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Are these chicken breasts still safe?

Hi all,

This might be a dumb question, so apologies. I bought some fresh chicken breasts last week. They are still in my fridge, unopened, and the sell-by date is September 7. I usually use chicken within a day of buying it, but I ended up going out of town. Since the sell by date isn't until tomorrow, and the package wasn't opened, can I assume these are still good?


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  1. It sounds like they should still be fine. But trust your nose and if you really are worried for some other reason that isn't clear then it isn't worth it . . . .

    1. I agree with thimes. Give them the smell test. If they smell clean, cook them well and eat them. With stuff this close to its sell by date, I usually choose a stew or something that cooks for a long time just to be sure. And if there is any question at all of an off-odor, I toss them.

      1. I agree with the other responses and would add that if you know the temp in the section of your fridge they were in, that can be reassuring info, too.

        1. thanks everyone! because I know people search this forum for advice on what to do with their questionable chicken, I'll let you know the outcome - it smelled TERRIBLE when I opened the package! I checked my receipts and I had only purchased these four days ago. so, I'd say stick to one or two days max with uncooked-albeit-sealed chicken breasts!

          3 Replies
          1. re: violet42

            The (unopened) packaging largely prevents the smell from reaching you but the bacteria for their decomposition was already present on/in the chicken before they were packaged. The smell, I find, would mainly be from the fat layers. I have "rescued" slightly smelly chicken before by stripping off the skin and fat and washing the meat well under running water (even with a bit of dishwashing soap) then cooking it well. However, if the chicken really SMELLS, it is tossed - without a look back.

            I might venture, however, that chicken breasts (=white meat) in this case would become kind-of dried-out/definitely non-succulent with thorough cooking. Maybe cubed meat in some kind of high-heat-cooked dish or long-cooked stew instead...perhaps not very delectable in the end...

            Are you saying you are cooking the smelly stuff you have as-is?

            1. re: violet42

              I'm not surprised. I only keep chicken in the fridge for one day, two max, after I've bought it. Even if it was perfectly fresh and had AGES to go to the sell-by date, it doesn't keep in the home fridge. It gets really stinky and disgusting in about three days. If it's just a little bit icky smelling a good wash-down with white vinegar will take care of it, but better safe than sorry.

              1. re: Kajikit

                it keeps fine in mine, but only on the bottom shelf, in the rear, where it hovers near freezing. takes forever to defrost if I put anything frozen there.

            2. Of course they are safe.

              1. If the sell-by date isn't until tomorrow, I hope you took them back to the market and got your money back.

                Sometimes if they smell only slightly funky you can brine them -- which you should probably do anyway -- and the smell will go away. But if they're really foul (pun intended) then out they go.

                1. The "sell by" date is just a guide. Your nose is the final arbiter.
                  It always just depends on how the chicken was kept before you got it, and how cold _your_fridge is when storing it. I've often had meats that are fine even days beyond the "sell by" date, as well as some that haven't yet passed the sell by date and yet were clearly spoiled. In the latter case, the supermarket always takes them back for a refund, no questions asked.

                  1. I used to always notice with store-bought commercially processed chicken that it would turn within a day or two of getting it home, but beef for some reason seems to keep better. (wondering why that would be, and only conclusion I can think of is the quick chilling process that chicken goes through in water, would become quite a "soup" of bacteria and goodness knows what else)
                    I have the ability to buy chicken direct from a farm now. a whole chicken can sit in my fridge for days and still be OK to cook.