How to Handle Chicken Safely
Chicken is kept cold during
distribution to retail stores to prevent the growth of bacteria
and to increase its shelf life. Chicken should feel cold to the
touch when purchased. Select fresh chicken just before checking
out at the register. Put packages of chicken in disposable plastic
bags (if available) to contain any leakage which could cross-contaminate
cooked foods or produce. Make the grocery your last stop before
When purchasing fully cooked rotisserie or fast food chicken, be sure it is hot at time of purchase. Use it within two hours or cut it into several pieces and refrigerate in shallow, covered containers. Eat within 3 to 4 days, either cold or reheated to 165 °F (hot and steaming). It is safe to freeze ready-prepared chicken. For best quality, flavor and texture, use within 4 months.
The best ways to defrost chicken are: in the refrigerator,
in cold water and in the microwave. Never defrost chicken on the counter
or in other locations. It's best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing
in the refrigerator. Boneless chicken breasts will usually defrost
overnight. Bone-in parts and whole chickens may take 1 to 2 days or
longer. Once the raw chicken defrosts, it can be kept in the refrigerator
an additional day or two before cooking. During this time, if chicken
defrosted in the refrigerator is not used, it can safely be refrozen
without cooking first.
The Hotline does not recommend buying retail-stuffed fresh whole chicken
because of the highly perishable nature of a previously stuffed item.
Consumers should not pre-stuff whole chicken to cook at a later time.
Chicken can be stuffed immediately before cooking. Some USDA-inspected
frozen stuffed whole poultry MUST be cooked from the frozen state
to ensure a safely cooked product. Follow preparation directions on
Chicken may be marinated in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Boil used marinade before brushing on cooked chicken. Discard any uncooked leftover marinade.
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