cook it. I would rinse it well (most bacteria reside on the surface) and make sure it is well cooked just to be safe, such as by boiling, stewing, poaching, etc. If you cook it to over 165 F in the oven or on the grill it will probably be pretty dry. Moist heating can achieve a higher temperature without drying it out. If you must bake or grill, rinse then brine it by marinating it in a heavy salt solution before heating it to 165 F. This will retain more moisture in the cooked chicken. This is just my opinion. My wife would just chuck it, most of my friends would probably chuck it. I am a cheap bastard and hate to waste good (?) food. If you follow my advice and get sick, my apologies but you were warned.
posted by caddis at 8:47 AM on August 21, 2004

What mragreeable said. Remember, the date on the package is a sell-by date, not a use-by date, and they are a little conservative with these things.
posted by kindall at 8:56 AM on August 21, 2004

Sorry about the off-topic post, but is anyone seeing the same google ads I am?

I have to hope the ads are referring to two different types of organs...
posted by mragreeable at 9:39 AM on August 21, 2004

Eat that chicken! Eat it! But keep in mind even if you cook the bacteria out of a meat product, the toxins from the bacteria stay. I'm not sure what that means with chicken. But I know with certain foods, (such as the toxin in botulism) it's the stuff the bacteria produces that hurts you, not the bacteria itself. On the plus side, if your chicken somehow DOES contain botulism, you'll have a good excuse to call in sick from work (Muscle paralysis is teh best.)
posted by Happydaz at 9:44 AM on August 21, 2004

Response by poster: Ha, this has become quite a conversation!
Oh, Nekulturny, the $2.00 is for about a half pound. I buy three breasts fillets for about $6.00 each week. If I was going to spend $12 on anything, it'd be tuna or a good piece of steak.

Chucked the chicken. However, for the sake of drama let's say I didn't and have it on a fork, cooked mind you, about to take a bite! [drama!]
posted by Peter H at 10:58 AM on August 21, 2004

Quoth NekulturnY: Buy your chicken at a reputable fowl shop.

Yeah, and buy your fish at a fishmonger, your (non-chicken) meat at the butcher, your produce at the greengrocer, your bread at the bakers... How feasible is this, really? I mean, I live near a butcher (sign: FRESH MEAT AT LOW PRICES, so maybe it's not reputable), enough bakers that at least one of them makes decent bread, and a (miniscule) farmer's market, which is great, but it's not even close to the ideal of small specialized shops. And I basically need to get everything at a supermarket, and that's so for most, at least in America.
posted by kenko at 11:01 AM on August 21, 2004

sake of drama let's say I didn't and have it on a fork, cooked mind you, about to take a bite!

I suggest an experiment. Set aside a piece of fresh chicken from your next shopping trip, let it get nice and ripe in the fridge, and sniff it every few hours for a few days. You will quickly learn when the chicken says "Don't eat me, please!" I bought a a whole guinea hen recently which went (excuse me...) fowl on me. It reeked. I tossed it.

Where I live we have butchers shops, poultry shops, and even farmer's markets where you can get your chicken or duck whole with the guts still inside. How many of you have ever gutted a chicken? The trick is not to let the intestines get messy... I like to get cozy with my meat.
posted by zaelic at 12:45 PM on August 21, 2004

"Sell by" dates are somewhat optimistic. Under ideal storage conditions, food of average supermarket quality may last until that day, but home refrigeration -- not to mention the trials of transportation and retail storage -- aren't particularly ideal, at least not here in the US where there are nearly no butchers or poultry stores, and few proper fish markets. Supermarkets are just about the only sources of food available to most people, since travelling several miles to the nearest specialty shop just to purchase a chunk of meat is often impractical.

While the chances are somewhat slim that a hunk of chicken just a day or two past its date will hurt you if properly prepared, it certainly won't taste very good. I'd shitcan the chicken and start over. There are certain risks that aren't worthwhile, and raw, questionable meat is one of those risks.
posted by majick at 1:46 PM on August 21, 2004

Now, on the other hand, if you had eaten it, and you got sick, just think how happy you would have made the ER staff when you told them, "I ate this chicken that was kinda old, but some guy on the internet told me it was okay."
posted by electro at 2:11 PM on August 21, 2004

Chicken will feel slightly "wet" if it's too old (not the natural juices wet, but like, wet on the surface - that's hard to describe!). Also, it will REEK. You really cannot miss it.

Before it's really stinky though, it will smell sort of "sweet" because of the tissue beginning to break down.

However, I am of the mind that if I am not 100% SURE - I toss it.

Glad you tossed your chicken! (I so could not resist that!)
posted by erratic frog at 12:44 AM on August 22, 2004

Having worked in the freezer section of a supermarket for five years, I can say with some authority that expiry dates are optimistic at best.

In the (large, national chain) shop I worked at, entire pallets of frozen food would routinely sit in the storeroom (sub-tropical climate, no air-conditioning) for 45 minutes or more until there was enough room to move them into the freezer. So your "ideal storage conditions" don't even apply before you get the stuff home. If you have to buy meat from the supermarket, whack it in the freezer the second you get back.

Even the mildest touch of food poisoning is no fun, so my advice is dump that chicken, and if you're really strapped for cash, have a rummage round the back of the couch and get a cup-o-soup and a loaf of bread or something. It's not haute cousine, but you wont be shitting yourself inside-out for the next two days either.
posted by backOfYourMind at 6:36 AM on August 25, 2004

« Older After I replaced C: on Windows XP Pro, the D drive...   |   Is there a way to fix critical structure errors on... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.