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How Long Is Chicken Good After The Sell-By Date? Explained

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Except for vegans and vegetarians, many of us consume meat almost daily, whether ground meat or whole pieces of cooked meat. And all of us want to handle that meat properly because it is a highly sensitive food and we don’t want to get food poisoning.

Since chicken is one of the most consumed types of meat, many questions about chicken arise, whether it is chicken breasts, thighs, wings, or any other part of a chicken.

In most cases, people want to know more about chicken’s shelf life and storage tips and, since many are confused about packaging dates, it is logical that the main question is “How long is chicken good after the sell-by date?”.

Here, I will just say that chicken can be consumed a day or two past the sell-by date.

However, you still need to know a little more in order for that to work.

How Long Is Chicken Good After The Sell-By Date?

packaged fresh chicken

If you want to handle your chicken properly, you must know some facts about the chicken itself, no matter if there is any type of date on its original packaging or not.

As I already said in the introduction, chicken will still stay good for about 1-2 days past the chicken sell-by date. 

However, you still need to know how to handle and store those pieces of juicy meat the right way in order to preserve its freshness and best quality.

But, before that, I want you to know a few important facts about the sell-by date, as well as some other important dates like the expiry date, use-by date, and best-by date that you can see on almost every food item at the grocery store or supermarket.

What Is Sell-By Date?

I think that many of you will be surprised when you read this because there is so much confusion about this product dating. Because it is at the center of today’s topic, I will start with the sell-by date.

Well, the sell-by date is actually the printed date that is important to retailers that are working at the grocery store in order for them to know how long they can keep the product on the shelves before it is sold.

According to the USDA, the product will retain its freshness and best quality within that time frame, but it won’t necessarily go bad after that date.

It will just start to decline in terms of quality, but it certainly won’t be dangerous to your health if, of course, you handle and store it properly.

What Is The Difference Between Sell-By Date And The Expiration Date?

As you could have seen in the previous paragraph, the sell-by date is mainly important for the sellers rather than for buyers and consumers because it tells the sellers and retailers how long they can keep the product on the shelf.

On the other hand, the expiration date is important for the consumers because it tells them for how long the product will remain good, i.e. safe for consumption.

However, many food products don’t even have an expiration date written on the labeling because they can not tell you the exact date of spoilage of your meat or any other food since that depends on so many factors.

But, there is one date that is quite common for many types of food, especially meat products, and that leads us to the next paragraph.

Sell-By Date Vs Use-By Date

The last type of date that you can see on the packaging of food is the so-called use-by date or best-by date.

When you read the explanation about this date, you will see that it is quite similar to the sell-by date because it tells you for how long the product will retain its freshness and quality.

As you could have seen earlier in the text, the same goes for the sell-by date because it also acknowledges how long the product will retain its freshness and quality.

However, the key difference lies in the fact that the sell-by date is intended for retailers and sellers while, on the other hand, the use-by date is important for buyers and consumers.

So, if your product is past the use-by date, you can still consume it after a couple of days, i.e. it is still safe to eat, but it will slowly start to decline in terms of freshness and quality. Of course, the same goes for chicken’s use-by date.

Can You Eat Chicken After The Sell-By Date?

the woman is holding a packaged chicken in her hand

Now that you know more about these printed dates, let’s go back to the chicken sell-by date and explain some important things.

Let’s assume that you just bought some fresh chicken at your local grocery store but you noticed that today’s date is labeled on the packaging as a sell-by date. Logically, you are wondering if it is still safe for consumption.

Well, as I already said, it is safe to consume chicken a day or two past the sell-by date if you store it properly in the refrigerator right away.

However, when the sell-by date overlaps with today’s date, I would recommend you refrigerate the chicken properly and use it within one day in order to stay on the safe side.

On the other hand, if the sell-by date overlaps with tomorrow’s date, you can freely refrigerate your chicken and let it stay in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Although some food safety and food storage experts suggest that you can leave your meat in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days past the sell-by date, I really wouldn’t recommend that because, if it really doesn’t go bad, it will certainly be of lower quality.

How To Store Raw Chicken?

If you are planning to consume your chicken within 1-2 days, it is best to store it in the fridge. However, you can not just put the chicken in the fridge however you like. You need to know a few tips in order for your chicken to stay safe and tasty.

So, if you just bought your chicken from the grocery store, you can refrigerate it in its original packaging. 

However, you must make sure that there are no holes and cracks on the surface of the packaging because air can accelerate the spoilage process of fresh meat.

In that case, it is not a bad idea to wrap the packaging with plastic wrap in order to protect it from the air. And I would suggest you double-wrap it to be 100% sure.

After that, it is best to put the wrapped packaging with chicken in a plastic bag to catch any remaining juices and put it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

Do not put it on the top shelf because you never know when those juices can leak out and drip down on the rest of the food in the refrigerator.

One more note. Always make sure that the temperature of the refrigerator is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit because a higher temperature will accelerate the spoilage of your meat.

See also: How Long Does Rotisserie Chicken Last In The Fridge?

How To Extend The Shelf Life Of Chicken?

boiled chicken on a black plate

The USDA recommends that it is best to refrigerate uncooked chicken within 1-2 days of purchase if you are planning to consume it within that time frame.

Cooking Chicken

But, what if you are not planning to use your chicken quickly, i.e. if you are planning to store it for a few days longer? Well, the solution is quite simple. 

All you need to do is to cook it because cooked chicken can remain good in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

All you have to do is to cook your chicken within 1-2 hours after buying it because, if it stays at room temperature for longer, harmful bacteria will start to grow and you will end up getting food poisoning or a foodborne illness.

All poultry should be cooked to the internal temperature of 165 degrees F, according to the USDA.

When it reaches that temperature, you can let it stay outside the fridge for a while until it cools down to room temperature.

Just make sure that you don’t leave cooked chicken outside for more than 2 hours!

When the chicken is cooled, you can put it in an airtight container and put that container somewhere far from the fridge doors where the temperature is stable.

Freezing Chicken

If you are planning to store your chicken long-term, it is best to freeze it. If today’s date overlaps with the sell-by date, freeze the chicken immediately if you don’t want it to go to waste.

You can freeze both raw chicken and cooked chicken.

If you want to freeze raw chicken, you can leave it in its original packaging and double-wrap the packaging by using freezer paper or plastic wrap.

After that, wrap it with another layer of foil and put it in a freezer bag and, of course, make sure that the bag is properly sealed. Your chicken will remain good in the freezer for up to 9 months.

If you have already cooked the chicken and you want to preserve it for a long period of time, you can freeze it as well.

In order to freeze cooked chicken, you first have to let it cool down to room temperature. Make sure that it doesn’t stay on the countertop for more than 2 hours.

After that, put it in an airtight container and freeze it. If you don’t have an airtight container, you can also use good-quality freezer bags. You just have to make sure to suck out all the excess air from the bag by using a vacuum sealer.

The properly vacuum-sealed chicken will guarantee freshness and quality. Label the bag or container with the exact date of storage and put it in the freezer. Your cooked chicken will remain good for up to about 1-3 months in the freezer.

That is all you have to know about extending the shelf life of chicken by freezing it.

How To Know If Chicken Is Bad?

How To Know If Chicken Is Bad

Yersinia, e.coli, and salmonella are all types of harmful bacteria that can contaminate your chicken, alongside some nasty bugs, and make you sick if you consume that chicken. So, it is important to know the signs of spoilage of your meat, no matter what.

• Discoloration: Fresh, raw chicken is light pink in color. So, if you notice any strange colors on the surface of the meat, including green, yellow, or gray, it is best to get rid of the meat because it has probably gone bad.

• Bad Smell: Fresh raw chicken smells very mild or doesn’t smell at all. So, if you sense any smell, especially a foul, sour smell, that might be a sign of spoiled chicken. In order to stay on the safe side, it is best to discard it.

• Slimy Texture: Fresh, raw chicken should have a glossy, somewhat soft texture. However, if it is slimy or sticky under your fingers, it is most likely bad and you shouldn’t consume it.


a woman cuts a chicken on a cutting board

Can You Eat Chicken 3 Days Past The Sell-By Date?

Although some people think that properly refrigerated chicken can be consumed 3 days after the sell-by date, it is actually not recommendable to consume it after 1-2 days.

In that time frame, the chicken will retain its freshness and quality and it will be mostly safe for consumption if handled and stored properly in the refrigerator.

Can You Eat Chicken 2 Days Past The Use-By Date?

Since the second day after the sell-by date is actually the last day on which it is recommended to consume chicken, you definitely can eat chicken 2 days past the use-by date.

However, you have to know that the quality of the chicken won’t be at the highest level.

Chicken Shelf Life After The Sell-By Date Summary

As you could have seen in this article, it is important to know to some extent, what is a chicken sell-by date, as well as some other dates like chicken use-by date and expiration date.

Although the sell-by date is primarily intended for retailers at grocery stores and supermarkets, it is also important for consumers because you can not consume chicken infinitely past that date.

So, the question was “How long is chicken good after the sell-by date?”. And you have learned that, if refrigerated properly, chicken can stay good for up to 1-2 days past the sell-by date.

If cooked to the right temperature, chicken can stay good for up to 3-4 days in the fridge and 1-3 months in the freezer.

If frozen the right way, raw chicken can remain good for up to 9 months in the freezer.