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Dec 27, 2009 09:49 PM

This chicken safe to use?

Sorry; I know this is a worn-out question, but I really don't know what to do (throw out or use).

I accidentally defrosted too many chicken breasts for a recipe cooked on Christmas Day. I took the breasts out of the freezer late on the night of the 23rd. They were in the refrigerator, then, all day on the 24th and were still slightly frozen Christmas morning, so I finished defrosting them on low power Christmas Day. Ergo, the unused ones have been in the refrigerator since the 23rd, fully defrosted since the 25th. Would it be safe to use them tomorrow (the 28th) to make soup and stock? Or should I toss them at this point?

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  1. I use my nose. If they have any odor at all toss them. I use "the rules" as a guide not as a hardcore must do in all situations.

    1. Use them, they have a few more days before going bad. However, just to be sure, like another poster suggested, do the sniff test.

      My husband is a lot ore casual about food expiration and I have learned from him that most food lasts a lot longer thant we might expect.

      1. You probably don't have a lot to fear if making a soup or stock - the near -boiling cooking should kill any bacteria (besides spores that won't likely give you any trouble anyway). If you had taken them out of the fridge for any significant time (or if your fridge got above 40 deg F for a while - say you stuck a lot of hot food into it on Christmas night), you would have to worry about staph toxin, which is not affected by boiling. Assuming this is not an issue, they should be fine to use, as long as you get em to a high temp.

        Of course, if they smell bad, toss em - you wouldn't want to use em anyway.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cowboyardee

          D'oh! I hadn't noticed the microwave bit. Yeah, as others have said - most of the time, using the microwave means you use the meat that day or get rid of it. I suppose that if you only helped it along in defrosting - say you popped a couple of pounds of meat in for just a minute at low power and none of it actually defrosted, even the edges - before putting back in the fridge to finish off, you would probably be okay. Big 'if.'

          The big questions are how warm did you get it and how long did it stay warm (also how cool is your fridge). If you got the temp in the chicken up for a while before putting it back in the fridge, it's probably no good.

        2. Sorry N but jfood would only use those pieces of chicken to sharpen the blades of the disposal. They took 2 days to defrost, then sat 3 days in the fridge. It is not worth the chance of any ailment for a couple of old pieces of chicken.

          10 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            Yes, j, after a bout with indecision, I've come to the same conclusion. It's terrible, to waste food, but next time I'll know better and throw the extra chicken in the stockpot or in the oven *immediately*.

            1. re: Normandie

              You did good N.

              Jfood is well beyond playing food-poison roulette with food that he has control over.

              Let other people save the world by eating rancid meat. Jfood gets no pleasure eating questionable food, is not trying to prove anything because his fifth cousin on his mother's side came from a poor country, and is proud that he lives in the USA where he can work hard to have choices.

              Gotta pick your battles and questionable poultry ain't one of them.

              1. re: jfood

                My greyhounds would love to have jfood as their master. His cautiousness accrues to the benefit of your bottomless Labppetite. I'll bet you get some primo "junked" food! Whenever I go to the fridge or stove, there are 3 wet noses pressed to the back of my knees, ready to volunteer for quality control, but they rarely get more largesse than plate-licking. I am the queen of waste-not, which maintains their waistlines if not my own. When in doubt, I turn it into soup. Yes, the "Dark Angel of Projectile Vomiting"* has visited me several times in my 60 years, but always in the wake of a purchased meal, never something I cooked at home. * Garrison Keillor, Prairie Home Companion 12/26/09

                  1. re: greygarious

                    Not just food, but words can be delicious as well. I nod in your general direction.

                  2. re: jfood

                    Thanks for the moral support, j. I care about not wasting things and fel guilty tossing it. It was my own error. But my responsibility to my family is more important, and I feel now that it was the right choice, not to risk their health, even if the risk was nanno-tiny. Re the roulette, I've been taught my whole life that raw poultry and raw seafood are no places for bravado or saving a couple of bucks, and I guess that won out.

                  3. re: Normandie

                    Normandie, did you at least smell the chicken before throwing it out? There's no reason to throw out good protein if it doesn't smell bad.

                    What I do is give the meat a thorough wash under cold water, and then give it a good sniff. Your reaction to the smell will tell you whether it's good or not.

                    If I'm still on the fence after the sniff test, i'll cut off a small piece and cook it then taste. If it tastes fine then you know you're in the clear.

                    1. re: joonjoon

                      People who are nonchalant about this dort of thing can become germophobes if they think there's a connection between GI illness and something they ate (whether or not there's a causal relationship), but germophobes don't readily give up their fears.

                  4. re: jfood

                    This medical technologist (translate: I have formal education in microbiology) agrees with jfood. Add the fact that Hubby was hospitalized last summer from restaurant-food-acquired Salmonella.

                    Not in a million years would I cook/eat questionable chicken.

                    1. re: eliz553

                      I'm so sorry to hear about your husband, eliz. My best friend acquired E Coli from improperly cleaned berries at a restaurant. She spent six weeks in the hospital, a good portion of that in intensive care, and now has lifelong health repercussions. I really, truly hope your hubby has no residual effects. Very scary business.

                  5. Hi. Thank you all for trying to help me.

                    I did a little more research after I posted last night and read that one should be extra conservative (in terms of keeping times) if a microwave was used as part of the defrosting process. I'm not sure I've got this explanation straight (it was late), but I think the sources said that because while even on reduced power there can be some minimal cooking of the meat, it can create warm areas that are hospitable to bacteria. I really hate to waste the food, but...I've decided not to chance it. I should have thrown it in the stockpot right away on Christmas Day, but I was honestly exhausted (slept the whole next day).

                    For those of you who recommend the sniff test, for chicken is it essentially like the fish sniff test? In other words, should I not smell a thing?

                    Thanks again for trying to help me.

                    25 Replies
                    1. re: Normandie

                      Yes. If you smelled it and it had a spoiled meat odor it is no good.

                      You needed to do what made you feel comfortable.

                      However, for others that might find a similar situation, as we all know you can find info on the internet that will support any view you want it to support. So the microwave info may or may not be reliable. There are articles out there that say anything cooked in the microwave will kill you.

                      We are a country of excess and over caution.

                      For the few people who swear they got food poisoning from improper food handling, there is nothing I can do to convince you otherwise ... or would want to. Long ago when I wouldn't even consider touching something near an expiration date, never mind past, I ate a can of smoked oysters that was bad. I was so sick it took me 10 years before even thinking of eating another smoked oyster.

                      However, you can get sick from a salad from a fast food restuarant if you hit the unlucky food lottery ... as I diid with those oysters .

                      My husband grew up in a poor country where no one had the luxury of throwing away questionable food. When I first moved in with him I was just appalled at some of his food hadling tecniques and how long he kept food in the fridge.

                      Five years later, I've learned that food keeps a lot longer than one would suspect.

                      There are still some areas I won't cross, but I am less wasteful right now.

                      Again, others will probably chime in with personal experiences and lots of 'facts and figures and links'. They will say it is not worth the one chance in 10,000, even a million to them.

                      In that case I would say that anything is a chance. You have no clue how that food was stored and handled and prepared in your friend's house or the restaurant you frequent. Stop eating out and only eat food you can control. Oh wait, you have no clue about how the supermarket, processor, farmer handled the food.

                      I'm just saying for the most part not to be too influenced by scary stuff you might read. Use your intuition. I this case the OP was uncomfortable and even if that chicken was good, the poster probably would be so worried that it wouldn't taste good anyway.

                      1. re: rworange

                        Less wasteful is a good thing, but raw chicken is something I don't fool around with. Glad to hear you tossed it Normandie. Like others have said, just not worth the chance.

                        1. re: millygirl

                          I do not mean to disrespect anyone that has any degree or formal education as I have none but there is no way I would toss that chicken under the conditions described by the OP unless it had an odor. This is simply based on 32 years of home cooking. I admit that I could be wrong or very lucky I have not gotten ill.

                          1. re: SIMIHOUND

                            Totally agree.

                            I think people need to get a grip on food safety and food paranoia.

                            1. re: ipsedixit


                              Has anyone called the people who would eat the dish names?

                              No need to throw paranoia into the equation; jfood can esily (as the Mods know) come up with his own adjectives. :-))

                              1. re: jfood

                                Wasn't trying to call anyone out or to offend (and if I did I apologize). I was just trying to say that we should all take a step back and consider whether we've been scared stiff by the food police.

                                1. re: ipsedixit


                                  The food police sleep next to jfood every night that he is home and she has borne the brunt of many of jfood's bouts with gastro problems over the years (including eight hours comforting him outside a 767 bathroom on a transatlantic flight). Gotta love a great woman.

                                  Happy Holidays buddy

                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                I don't think being judicious about food is paranoia, especially in this day and age when some of the sources we get our food from aren't as clean as they could be, to begin with.

                                But if being as careful as I can not to serve my family tainted food means I'm paranoid, I'll wear that label happily.

                              3. re: SIMIHOUND

                                I don't think you were disrespectful at all, SIMI, and so far as cooking goes, I don't there's any better education than hands-on homecooking for all those years. You know, it's sometimes just a judgment call, I think. I tend to be very conservative about these things, which is why I worried enough about it in the first place to come ask the board. So far as I know I've never caused a foodborne illness to myself, my family or guests, but who's to say for sure which approach is right--a very stringent one or a more relaxed one? It just could be that I'm lucky, too, because as we know germs and things exist and no matter what we do, we'll never get rid of all of them (nor would we want to).

                                1. re: SIMIHOUND

                                  SIMIHOUND, your argument has flawed logic. That's like me saying that I've been in 4 car accidents and didn't get injured, therefore car accidents are not dangerous.

                                  1. re: Shane Greenwood

                                    I think some people just have more sensitive stomachs, maybe partly because they avoid food with any trace of iffy-ness. I used to have a very sensitive stomach, and could blame it on any number of things, but in the last few years I seem to be getting a lot better: maybe because we don't eat out much anymore (same as others, food poisoning twice that I'm sure of, both from restaurants) , but I mostly credit it to my being cheaper and stretching my leftovers a lot longer than I used to, and over time I think I built up some immunity. Sort of like the people that obsessively wash their hands with anti bacterial......and their natural system gets weaker and weaker.

                              4. re: rworange

                                The reason I gave credence to the information I read on the topic is because it came from a couple of sources that are credible to me, rw. One was, whose information on other matters has generally seemed to align with what I know to be true and one was a university extension service.

                                While I agree with you that we have to be careful not to acceot too easily questionable information and rumor from unreliable or amateur sites, I believe that we also have to be careful not to automatically reject info just because it came off the Internet. It's like any other source in the world, whether book, television, magazine, discussions...we have to use our critical thinking skills to evaluate what we hear.

                                Btw, I'm not a person who is too easily influenced by scary stuff I read (if anything, I've got the type personality that sometimes might push the envelope a little too far for the sake of adventure and life experience), but some things are just common sense. I did not feel good about throwing out that protein that I know so many people in the world really need, but you were right, in your last paragraph. I would have been so nagged by the worry that I might make my family sick, and in the end, my first commitment is to look after their well being.

                                Thanks for helping me think it through, rw. I appreciate it, even though it appears our decisions would have been different in this case.

                                1. re: Normandie

                                  For every post on Chowhound about food safety, there are some posters who seem to scoff at the whole notion of using caution around questionable food. To each his/her own, I guess. But I agree with you, jfood and the others. Especially when it comes to feeding your family or friends, I would not mess around with questionable meat. As we used to say when I cooked for a living, "when in doubt, throw it out."

                                  And yes, I'll take the advice of someone educated in microbiology over the guy who thinks it's fine because he never got sick.

                                  1. re: Shane Greenwood

                                    Yes, I agree, Shane. I notice that when posters ask a question like this one there do always seem to be a few responses that seem to patronize the OP for being overly cautious, phobic, the stooge of governmental agencies' too-careful guidelines, what have you. I knew if I put up this question I would meet with some of those sentiments, because it generally happens, but I also knew that plenty of CHers on both sides of the issue would do their best to try to help me, sincerely, with the best experience they had. So I asked the question, because I needed help. I've been cooking--safely, I might add--for decades now, and I know the rule for raw poultry--one or two days, max, in the fridge, otherwise freeze. I wasn't sure in this instance, because of two factors--one, I had previously frozen the chicken and, two, the chicken had already been in the fridge for more than 24 hours to defrost *and* then I used the microwave to defrost it *and* then it would have sat in the fridge for yet another 72 hours, had I cooked it today.

                                    I really appreciate the responses from all the people who would have used the chicken anyway, but treated my question with respect and not as an invitation to assess either my psychological profile or gullibility factor. I think the thing we all should keep in mind is that there are plenty of young or inexperienced cooks who visit here to seek information and some of them may not yet be aware of even those most basic food safety rules that most of us would agree need to be followed. I would really hate to see those visitors discouraged from asking any question for fear of being laughed at or put down. So far as I'm concerned, when it comes to things we put in our mouths or feed our children, there's no such thing as a dumb question. Just my opinion.

                                    1. re: Normandie

                                      I think you did the right thing; if I'd nuked it to defrost, and it sat that long in the fridge, I wouldn't smell, touch or anything, I'd toss it.

                                      I don't know if you have a fridge thermometer or not, but I use one and only store meat and dairy in the very bottom/back of my fridge, where it's very cold. You would need to know exactly what temp it was at to make a decision, too, AFAIC. But with nuking, all bets are off; the thinner parts, the ones away from the center of the group get warmer than the rest. Good call!

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        Yes, mcf, I have one thermometer in the fridge and a second one in the freezer compartment. This refrigerator maintains temps very well and recovers quickly after the door has been opened too often or for too long, as sometimes happens in families. ;-) I know the fridge is doing its part, at the proper temps. But it is possible that the chicken had been out of the fridge near or slightly over the cumulative four-hour rule, between shopping, repackaging for freezing and the prep on Christmas Day, before I determined I had pulled out too much chicken for the recipe. So concerned me, too, in addition to the other factors. Thanks for the affirmation. You know, sometimes it's difficult to know what to do until you actually make the decision, but once you do, you realize you did the right thing, not to take a chance.

                                        1. re: Normandie

                                          I guess you'd freak out to know my husband leaves chicken soup on the stove for about a week unrefrigerated.

                                          I tend to treat poultry like toxic waste being careful to clean it thouroughly, so I haven't crossed that line yet.

                                          Still, I've learned to relax a lot about food.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            My mother used to do things like this too...any time she made a stew or soup type thing, it would stay on the stove until it was finished. No fridge. No one in our family ever got sick from her cooking...

                                            One thing she would do if she knew it would take a while to finish was to bring the pot to a boil once a day. Keeps the germs at bay I guess.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              rw, is your husband doing it in the French way--in this soup pot always on? I guess not, huh... Well, I doubt that I'd "freak out"...but I'd probably come up with a polite way to say, "Oh, thank you; it looks delicious, but I've already eaten." ;-D

                                              I don't think I want to learn to relax about food safety. I figure I've already dodged enough bullets in my life. Some things I can't control, and I'm cool with that reality, but some things I can.

                                              :-D re the toxic waste. Believe it or not, I didn't even know until about two or three years ago that we're supposed to wash the chicken itself before cooking it, though I knew to clean thoroughly all the surfaces with which it came in contact. Now of course I do also wash the chicken.

                                              1. re: Normandie

                                                jfood is very relaxed about food and resents people telling him that he is wasting food, paranoid, inconsiderate or tense. He is also relaxed about his refrigerator, indoor plumbing, his dishwasher, microwave and central air conditioning and modern medicine.

                                                Thank you Darwin, Edison, Ford and Curie. Advancement is a wonderful thing.

                                                1. re: Normandie

                                                  Yes, he does bring it to a boil. I have never eaten it because, as I said, I can't cross that line.

                                                  However, before him, I probably would have tossed the chicken like you.

                                                  it is just sometimes we get way too cautious.

                                                  I LOVE Dr. Oz. Love him, love him, love him.

                                                  HOWEvER, this morning there was (probably) a rerun about supermarket secrets.

                                                  He talked about how you can no longer trust the look of meat at your supermarket because there are things that markets do now to keep meat red. i didn't pay close attention to this as I rarely buy red meat.

                                                  The thing that got me angry ... really angry ... was the info about how many people handle produce.

                                                  From field to store (including consumers) a whole lot of people touch produce. His advice was to avoid produce bins. He was really hyped that supermarkets are starting to trend toward pre-wrapped produce to minimilaize how many people touch your produce.

                                                  I HATE that ... hate it, hate it, hate it ... hate it.

                                                  i want to pick out my own orange or potato and not be forced to buy some shrink-wrapped item.

                                                  Not counting the suckiness to the environment with all that extra packaging, how many people have died or got sick because they picked out an orange or potato.

                                                  Of course, he pointed out worse case scenarios. He mentioned that at the bottom of a produce bin they found four false fingernails. He showed some woman ... who for some unknown reason ... crawled up on top of a produce display and her feet touched the produce.

                                                  Ya know.

                                                  Way too alarmist.

                                                  Like I said. Stuff happens.

                                                  That hermatically sealed bag of spinach will kill you. Or ... for one reason or another ... you win life's unlucky lottery.

                                                  However, for 99% of the time the cooties don't conquer us.

                                                  I worked for a year in Mexico City. My boss was super-paranoid. He told me stories of not even touching water in the mini bar because he heard stories of the hotel staff filling it from the bathroom.

                                                  I didn't take chances because ... well, people were paying me to work. I wasn't on vacation and I didn't want to risk being ill.

                                                  So every morning off we went to buy Evian from the $$$ hotel gift shop to circumvent any possible sneaky staff. I ate at very good restaurants, but never sampled street food.

                                                  I resent his caution to this day.

                                                  The ironic thing was that I flew home for weekends. It wasn't until I got home that I got Montezuma's Revenge . I think I had built up immunities eating the Mexican food and when I got home I wasn't used to the change.

                                                  So .. .that's my only thing in this thread. It's good to be cautious and truly, for you, you did the right thing. I've pushed the ticket a few times food-wise and I never enjoyed the food because of the worry. Still we have to be careful not to turn into Howard Huges.

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    I think you're absolutely right re Howard Hughes. My problem is when people automatically assume I'm neurotic about these things. It's pretty presumptuous to assume you can know what a person whom you've never met is like simply because they ask a food safety question or would like to know whether a storage limit we've been taught our whole lives is still recommended, or, if it is, how far we can push it, etc.

                                                    You haven't treated me that way at all and I appreciate it. Very interesting to read your experiences and practices overseas. My own guidelines while traveling have been much like yours. Whether I was traveling for business, which I did frequently for many years, or for pleasure, in neither situation did I care to risk becoming ill, so I was careful about uncooked produce in certain countries, water sources or just certain preparations that might be richer than I was generally used to eating. Just common sense rules that yet didn't stop me from trying new foods or experiencing new cuisines. I'm of the philosophy that you have adventures *and* take reasonable care of yourself simultaneously.

                                                    We expose ourselves to germs in my household that I *know* other people choose not and find distasteful. For example, we live very closely with our pets who sleep on our beds with us and are allowed on the sofas, etc. That risk is worth it to us, just as the risk with my chicken would be worth it to other people. Everybody's got to find his/her own comfort level with risks and the best way to do that is to get information, as I said in another post, from the most credible sources you can find after utilizing sensible critical thinking.

                                                    I couldn't agree with you more regarding the changes that have come about in purchasing produce in supermarkets. I think the excessive packaging has caused me more problems than it solves, in terms of opening a package to find fruits or tomatoes that I would not have chosen had I been able to inspect all the way around the items, feel them for firmness, etc., as you mentioned, smell them in certain cases where that is helpful. On the pieces of fruit that are still sold loose, I can't tell you how many I turn all the way around only to find puncture marks. Those I obviously reject, but if they were packaged I wouldn't have that opportunity. I can properly wash a skin-intact plum that other people may have handled, but I can't do much about a fruit whose interior may be contaminated

                                                    1. re: Normandie

                                                      Thanks for saying you didn't think I was saying you were neurotic about this. I fretted about this and thought a number of times about clarifying. With online chats you never know how people will react since tone of voice and expression isn't there.

                                                      I go to Guatamala this year and I'm dying to see if my husband is just the Evil Kneival of the kitchen or if that is how things are done there. Well ... I hope I won't be dying.

                                                      Anyway, a happy ... and healthy ... 2010

                                  2. re: Normandie

                                    I have had chicken spoil a couple of times; other than the really obvious bad smell, I have returned chicken to the store that had a distinct 'bleachy' odour.

                                    1. re: beggsy

                                      Yep. A good reminder, beggsy, not to buy fish or poultry if the fish/meat departments have that smell. When the store is properly cleaned, you shouldn't smell the cleaning agents. When you do, it represents an effort to mask the smell of old fish or poultry. Sure tip-off not to buy if he store smells of bleach.