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?


3 Answers 3


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.

  • How about '21 days' for vacuum packed foods, or does that only apply to cooked foods? Aug 31, 2011 at 7:56
  • 1
    @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, 2011 at 18:07
  • Must have been a sales talk :) and here Aug 31, 2011 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, 2011 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. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/Chicken_from_Farm_To_Table/index.asp#26


If you do this regularly it seems you ought to know by now. Does it smell funky, get slimy? There are a number of factors at play that no date will tell you.

  1. Was the meat contaminated with salmonella previous to packing? If yes, then zero days is the answer.
  2. Was it frozen, thawed, refrozen? It'll have bad texture, would add more unthawed time to it, wouldn't last as long.
  3. Vacuum sealed in a brine? Is there some clear liquid around it? Then it'll last longer as that usually means a preservative was added.

This question comes up all the time about different meats. It'll vary, often with the same brand it'll be different. But you, as a human, were built with senses to detect spoiled meat. Smell it, feel it. If still in doubt cut off and cook a small piece and taste it, if bad spit it out. Otherwise, there is no magic date, no exact number of days that anyone can tell you absolutely one day or five. Longer if marinated or brined. Only once in ten years has some chicken smelled and felt fine, I made the dish, tasted it and threw it out because it was spoiled. Seeded vegetables are much much more likely to carry salmonella and I don't see many questions about how long people can keep a tomato or cucumber.

  • Smell and taste are absolutely not reliable ways to tell if something is dangerous. Certainly if it smells or tastes bad, you shouldn't be eating it, but bacteria doesn't always make bad smells or tastes before it makes the food dangerous. Most people who get food poisoning haven't eaten anything obviously bad.
    – Cascabel
    Sep 15, 2017 at 1:47
  • Jefromi I see your point but those food poisoning cases are almost entirely from prepared meals whether from restaurant or canned food. Not single ingredients and mostly not from meat. I looked through FDA and CDC records to verify that before posting. I didn't say if "food" smells okay it's completely safe, I was referring to a piece of raw chicken. But I think we can agree, as was most of the point, that if it does smell bad it's probably bad. Also that there are no guarantees. And that we do have senses to detect spoilage but not all contaminants. Time itself is not the answer.
    – Hebekiah
    Nov 13, 2017 at 21:29

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