My wife is obsessed about not leaving uncooked meats in the fridge longer than a day (esp. Chicken). If we buy chicken breast and we're not going to use them the next day, she'll put them in the freezer. I always tell her it should be OK at least a week, but she thinks I'm crazy. Can anyone give me some factual ammo I could use against her?

  • 2
    I would bet that its in the fridge in the shop longer than a day, so I would say its at least good until the best before date on the pack, and probably ok a little beyond that. As others have said, use your nose, and better safe than sorry. What is your issue with freezing it?
    – Sam Holder
    Commented Dec 1, 2010 at 9:31
  • @Sam - the only issue I have with freezing it is defrost time. It seemed to be a waste of time to freeze, then defrost it if we're going to use it a few days later...
    – Ovi Tisler
    Commented Dec 1, 2010 at 13:57
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    yeah white meat is not good after 3 days, freezing causes dehydration of the meat and cellular breakdown and its no longer tender/juicy (its different for red meat though it should be aged for 14 to 18 days at the right temp before its consumed)
    – Reno
    Commented Dec 2, 2010 at 6:51
  • The title made me laugh. It will keep in the fridge as long as you don't take it out. Oh, you mean how long will it keep safe in the fridge! Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 22:53
  • Im surprised at the lack of actual evidence here, no studies, very little theory, two references to the USDA and a couple of anecdotal experiences. I don't have any great answer myself, but you still don't have a definitive answer here. Tell you what: I will start experimenting for science, and take one for the team. I will keep chicken in the fridge for 4 nights (but no longer) several times over the next year (as I have in the past), and if I get ill, I SWEAR I will return and update here. It's not a scientific study, but it's better that 'what someone told me' posts. Wish me luck!
    – jpmorris
    Commented May 16, 2021 at 18:05

4 Answers 4


Sorry, USDA recommends 1-2 days of refrigerated storage (40°F). Beyond that and you're tempting fate a bit. You're gonna have to eat some humble pie for your wife on this one (just don't ask here for the recipe).


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    Who's the government to tell me how to my food lasts! ;) I'll have to make sure my wife's humble pie doesn't include any of that chicken that I put in fridge last week
    – Ovi Tisler
    Commented Dec 1, 2010 at 4:26
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    I have to say that I have kept chicken in the fridge for longer than 2 days and not died. Some even have "best before" dates 3-4 days in. The quality definitely suffers, and I'm sure there's some risk, but it's probably low. The USDA, of course, plays it safe, but I think those of us who handle a lot of raw chicken prefer to use our noses. You can definitely smell when chicken's gone bad.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Dec 1, 2010 at 4:27
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    The exact quote: "Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb, or pork, within 3 to 5 days." Two days is definitely more than the one day you're waiting now, and some meats are okay longer! (And that's even according to the very-conservative USDA.)
    – Cascabel
    Commented Dec 1, 2010 at 6:21

My official guidelines are:

  • Chicken/Fish - 3 days
  • Beef/Lamb - 5 days
  • Bacon - a week

But if its been in more than a couple of days I'll always give it a sniff prior to cooking.

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    These aren't bad guidelines in my opinion (although I've kept bacon for way longer than a week), but you really should try to source them; few things on the internet are more dangerous than anonymous and unverified food safety claims.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Dec 1, 2010 at 15:24
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    @aaronut, I agree. Bacon can be kept way longer as it is cured. Benton's bacon actually ships at room temp and comes with a note saying it will last for months if unopened.
    – yossarian
    Commented Dec 1, 2010 at 16:27

Here is what the USDA recommends:

  1. While dates are not required to be printed on poultry, many stores will print a "use by" or "sell by" date. Even with "used by" dates, they still may be edible for a while, but the quality goes down. The key is all about (a) degrading of the age of the meat and (b) temperature at which bacteria can grow.

  2. When you bring it home, if you are not going to cook it immediately, it can last indefinitely if it is frozen consistently until you thaw it for eating. So toss it in the freezer immediately and cryogenize that chicken (which virtual stops the aging part of the equation).

  3. On the day you want to eat the chicken, that morning, move it from the freezer to the fridge. It will thaw throughout the day in the fridge, but not get below 40 degrees F. That is the key. Bacteria will grow at hotter than 40F (which solved the bacteria part of the equation).

  4. When you get home and are ready for dinner it will be thawed and waiting for you in your safe fridge and you can cook it and enjoy it.


  1. Use a microwave to thaw it. Part of the chicken might cook, while leaving the other half frozen, but remember you are only trying to thaw the chicken and not cook it. Toss it on the grill and finish it up.

  2. Cook it frozen. According to the USDA, cooking food straight from the freezer poses no special risk. So just toss the cold block in the pan and be ready for cooking to take 50% longer (but this is still quicker than waiting 10 hours for it to thaw out safely in the fridge.).

A final note on what not to do:

  • DO NOT thaw it on the counter top! Once the chicken temperature is above 40F, any cryogenized bacteria will come back to "life" and begin multiplying faster than you could imagine (this is the bacteria part of the equation gone wild... you are creating a bacteria-rich environmental opportunity).

  • DO NOT thaw it under warm water! This is even worse. Imagine setting up an experiment where you want to grow bacteria. If it isn't multiplying fast enough, then warm up the environment even faster to see the nasty magic happen. (again, this is the bacteria part of the equation gone wrong.)

  • Nice general recommendations, but they don't answer the question. It was not what to do with chicken, but how long it will keep in the fridge.
    – rumtscho
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 14:34
  • Welcome to the site @steve! Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 19:34

I have to agree with all the people from @Ryan Elkins answer and also your wife. It's a better practice to keep thing in freezer if you don't cook within a day, but some fridge like mine has a cooler box that has lower than usual temp that I may leave my uncooked meat a little bit longer, but 3 days are the max.

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