Chicken that has been refrigerated for 5 days is not necessarily bad or unsafe to eat. Properly handled and stored raw chicken can usually last 3-5 days in the fridge before spoiling. However, there are a few factors that determine whether chicken is still good after 5 days, including:
- Freshness of the chicken when you first refrigerated it
- Proper storage temperature – consistently at or below 40°F
- Packaging – air-tight packaging prevents drying out
- Exposure to other foods – cross-contamination can cause spoilage
So chicken that’s 5 days old may be fine if it was fresh when bought, has been kept chilled at proper fridge temps, and wasn’t contaminated. But it’s important to fully cook older chicken and check for signs of spoilage before eating.
How can you tell if chicken has gone bad after 5 days refrigerated?
Here are some signs that indicate your refrigerated raw chicken has spoiled and should be discarded after 5 days:
- Slimy texture and sticky or tacky feeling
- Noticeable change in color, such as chicken turning gray
- Dull, faded appearance compared to when purchased
- Strong, unpleasant sour or ammonia-like smell
- Slimy film on surface
- Mold visible on chicken
If your chicken exhibits any of those characteristics after sitting refrigerated for 5 days, it’s best to throw it out. Relying on sight and smell is the most reliable way to determine freshness.
What causes chicken to spoil after 5 days in the fridge?
Chicken can spoil in the fridge after 5 days due to:
- Bacterial growth – bacteria like salmonella multiply rapidly at fridge temps
- Enzyme activity – enzymes start breaking down proteins
- Oxidation – fats go rancid when exposed to air
- Mold growth – spores can grow in humid fridge conditions
- Yeast production – yeasts produce CO2 and alcohol as they ferment sugars
Even at cool refrigerator temperatures, spoilage organisms continue to grow and multiply, causing the decomposition of chicken over time. Proper food safety techniques like temperature control, storage, and handling help slow this down.
Does cooking make spoiled chicken safe to eat?
No, cooking does not make spoiled, bad chicken safe to eat. Any chicken that shows signs of spoilage should be discarded, even after thorough cooking.
- Toxins from bacteria remain after cooking. Heat cannot destroy the dangerous toxins produced by bacteria as chicken spoils.
- Texture suffers. Spoiled chicken flesh becomes unappetizingly soft and mushy when cooked.
- Off flavors persist. Cooking doesn’t get rid of the strong, rancid taste and smell of spoiled chicken.
- Harmful microbes may survive. Some bacteria can withstand cooking temperatures.
Consuming spoiled chicken can cause unpleasant symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, it can even lead to serious food poisoning. Always err on the side of caution and throw away questionable chicken.
Tips for keeping chicken safe for 5 days in the refrigerator
You can maximize your chicken’s shelf life and keep it safe for 5 days by:
- Chilling right away – Refrigerate chicken within 2 hours of purchasing.
- Using promptly – Cook or freeze fresh chicken within 1-2 days for best quality.
- Monitoring temps – Make sure your fridge temp is 40°F or below.
- Storing properly – Keep chicken in a designated meat drawer or deli tray.
- Avoiding cross-contamination – Store chicken securely wrapped away from ready-to-eat foods.
- Checking packaging – Reject torn, leaking packages when shopping.
- Sanitizing surfaces – Clean your refrigerator regularly.
Following the basic rules of refrigeration and food safety is the best way to maximize chicken’s shelf life. But when in doubt after 5 days, remember the cardinal rule is: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
How long does raw chicken last in the fridge?
With proper refrigeration and handling, here are the expected shelf lives for raw chicken:
- Whole chicken – 1-2 days
- Chicken pieces – 2-3 days
- Ground chicken – 1-2 days
- Chicken breast or thighs – 3-5 days
The refrigerator shelf life of chicken depends on a variety of factors:
- Freshness when purchased – chicken from the butcher counter lasts longer than pre-packaged
- Proper temperature – consistently 40°F or below
- Packaging – sealed air-tight packaging prevents drying out
- Surface area – whole chicken keeps longer than parts or ground
- Expiration dates – follow use-by date codes for maximum freshness
For optimal safety and quality, it’s advisable to cook or freeze chicken within 2-3 days of purchasing it fresh. But chicken that’s been continuously refrigerated can still be good for 3-5 days past the sell-by date before spoiling.
Can you freeze chicken to extend its shelf life?
Yes, freezing chicken is an effective way to safely prolong its shelf life beyond the typical 3-5 days it would last in the fridge.
Here are some freezing tips to extend chicken shelf life:
- Freeze chicken in air-tight packaging or freezer bags.
- Portion chicken pieces into servings before freezing for easy thawing.
- Avoid freezing previously frozen and thawed chicken again.
- Label chicken packages with contents and freeze-by date.
- Maintain freezer at 0°F or below for long-term storage.
- Use frozen chicken within 9-12 months for best quality.
Properly frozen chicken maintains its quality much longer. Raw chicken that has been continuously frozen at 0°F can last 9-12 months before deteriorating.
How long is cooked chicken good for in the fridge?
Cooked chicken that has been refrigerated has a shorter shelf life than fresh raw chicken. Here are the typical fridge shelf lives for cooked chicken:
- Whole roasted chicken – 3-4 days
- Cooked chicken pieces or wings – 3-4 days
- Cooked chicken tenders or nuggets – 1-2 days
- Shredded cooked chicken – 3-4 days
- Chicken soup or casserole – 3-4 days
The same food safety rules apply to cooked chicken. Store it sealed in the fridge at 40°F or less and check for spoilage. Cooked chicken texture suffers if kept too long. For longer storage, freeze cooked chicken.
Can you reheat chicken after 5 days in the fridge?
Previously cooked leftover chicken can be safely reheated and eaten after 5 days refrigerated if it still looks and smells fresh. Here are some reheating tips:
- Inspect leftover chicken for signs of spoilage before reheating.
- Discard chicken with an off smell or slimy texture – don’t risk eating it.
- Reheat chicken thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Bring soup or casseroles with chicken to a boil when reheating.
- Only reheat chicken once for food safety.
- Consume reheated chicken immediately – don’t keep for later.
You can safely reheat properly handled 5 day old chicken only once. After reheating, any remaining chicken should be discarded. Don’t attempt to re-refrigerate and reheat chicken again.
What are the risks of eating spoiled chicken?
Eating spoiled, rotten chicken can make you very sick. Potential health risks include:
- Food poisoning – from salmonella, E. coli, or other bacteria
- Vomiting and diarrhea – from toxins produced by microbes
- Abdominal pain and cramps – caused by illness from bacteria
- Nausea – from disgust response at smell/taste of spoiled chicken
- Weakness and fatigue – dehydration and electrolyte loss from vomiting/diarrhea
- In severe cases, hospitalization may be required for treatment.
Consuming bad chicken can be very detrimental to health. At the first signs of food poisoning, seek medical treatment immediately. Call your doctor if diarrhea lasts over 3 days or is accompanied by high fever, bloody stool, or dehydration.
Should you freeze or toss chicken that’s been refrigerated for 5 days?
If raw chicken has been sitting in the fridge for 5 days, it’s best to throw it out rather than trying to freeze at that point. Here’s why freezing is not recommended after 5 days:
- Bacteria have already proliferated and produced toxins that can’t be killed by freezing.
- Quality has diminished – chickens flesh, juices, and texture suffer after that duration of storage.
- Freezing stops growth but doesn’t eliminate all microbes already present.
- Chicken risks further deterioration during the freeze/thaw process.
For safety, chicken that’s exhibited any spoilage signs like smell, look, or slime should go directly into the trash or garbage disposal after 5 days refrigerated. Discard when in doubt.
Chicken that has been continuously refrigerated for 5 days may still be fine to cook and eat – IF it was fresh when purchased and stored properly at 40°F or below the entire time. However, it’s risky to consume if there are any signs of spoilage like off-smell, slime, or changed color/texture. The safest bet is to discard questionable chicken after 5 days in fridge to avoid any foodborne illness. Freezing is not an option at that point either. For maximum safety and quality, cook, freeze, or discard fresh raw chicken by 3 days refrigerated. Always reheating cooked chicken leftovers only once.