How long can thawed chicken stay in the fridge?

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Last Updated on: 23rd October 2022, 01:59 am

Frozen chicken is hardened and you need to soften it before cooking.

Refrigeration is an effective way to thaw chicken and soften its texture.

But when thawing, you may wonder how long thawed chicken can stay in the fridge.

Today’s article will explain it in detail.

As a general rule, thawed chicken that was cooked prior to freezing can last 3–4 days in the fridge.

The raw frozen chicken can last for 1-2 days depending on the freshness of the chicken and the temperature at which it’s stored.

Thawing is a compulsory step for the softening of chicken, but the chicken can be contaminated while thawing.

Due to which, it is placed inside the refrigerator to thaw slowly while also slowing down the growth of bacteria.

But thawed chicken will be contaminated after 3–4 days in the refrigerator.

These bacteria are present on the body surface of chickens due to being raised in contaminated areas.

Usually they replicate after 20 minutes, but if favourable conditions are provided, then their growth rate is increased by 4-5 times.

Refrigeration slows down the growth rate of bacteria and allows chicken to last for 3–4 days.

how long can thawed chicken stay in the fridge

There are various factors which affect how long will your thawed chicken stay in the fridge before going bad.

But the most important of them are temperature and texture of the chicken.

Raw and cooked chicken will have different shelf life in refrigerator.

If the chicken is raw and placed for thawing in the refrigerator, then it will only last for 1 or 2 days before going bad.

The reason is that chicken might not be fresh when you bought it from store or enough time has been passed without being exposed to heat .

Due to which the bacteria might have kept increasing over time .

You should keep in mind that the bacteriao growth occurs in a exponential pattern which mean if 2 bacterias were multiplying into 4 in 20 minutes then 4 will produce 8 in next 20 minutes.

While if you are thawing cooked chicken then it will last for 3-4 days.

But before placing it for thawing you should make sure to check it by color or smell to get an idea of it’s quality.

If it’s doesn’t smell sour , then it will last for 3-4 days

The reason is that if the chicken has been cooked prior to freezing, then there is a higher chance that most of the bacteria present inside it would have been killed.

Although the toxins produced by bacteria might still be present on the chicken.

How to check if thawed chicken has gone bad in refrigerator

Freezing is the most effective way to store chicken without going bad.

It can preserve chicken for several months without any contamination.

But it gardens the chicken when freezing and requires to thaw chicken before use.

When thawing, the clock for bacterial contamination that was stoped during freezing starts ticking again.

Due to which you need to be careful about contaminating your chicken with bacteria.

You should preferably use it immediately after thawing.

Freezing does not stop the bacterial growth entirely rather bacteria keep growing but the growth rate is lower.

Although these bacteria can been killed by heating the chicken to the internal temperature of 165°F , the toxins produced by these bacteria can still be present in the chicken.

so you need to make sure that it hasn’t gone bad before eating.

Here are most common ways to check if chicken has gone bad or not.

Nose test

The first and foremost test for checking the quality of chicken is by checking it’s smell.

If the chicken has started deteriorating , then it will have an obvious sour smell.

You can try sniffing it ,if it smells bad then it has gone bad and is unsafe for eating


After checking the odor of the chicken, you should try checking it’s color.

A good quality chicken will have a pink to opaque color when raw and golden brown color when Cooked.

But if it’s color is in shades of green then it has been contaminated


The final way to tell if the chicken is contaminated or not is by checking it’s texture.

If you have been cooking chicken for sometime then you might know how raw chicken feels like. A contaminated chicken is soft and slimy in texture.

Things to consider while determining how long will chicken last in refrigerator

When leaving your chicken for thawing in a refrigerator, there are several things you should keep in mind.

The most important of them is the temperature of the refrigerator. Moreover the freshness of chicken when you bought it also matters.

According to USDA , chicken should be left to sit out for no more than two hours at room temperature.

If the chicken has been left at room temperature for more than two hours then you should discard it to keep yourself at the safe end.

Refrigerating it will be of no use because it would have already been contaminated.

There are various factors that can contribute to the growth of bacteria on the surface of chicken.

The most common of them are temperature, time, hygiene, freshness and airflow.

We are going to explain all of them in detail to let you know how they affect the quality of chicken.


Temperature is the most crucial factor for the determination of how long can chicken stay in the fridge.

The multiplication of bacteria is highly sensitive to the temperature of environment and the rate of multiplication varies depending on temperature.

It is important to keep in mind that Although you can freeze the chicken to slow down the growth of bacteria, freezing will not kill the bacteria present on the chicken.

So if your chicken was placed in danger zone before freezing then it might be contaminated

As general rule, chicken can go bad after 2 hours if it is placed at the room temperature.

But if the temperature is between 40-140°F , then it can increase the rate of growth of bacteria by 4 to 5 times.

This range is usually known as danger zone . It is a myth that bacteria only grow faster at warm temperature.

The reality is that it depends on the properties of food. If the food is used cold then it should be placed at a temperature of below 40°F to avoid the bacterial growth

While if you are using a food that is usually served warm then increasing the temperature over 140°F can also stop the growth of bacteria.

The main point is to stay out of danger zone i.e.40-140°F temperature to slow down the bacterial growth.

The range between 40-140°F provides the bacteria with favorable conditions to grow. Due to which there rate of multiplication increases by 4-5 times.

These can lead to the early contamination of the chicken if left to sit out.

So if two chicken chunks are left to sit out at the same time,one at the room temperature while other at the temperature below 40°F or above 140°F , then the later chunk will have less contamination from bacteria while the former will be infected more because of favorable temperature.


It’s a no brainer that if we are measuring the quality of chicken in terms of time then time is also an important factor.

Time is important because the growth of bacteria keeps increasing over time , so more the time passed, more pathogens will chicken contain.

Time is really important for determining the growth of bacteria because bacteria grow exponentially rather than linearly.

To put in simple words , they don’t grow in the pattern of 1-2-3-4 rather they grow in a pattern of 1-2-4-8.

So more the time passed, the more the bacterial multiplication will occur.

So the growth of bacteria skyrockets after sometime due to increase in number of organisms.

If the growth keeps increasing in this way then chicken can even starting spoiling after sometime.

Usually bacteria multiply after each 20 minutes and produce more pathogens.

So if only ten bacteria were present initially the surface of chicken at the start, they could grow to around 2000 bacterias after 2 hours due to exponential growth .

By keeping in mind this growth pattern, you can estimate the numbers of bacteria present on your chicken if it’s left outside for more than 2 hours.

It is better to be safe than sorry, you should discard chicken If it has been left outside at room temperature.


Hygiene is also another determinant of growth rate of bacteria.

If the chicken is left out on a clean surface without any contamination, then the growth rate of bacteria will be slower because there will be no addition of bacteria from external environment.

Chicken can get contaminated befor 3 days if it’s done stored with proper hygiene.

The Hygiene should be maintained both outside and inside the fridge.

If you have handled the chicken well outside but placed it in a Fridge full of mixture of water and blood then it will contaminate rapidly.

Similar to the growth of bacteria on chicken, bacteria can also grow exponentially in surrounding environment like kitchen or stovetop.

If these are not cleaned properly then it will result in increased growth of bacteria on chicken

Cleaning of environment will not slow down the growth of bacteria present on chicken but it will help to avoid any contamination from external environment.

If the surrounding is not clean then chicken can go bad rapidly.

The bacteria will be way higher in contaminated area.

You can estimate the numbers of bacteria in an environment by the fact that a rotten apple will contain several thousands to millions of pathogens it.

If it is placed adjacent to chicken, then it can will go bad immediately.

You should keep in mind that contamination is not always visible,if you have washed chicken in a sink, then it will also be contaminated.

You should consider cleaning the surfaces and untensils that come in contact with chicken with a disinfectant


When determining when will chicken go bad if left in refrigerator then you should also take in account the freshness of chicken.

If a chicken chunk has been bought from a butcher shop that was stale then it will go bad rapidly.

The 3 days rule applies to chicken that is fresh.

If you have no other option than buying a chicken that is already placed on the counter of butcher, then you should consider not buying chicken at all because chicken might have gone bad till now.

Usually butchers and restaurants owners avoid to place the chicken outside at room temperature for longer time because the health inspectors keep checking their quality time to time.

They usually place chicken in refrigerator when not cooking.

If a health inspector comes to a restaurant to check the food quality, then it’s first concern will be the chicken sitting out on the counter.

But he is not going to fine someone for placing chicken on counter, rather he will insert the probe of instant read thermometer into it.

The instant read thermometer will measure the internal temperature of the chicken and display it on its screen.

The health inspector will have no issues over placing on counter if the counter is clean and internal temperature of chicken is either below 40°F or above 140°F.


Airflow is also an important determinant of growth rate of bacteria.

Some bacteria are known as aerobic bacteria, these require oxygen for growth.

Due to airflow,the rate of multiplication of aerobic bacteria is increased.

Airflow can affect the chicken both before freezing and also during thawing in refrigerator.

If the chicken is placed without removing air from jar or vacuum sealed bag, then it will become soft and mushy.

Due to which it will start deteriorating.

Moreover air can also contain several pathogenic microorganisms within it which can contaminate the chicken.

You should consider sealing chicken in an airtight jar whether you are placing it outside or within a refrigerator to decrease contamination.

How to thaw your chicken without contamination

Thawing frozen chicken is a tedious task and it may require several hours to complete.

But you can’t leave your frozen chicken out because it may start contaminating by bacteria.

To avoid contamination, you should consider following one of these methods for thawing.


Refrigeration is the most easiest and effective way to thaw your chicken without the worries of contamination.

A frozen chicken can be placed into the refrigerator for 3-4 days without the development of bacterial contamination.

The reason is that bacterial growth is slowed down at low temperature.

To thaw your chicken by refrigeration. You just need to place your chicken in a bowl and put the bowl into the refrigerator.

After that you just need to wait for it to thaw completely.

By running tap water

Another way to thaw your chicken without contamination is to hold it under the running tap water.

The water usually has higher temperature than freezing point and it will result in thawing your frozen chicken slowly.

To thaw your chicken by tap water, you just need to hold your chicken under the running tap water.

You should consider washing the sink with a disinfectant after thawing chicken.

The reason is that raw chicken can contain several pathogens which can contaminate other foods .

By cold water

The last method to thaw your chicken without contamination is by putting it in a bowl of Cold water.

The chicken does not contaminate by bacterial pathogens because the temperature of the cold water is below 40°F , due to which bacterial growth is slowed.

To thaw your chicken by cold water, you need to take a bowl of Cold water and place your chicken into it along with the freezer bag.

Make sure to discard the water and refill the bowl with cold water again after every 20-30 minutes.

Hopefully, your chicken will be thawed within 2 hours, if somehow the chicken does not thaw within two hours then you don’t need to worry about that because it will still be safe because due to cold water, chicken internal temperature will be still below 40°F.

Final takeaway

Cooked chicken can stay in fridge for 3-4 days when thawing and raw chicken can stay in for 1-2 days.

But you should simply take in account the time , rather you should also take other factors like freshness and temperature before making the final decision. if you want to learn more ,then consider checking out our article on How long does smoked cheese last?

Jakob miller
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