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?
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).
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.
Here is what the USDA recommends:
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.
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).
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).
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.
BUT WHAT IF YOU FORGET TO THAW IT AND YOU ARE REALLY HUNGRY NOW!?!?!
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.
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.)
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.