Here’s How to Tell If Chicken Has Gone Bad

There are three main things you need to check.

raw chicken legs package isolated on white backgroundPhoto: MaraZe/shutterstock

How to tell if raw chicken is bad

Chicken is the number one food that causes food poisoning. So it makes sense that people want to know how to tell if chicken is bad. Here’s advice from the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA) and a dietitian on how to tell if chicken has gone bad.

Check the date

Checking the date is the first step to see if raw chicken is safe to eat. If the printed date passed, the quality of the meat isn’t that great, although it’s still usable. The USDA recommends people cook raw chicken within one or two days of the date on the package. The advice differs per type of meat, however. (Here’s why you should never wash chicken before cooking it.)

Use your senses

Check with your eyes, nose, and fingers before eating chicken that might be bad. Raw, fresh chicken that isn’t bad does have a very faint, mild odour, according to Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, the Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Spoiled chicken, however, has an obvious rancid or sour smell. And as it spoils, the colour of the chicken changes from pinkish to grayish, Malkani says. And rather than having a moist, glossy feel, rotten chicken is covered in a thick layer of what seems like sticky slime, adds Malkani, creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle. If you’re still in the store buying chicken, the package should feel cold to the touch, per the USDA.

How to tell if cooked chicken is bad

Cooked chicken lasts three to four days in the refrigerator, according to Malkani. If you’re unsure, use your senses again to check if cooked chicken is inedible. “Other signs that chicken has gone bad are foul odours, a slimy texture, and a change in colour from white or brown to grayish, greenish, or mouldy,” Malkani says.

Remember, how to tell if chicken is bad comes down to colour, texture, and odour. If one or more of these things seem “off,” it’s a safe bet to toss it out. If your chicken passes all these tests, however, find out how to perfectly roast chicken thighs every single time.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest