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Is This Chicken Still OK?

So, I cooked up a whole chicken Sunday night, but haven't had time to boil it to make broth until tonight (Friday). Do you think it's still ok to cook down? It smells alright, but ever since getting food poison (from my own hand!) with chicken, I'm always a little wary.

Thank you!

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  1. In my house any food I cook goes in the garbage if not used after 3 days. Rarely happens, but I do not mess around with food safety just to save a few pennies.

    1 Reply
    1. re: swsidejim

      There was a similar discussion on another board recently.

      Several types of bacteria throw off spores/toxins that are heat resistant, so the notion that reheating old or contaminated food makes it safe to eat is not true.

      Keeping the chix in the fridge the whole time would slow the bacteria down but not prevent it from growing (and throwing off spores/toxins) completely.

      IMO that's too long, but my partner would both eat it and make soup from it if it's not gone past a week.

    2. That is totally your call, but I personally would eat it if it was refrigerated and less than 8 days...

      1. if you are going to make broth with it, it's not a food safety issue. the gentle boil should kill any bacteria. if it smells good and isn't slimy, i'd say go for it.

        4 Replies
          1. re: andytee

            If Staph grows and produces toxin boiling will not help.....

            1. re: Pollo

              i'm not going to get all scientific but if it smells good and isn't slimy, has already been cooked, and is going to be cooked at near boiling... well, i'd trust my senses. what would lead to staph contamination?

              1. re: andytee

                Staph you will find pretty much everywhere, they only growth their nice boil/cook resistant toxin under the right conditions. The example, you cook your chicken and take it out with a fork thats on the counter that your child put his hands still dirty from outside on. The Staph from the hands goes on the counter, on to the fork into the cooling or cool chick (which is a great place for reproduction). The chick goes into the fridge for 5 days where the staph grow slowly, but does produce the toxin. There is a great experiment using a red bacteria (serratia) that shows how easy things go from one place to another. Sadly it takes very little toxin to get one sick, but it usually takes a lot of bacteria to get food poisoning (ie... e.coli). The smell and slime is always a sure thing, but time and temperature are also helpful.

          2. If you're wary, toss it. Food poisoning ain't pleasant.

            1. The nose knows. The calendar doesn't.
              I have never figured out in decades of running a household why some things start to reek and get slimy after only a couple of days and other things are fine after a ridiculous amount of time.
              I have never poisoned any of the crowds that I feed and nobody has ever gotten sick or died from following the basic rule of exercising basic caution. If in doubt, throw it out.
              The statistics and science on things like staph (????), e coli, botulism, salmonella, etc. are such that basic good sense should guide you. Some of them are just bad luck. The food has them them when it comes into your kitchen on Day One and there's nothing you can do. I'm not going to spend my life in fetal position on the kitchen floor. Others are sanitation problems. Keep your kitchen clean.
              If your chicken smells fine, use it. Wasting is wrong and we throw away far too much in America. That does more harm to the environment than most things people get upset about.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MakingSense

                so true, in the not so olden days foodstuffs did not come with sell by's and use by's. We learnt to use our nose, hands and eyes, to buy smaller quantities and to use leftovers.

              2. Casa jfood - chicken cooked on sunday, and not eaten by tueday dinner, goes in the disposal. Given jfood's portion control mantra, this does not happen as often as jfood posts about it here. Rarely at all.

                1. Don't get your food safety advice from chowhound. Too many opinions based on nothing, and "facts" supposedly based on science with no backing. No one knows the temp of your fridge, your immune systm, how long the chicken sat at room temp, what you touched that day, how long the broth will be in the "danger zone", what was already in the chicken, etc... I would eat it, but I so rarely get sick from anything that I wouldn't advise what I do for others. That said, I'll bet (but I don't know) that your local chinese buffet is more dangerous, so if you can survive that, you're probably good. (that last bit is more of a rhetorical point than advice.

                  21 Replies
                  1. re: kindofabigdeal

                    There is a two day window on cooked chicken in my house...and I have never gotten sick either! No reason to risk it, I say toss it.

                    1. re: bubbles4me

                      Hmmmm, a $4.00 chicken or a potential case of food poisoning ? When in doubt, through it out..................

                      1. re: TonyO

                        How do you know that the rotisserie chicken, chicken salad or stuff from Whole Foods or wherever didn't have salmonella, staph or e coli the day you bought it?

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          because the OP said "I cooked up a whole chicken Sunday night".

                          But, heck, how do you know it wasn't poisoned by terrorists? Please, there is no need to be alarmist. Food poisoning sucks, but it is rare, and when it does happen it is often difficult to pinpoint the cause with any accuracy.

                          1. re: andytee

                            Exactly the point. Some of the posts pointed out types of poisons that aren't killed by heat. Some of them can come into your house in raw food. Salmonella in eggs - it's in the chicken when it lays the egg and has nothing to do with poor food handling. Staph as someone pointed out above is not killed by heat - that could come from poor handling of raw chicken before you cook it.
                            All sorts of things can get into food by cross-contamination. Kids have dirty hands when they grab snacks, etc.
                            If you buy prepared food, how do you know how old it is when you buy it?

                            I agree with you that food poisoning is rare. Thank God. I've had the really bad versions. But isn't some of it really bad luck?
                            And who's to say for certain what caused it? Unless a lot of people got sick from the identical item.

                            At what point do people go overboard on things? Throwing out perfectly good food?

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              I guess we have different opinions on what defines "perfectly good food". To me, a week old cooked chicken certainly falls in another category. Sure, it may not make you sick, but is it going to be enjoyable ? And to the comment about rotisserie chickens being plagued by some form of bacteria, you never really do know. I guess I'll just stop eating, close myself into a sterilized room and read poetry while drinking water that has been boiled.

                              1. re: TonyO

                                Will it be enjoyable? Heck, some people's cooking isn't enjoyable the first day. If it's not spoiled, smelling funny or slimy, why not use it a few days later if it's still good? It might make a great soup or casserole.

                                A lot of people who've responded to this post said that they use good judgment. Everything from jfood who's really careful about how much he purchases to those who rely on whether the food tastes or smells off. Both approaches are worthwhile and sensible. There's really no date-certain on which anything goes over the hill.

                                People get into trouble when they don't use good sense on Day One or Day Ten. When it's bad, it's bad. When in doubt, throw it out. If it's OK, why waste it?

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  I guess I am from the error on the side of caution school when it comes to food. I shop daily as I prefer to have food as fresh as possible (which is still a stretch in Vermont in March). I understand this doesn't work for everyone (and is not easy especially with 5 children), but the end result is worth it. No gray ground beef, no ammonia scented fish, fresh bread daily, and so on. I am not a proponent for wasting food and agree with the notion of planning ahead.

                                  And yes, I agree that some people's cooking is just as bad out of the oven as it will be a week later !

                                  1. re: TonyO

                                    When my children were still at home and bringing their friends over, nothing had a chance to get old. They ate it. No wonder you have to shop every day with five of them!!!!

                              2. re: MakingSense

                                Is it really that rare? In our database we have 10 reported significant food borne in a 2 month period for 100,000 population. That is only the severe ones that doctors reported, it doesn't include the 3 day stomach 'flu' or the 2 days of diarrhea or the upset stomach that never gets reported. When you look at stats on how much pepto-bismol that goes off a drugstore shelf in a given month you get a more representative picture.

                                1. re: PaulaT

                                  Rare? Do the math on those 10 cases.
                                  Over two months, if that population had 3 meals plus one snack each per day, that equals 800,000 eating events that likely included several items at most of those events. We're into the old One-in-Million range. Those are pretty good odds. Terrible if you're playing the lottery.

                                  Sure, some people grab the Pepto Bismol quickly and some people can eat about anything. That's not what any of us have been saying here.
                                  Reasonable care should be taken with food safety. But misunderstanding statistics, science and real risk factors have driven too many people to throw away perfectly good and edible food out of unfounded and baseless fears.
                                  We have become a nation of over-reactors.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    You can at least admit that throwing out a week old chicken could be reasonable. The real problem you're addressing is overbuying, or not eating something that is simply "passed it's prime freshness" (2 days) rather than potentially dangerous.

                                    1. re: kindofabigdeal

                                      So I am the person who will eat leftovers in the fridge at work when one of my co-workers is going to throw it out, (yeah, I know, it grosses them out too, the germ-a-phobes!!) after it has been there a couple of days and even I would throw that chicken out!

                                      1. re: kindofabigdeal

                                        I think you've hit the problem, kindofabigdeal. Maybe people buy too much (a problem jfood is careful not to have) or they don't plan well (not using leftovers in soups or casseroles) or they're careless about checking what they could use that's already there before buying more stuff.
                                        There's no way that we're going to eat funky-smelling or potentially bad food. Not worth the risk. But just because we don't feel like it? Naaahhh. That gets used up.
                                        Most things can go into the freezer to live another day in stock, soup, or otherwise be repurposed. My family always preferred to carry leftovers for lunches so that was a major help. They were big on soups and using things to make quick meals and snacks.
                                        Some of it really is common sense. No reason to keep a plop of four day-old mashed potatoes. Out! But enough chicken for the kids to make a pizza? Into the freezer - well marked.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          I understand where you're coming from. At first reading what you said I had visions of my grandma who would buy enormous amounts of food, throw it in the freezer or pantry, and then tell it was going to be wasted if we didn't eat it. It was stuff we didn't want in the first place (donuts in the freezer for a few weeks?) so no the waste had already happened. Eating it would have just continued the wastefullness by adding calories to our bodies. She has a jar of marshmallow fluff that has occupied the same spot on the pantry shelf since I was quite young. Everytime I visit I check to see if the fluff is still around.

                                          I really think that using up leftovers is one of the best ways to expand our creativity as cooks. Using up "extras" was one of the motivations for some of the world's greatest foods. However, It's unlikely I would serve a week old chicken, although I might eat it myself.

                                      2. re: MakingSense

                                        One thing no one has mentioned in all this debate about food safety is sourcing of ingredients. I tend to keep my caution about chicken on the supply side, and try to avoid battery-cage raised chickens, buying mostly free-range birds raised on natural feed. From the little I have read, this should do a lot to reduce salmonella contamination and several other issues.

                                        1. re: andytee

                                          For salmonella, there is no statistical difference between free-range birds and other types. I have no idea what you might mean by "several other issues," but for nutrition and food safety, there's no documentable differences. Some recent taste tests have even resulted in ties as well, concluding that the cook is more important than the "cookee."

                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            we read different sources. anyhow, i feel good about my choice for reasons of health and taste, not to mention animal welfare and the environment.

                                            1. re: andytee

                                              There is no food safety benefit to "free range" or organic meat. It is purely marketing.

                                              1. re: Hensley

                                                I suspect the "safety benefits" have a lot to do with the raw carcass processing conditions, how the store handled their product, and then how the consumer handles it at home. I've raised and butchered my own fowl, bought Foster Farms at the store, and paid premium prices for "free range". My own chicken tastes by far the best; but I've had Foster Farms chicken that was as good as or surpassed "free range". Here, I suspect freshness plays a large part.. the commercially raised chicken can be fresher than the more expensive free range lot. When I can afford to pay the premium price for animal welfare and the environment, I do.. but I make sure to ask when the chicken was delivered. When I handle raw chicken, no matter the source, I first drench it inside and out in white vinegar. This process, I believe, kills a lot of nasty hitchhiking bacteria. Any leftover cooked chicken is very quickly refrigerated and used within 4 days, or frozen. I keep a "Soup Bag" in the freezer for this kind of leftover and paw through it when I want to make a soup.

                            2. re: bubbles4me

                              I agree. I hate to waste so I have to plan to fix it and eat it or freeze it.

                              The few times I have done what the op is trying to do, I never enjoyed ONE bite of it. Ended up in the garbage anyway and was double mad at my self because now I wasted other foods preparing it.

                          2. Well, your chicken is probably either soup or compost by now, but for future reference a pressure cooker (aka, in the medical environment, an autoclave) will kill bacteria that can tolerate boiling water. Of course, a sterile stock made from a rotten chicken will still taste rotten.

                            1. I'm always baffled by people that will take obviously spoiled food and give it to the dog. I know animals eat some nasty smelling stuff, but if it's rotten just throw it away or compost it.

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: Paul Weller

                                Dogs and cats have quite a bit higher tolerance to most stuff (except bot) that would make the average human sick....

                                1. re: Paul Weller

                                  I am still very facinated by all this with chicken salmonella isn't the main problem -its Campylobacter which seems to range between 25 to 100% of all chicken sold. The nice thing about campy is that it is self limiting...you get over it in 5 to 7 days, but it can take 2 to 5 days after eating undercooked chicken before you get it. Boiling kills it, pressure cooking kills it and it doesn't produce any long term toxins to deal with. The problem always is that boiling, pressure cooking does not destroy toxins- those produced by staph or Clostridium botulinum or even the Histamine poisoning found in fish call Scrombosis. Now before everyone jumps down my throat for scaring people...most of this stuff is because of the large amount of factory processed foods. E coli from lettuce, salmonella from peanut butter. One mistake affects large quantities of food and you and I can't prevent most of those. I threw the one little statistic out earlier because that was on my desk, but the actual estimate is 80 million case per year in the US. Much is undiagnosed and much is mild and we don't think about it...rarely is food poisoning fatal. How you handle food, how you keep your food are big factors in those mild cases. The big problem with food left out is Staph toxin, not bacteria growth and old chick tastes terrible anyway.

                                  1. re: PaulaT

                                    Well....not all correct....bot toxin is in fact destroyed by boiling at sea level (~100 deg. C) plus it will not be produced unless anaerobic conditions are present. Scrombosis is another thing all together... I agree with you that majority (I guess ~90-99%) of cases are not reported....

                                    1. re: Pollo

                                      You and PaulaT seem to know a lot about this.. my grandfather taught me to drench raw chicken (and virtually all meats) with vinegar as part of the cleaning process. Is this an old Russian grandfather's tale or does vinegar help in the cleaning process? I use the cheap-from-Costco white vinegar. I scrub the vinegar all over the meat then let it sit a few minutes before rinsing and patting dry.

                                      1. re: fromagina

                                        I've never heard of that before! Does it change the flavor of the meat at all?

                                        1. re: jodymaryk

                                          Not really. If I marinate the meat in vinegar of course it does, but just a wash, then a pat dry, doesn't leave a lingering vinegar flavor. I use vinegar for cleaning too; it's effective and cheap!

                                          1. re: fromagina

                                            I also use it for cleaning as I have parrots and it is safe to use around them. I will try it with my meat. Thanks

                                        2. re: fromagina

                                          vinegar actual will kill or make a product uninhabitable to a host of micro organisms including the Clostridium, E. coli and staph organisms - I do not know what it does to the toxins - Pollo is correct that the Clostridium toxin is killed by boiling (I am not a chemist), but I under stand that neither the staph toxin nor the toxin created by the bacillus organisms are affected by boiling and will still make you sick.

                                        3. re: Pollo

                                          Botulism toxin is destroyed by boiling but botulism SPORES can survive prolonged boiling -- which is how some home-canned foods become contaminated even when canned using a boiling water method.

                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                            Home canning using a pressure vessel (230-240-250 deg F) and proper cook times (90+ min. for small 1/2 pint jars) will kill Bot spores...even boiling closed jars without overpressure will work but the times are v. long (i.e. hours at 100 deg. C)

                                            1. re: Pollo

                                              Without meat, simple marinara sauce only requires 45-60 minutes at 100C (212F) in non-pressurized boiling water.

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                That's because it's high acid....

                                                1. re: Pollo

                                                  and to make sure jfood adds some lemon juice to each jar before canning to make sure the pH is in the correct range.

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    No need....tomatoes are naturaly an acid food so bot will not grow even if pH is above 4.6 which is the cut off point for other acidified foods....

                                            2. re: C. Hamster

                                              I should have been clearer. I should have said "improperly home-canned foods."