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A similar question about fish was all I found, but fish is not chicken and they have different considerations.

I buy chicken from Whole Foods that comes already sealed, and is labeled as "Air Chilled". It is not frozen when I buy it, although I am not sure if it has ever been frozen and thawed before.

My question is how long will this last in the fridge? I buy them in large quantities and freeze them to be eaten over the course of a couple weeks, occasionally I will thaw one (still sealed) and not eat it for a couple days. Is this safe?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

My answer to the other question still applies: vacuum packing will not prevent most foodborne pathogens from multiplying. In the case of chicken, it will stop campylobacter (which needs small amounts of oxygen) but will not stop salmonella or listeria.

Here's how you can determine if thawed, previously frozen chicken is still safe to eat:

  • When freezing, marking the freezing date on masking tape and stick it on the package
  • When thawing, mark the thawing date similarly
  • To determine if it's still good: subtract the freezing date from the original expiration date, and see if it's been that many days since you thawed it

This method works because spoilage is halted by freezing... but not reversed. Once you thaw, the process picks back up where it left off. A few days in the fridge after thawing should be fine, assuming you don't wait until right before expiration to freeze the chicken.

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How about '21 days' for vacuum packed foods, or does that only apply to cooked foods? – BaffledCook Aug 31 '11 at 7:56
@BaffledCook: Where are you drawing the "21 days" figure from? I could see it applied to cooked foods which are almost immediately sealed and fast-chilled. It would make sense, as the food has spoilage microorganisms killed by heat, and without exposure to air, they can't repopulate. Fast cooling can greatly extend fridge life of foods, and a hermetically sealed pack can be fully submerged in ice water for maximum cooling. – BobMcGee Aug 31 '11 at 18:07
Must have been a sales talk :) and here – BaffledCook Aug 31 '11 at 21:01
@BaffledCook: My guess was almost spot on. 21 days makes perfect sense, based on your link; you're talking about sous-vide cooking food, followed by "rapid cooling" (probably an ice water bath). It's like canning or pasteurization, where bacteria are killed by heat, and not allowed to re-contaminate the food. – BobMcGee Sep 1 '11 at 2:56

I posted this link on a different post previously and it should give you some ideas.

Safe Thawing

FSIS recommends three ways to thaw chicken: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Never thaw chicken on the counter or in other locations. It's best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Boneless chicken breasts, bone-in parts, and whole chickens may take 1 to 2 days or longer to thaw. Once the raw chicken thaws, it can be kept in the refrigerator an additional day or two before cooking. During this time, if chicken thawed in the refrigerator is not used, it can safely be refrozen without cooking it first.

More reference.

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