Skip to Content

How to Tell if Chicken Is Bad?

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclaimer for additional details.

Eating borderline spoiled food is one thing. But, if you push something too far, you probably will get an upset stomach or throw up a few times. Never fun.

However, eating sour chicken is another thing altogether. With chicken, the stakes are incredibly high.

Eating bad chicken, whether it’s raw or sitting in the fridge too long, can cause serious illness.

You may have seen world-famous British Chef Gordon Ramsey screaming at people on any episode of his show. He has exceptionally high standards but serving undercooked or spoiled chicken ranks as the highest.

The good news is that telling whether some chicken meat is fresh or rotten is relatively easy.

Chicken often takes on a raw or sour smell when it starts to turn, so it’s relatively easy to avoid serving or eating rotten chicken. Here are some ways you can tell if the chicken has gone off, so you don’t eat it yourself or give it to anyone you know.

When is Cooked Chicken Bad?

The main thing you have to worry about with cooked chicken is how long it’s been in the fridge.

The USDA recommends that cooked chicken should only stay in the refrigerator for or be eaten within three to four days of cooking.

Of course, the USDA has to open a large umbrella to cover even the most extreme cases. The truth is, most cooked chicken, like something you grill on the BBQ or cook in the oven, will last around a week.

However, the sauce you cook or store it in will affect how long it stays fresh.

You’re in gambling territory if you push things past a week. Use the smell and sight test to check things out before you put a bite of cooked chicken in your mouth.

If there is any noticeable mold, discoloration, or it smells funky, throw it in the trash. Things can’t be that bad in your fridge or pantry. At worst, eat some crackers or go out for dinner. It’s not worth the risk of food poisoning.

To help cooked chicken last longer in the fridge, store it alone in an air-tight container for best results.

When is Raw Chicken Bad?

Raw chicken needs more careful treatment because serving raw chicken can be a big problem. If it’s bad raw chicken, the issues can compound quickly.

Thankfully, determining that raw chicken is bad is more straightforward than cooked chicken.

Most people run into raw chicken when they take a frozen chicken breast out of the freezer to cook for dinner, and then plans change. What was supposed to be for dinner sits in the fridge for two or three days, and then people remember, “Oh, shoot! I have to cook that chicken!”

At this point, telling whether something is good or bad is a big deal. Don’t think you can cook the bad away. It doesn’t work very well with chicken.

The best way to tell if the raw chicken is bad is to smell it.

You’ll sense a sweet, sour scent when you bring the raw chicken close. Please don’t rely on a visual test because the chicken will look good long after it’s gone bad. Smelling for bad odors is the way to go.

Usually, raw chicken is only suitable for a couple of days in the fridge after defrosting. When you buy fresh chicken at the grocery store, something to keep in mind, if you’re not cooking it soon, stick it in the freezer.

chef prepared raw chicken with tongs before cooking

Chicken Smells Funny But Still in Date?

When this happens, and it does happen often, you shouldn’t take any chances.

However, one concern here is that different people react in various ways when they smell raw chicken. For example, one person will swear a piece of chicken is bad, and another will say it smells like raw chicken.

When this happens, you’re usually OK. However, when there is consensus around a funky smell, that’s when you should take things seriously.

If it’s still within the sell-by or expiration date, take it back to the grocery store and get them to refund your purchase or give you some new chicken cuts.

Other Questions that You Might Wonder About:

What happens if you eat slightly bad chicken?

You’ll probably be fine. Maybe you’ll get a bit of an upset stomach or lose your appetite for a few days. If you feel very sick, you should get some medical attention.

whole chicken on a chopping board

Is chicken OK if it smells a little?

Raw meat definitely has a smell. The main issue with raw chicken is that some people think it’s bad no matter how fresh it is because they’re not used to it. If cooked chicken smells off, then no, you shouldn’t eat it.

Can raw chicken last 5 days in the fridge?

Yes, in some cases, but this is really pushing your luck. If you see that your chicken looks deflated, there is a lot of ooze in the bag or container it’s in, or if it smells terrible, you should throw it away.

Is it OK to eat meat that smells a little?

Maybe, but why take a chance? Just go out and buy different food or cook some other meat for your meal. Better safe than sorry.

How good is raw chicken in the fridge?

Raw chicken in the fridge is undoubtedly better than raw chicken on the counter. Still, raw chicken should be cooked soon after defrosting or purchase.

How long after eating bad chicken do you get sick?

Usually, there is a delay between a few hours and a day until people start feeling sick. Then, your body will start reacting to the bacteria and reject the chicken. But, if it’s too late, your digestive system will jump into overdrive to get it out of your body.

What does rotten meat smell like?

Rotten meat can smell sour or a little sweet. It’s interesting that many people have an innate adverse response to bad meat. It’s like years of evolution tell you that you shouldn’t eat it.

upset stomach

Can you get sick from smelling rotten meat?

Not unless you’re putting the bad meat right under your nose for a long time. It can make you nauseous.

Resources