How long does chicken last? You can buy it fresh or frozen, store it in the refrigerator or freezer, and store it cooked or uncooked. No matter which option you choose, I’ll tell you how long you can keep that chicken, and how to store it.
How long is chicken good for?
Wondering how long that chicken will last in the fridge or freezer? Cooked or raw, stored in the fridge or in the freezer, I’ve got all the answers for you, with a handy chart for easy reference.
Whether you buy chicken breast, thighs, drumsticks, wings, or a whole chicken, you’re going to need to store it until you’re ready to cook and eat it. And it’s the same regardless of which part you use, boneless or bone-in, skinless or skin-on.
Proper storage is really important to make sure your chicken lasts as long as possible, and is safe to cook and eat.
How long does chicken last in the fridge or freezer (chart)
|Fresh/Raw||1-2 days||indefinitely (best within 1 year)|
|Frozen/Uncooked||2-4 days||indefinitely (best within 1 year)|
|Cooked||3-5 days||2-4 months|
Keep reading for more details on storage times for uncooked vs cooked chicken, in the fridge and in the freezer.
How long is rotisserie chicken good for?
Rotisserie chicken (or any pre-cooked chicken) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3-4 months.
What is fresh chicken vs frozen chicken?
Throughout this post, I’ll be referring to chicken as fresh, frozen, pre-cooked, or cooked. For reference, here’s what that means:
- Fresh: raw, uncooked, and chilled/refrigerated; and has never been frozen.
- Frozen: uncooked and frozen.
- Pre-cooked: cooked and prepared before purchase (like a rotisserie chicken).
- Cooked: cooked by you at home.
I’ll tell you how long you can keep chicken in the refrigerator, how long chicken lasts in the freezer, how to store it properly, what to do with leftovers, and some other quick tips and FAQ you might be wondering about.
How long does chicken last in the refrigerator?
Chicken will last in the refrigerator for about 2-5 days, depending on if it’s cooked or uncooked.
- Fresh: Raw chicken will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. So cook it within 2 days, or else move it to the freezer until you need it.
- Cooked: If you buy it pre-cooked (rotisserie), or cook it yourself, store it in the fridge and eat it within 3-5 days. Otherwise, you should store it in the freezer instead.
- Frozen: If you buy frozen chicken, you can store it in the fridge for 2-3 days before cooking it. It will defrost/thaw in that time, and will need to be re-frozen if not used in that timeframe.
How long does chicken last in the freezer?
4 months – 1 year (Indefinitely if Uncooked)
When properly stored in the freezer, raw chicken technically lasts indefinitely. This is what makes chicken one of my favorite things to keep on hand for easy dinners. It will keep for a very long time, regardless of whether you buy it fresh or frozen.
- Uncooked (Raw): If you are storing uncooked chicken in the freezer, it will be safe to eat indefinitely. Chicken does lose quality over time in the freezer, but it will still be safe to eat long-term. For best quality, I recommend using frozen chicken within 1 year.
- Cooked: If you are storing cooked chicken, freeze it for up to 4 months. Eating it within this time will result in the best quality.
How to Store Chicken Properly
Storing chicken properly is important for food safety and quality. Follow these guidelines for storage to make sure your chicken will last in the freezer or fridge as long as possible.
Storing in the Refrigerator
- Fresh: Keep fresh chicken in its original packaging, and immediately store it in the refrigerator when you get home from the grocery store. Place it on a lower shelf, away from other foods (especially fresh foods/produce and unpackaged foods).
- Frozen: Keep frozen chicken in its original packaging, and store as directed above. Since it’s frozen, it will thaw in the fridge in about 1-2 days, and you can keep it refrigerated for 1-2 more days (2-4 days total). Only do this if you plan to cook it promptly, or else put it in the freezer.
- Pre-cooked/Cooked: Store cooked chicken in an airtight container in the fridge. You can use shallow containers or resealable bags. Just be sure to remove all air and fully seal it. It will keep for 3-5 days.
Storing in the Freezer
- Fresh: Keep fresh chicken in its original packaging to freeze. It will be fine in the freezer as is, as long as the packaging has not been opened or tampered with. If you want to store it for more than 2 months, I recommend wrapping the packaging tightly with heavy duty foil, or place it inside a freezer bag. This will help prevent freezer burn so that it lasts longer.
- Frozen: If you buy frozen chicken, place it in the freezer as soon as you get home from the supermarket. It will be freezer safe in its original packaging. Follow the guidelines above if you want to store it long-term.
- Pre-cooked/Cooked: Let cooked chicken cool, then place in the fridge for at least a few hours. Then wrap pieces in aluminum foil, and place them in a freezer-safe bag. Eat within 4 months for best quality.
Your freezer should be kept at 0°F (-18°C). This will properly freeze all foods, and keep them at a safe temperature to store long-term
Your refrigerator should be kept at or below 40°F (4°C) at all times. If the temperature goes above 40°F, your foods will spoil/go bad faster. This is especially important when storing meats and poultry.
Yes, you can still eat cooked chicken that has been in the fridge for 4-5 days. However, I generally recommend eating it within 3 days for best quality! Just make sure there is no strange smell or color change. I would not recommend eating it after 5 days.
For best quality and long-term storage, chicken should be frozen raw/uncooked. But if it’s already cooked, you can still freeze it.
Raw chicken should always be stored within 2 hours. Place it in the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home from the grocery store. If you’re planning to cook it, don’t take it out of the fridge more than 30 minutes before you start cooking.
Cooked chicken should not sit out at room temp for more than 2 hours. It should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer within that time range. I recommend storing it away after it’s cooled, but within an hour of cooking.
If you defrost your chicken in the refrigerator, then realize you won’t be cooking it within 3 days, you can safely re-freeze it. Just keep in mind that the more you do this, the more the quality will deteriorate.
Yes! If the chicken has been fully cooked and stored properly in the fridge, you can eat it cold. But eat it straight away (don’t let it sit out for too long). Do not partially warm it up, or else it could move into the unsafe temperature range.
Chicken is unsafe to eat between the internal temperatures of 40-140°F (that’s the range between refrigeration and fully cooked). In this range, foodborne illnesses start to multiply, and can make you ill if ingested. That’s why it’s important to store chicken properly, and follow safe food handling guidelines.
That pink liquid might be alarming, but it is just water. Moisture is absorbed by the chicken during the chilling process, and it may leak out in the package. But it is nothing to worry about!
Freezer burn affects the quality of the chicken. You should cut off any freezer burn before cooking or reheating. If an entire piece of chicken has freezer burn, I recommend just throwing it out. Store it properly to avoid this.
If chicken has a strange smell, has changed colors or turned gray (it should generally be somewhere between white and pink), or looks slimy or moldy, it has spoiled. It’s better to be on the safe side, so when in doubt, throw it out!
Is chicken okay to eat after the “sell by” or “best by” date?
Yes, chicken is safe to eat past the best used by date on the package.
Sell by, best used by, and expiration dates on poultry are generally for reference by the supermarket or seller, rather than the consumer. This date tells a grocery store when they need to throw out chicken instead of selling it.
For consumers (you, the person cooking and eating it), “best used by” date is more for quality assurance. Do not buy chicken at the store that has passed the date on the package (choose something with a later date if possible). But once you have it at home, follow all of the guidelines here about storing it in the freezer or fridge.
For example, if you buy chicken on the “best used by” date, store it in the fridge, and cook it within 1-2 days, it is totally safe to eat. Otherwise, you should freeze it.
If the chicken is stored in the freezer (continuously, without thawing), then you can safely cook and consume it well after that date, indefinitely.
Food Safety Tips
- Chicken should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F before consuming. Do not consume uncooked or undercooked poultry.
- You can safely thaw chicken in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. I recommend defrosting in the fridge for best results. It will take 1-2 days.
- Chicken can be cooked from frozen in the oven, without thawing. But do not cook frozen chicken in a slow cooker without defrosting.
- Do not wash, rinse, or soak raw chicken. This will likely spread bacteria to other foods and surfaces.
- When in doubt, store your chicken in the freezer! This will give you the best chance of keeping it for cooking/eating later.
- Store raw chicken away from other foods in the refrigerator. Otherwise, liquids and juices from the poultry could seep into other foods and contaminate them.
- Don’t be afraid to stock up on chicken when you find a good deal. Just put it all in the freezer when you get home, and you can defrost it for future meals.
- Do not partially cook chicken before storing. Either fully cook it before storing in the fridge or freezer, or store it uncooked.
Now that you know everything you could possibly be wondering about how long chicken will last, you can safely store it away for cooking and eating. Store chicken properly in the refrigerator or the freezer, and it will be there for you whenever you need it!