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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.

                      1. I visited this site an hour ago for the first time. The reason was to find out if I could still cook the raw chicken breast I had in my refrigerator and so I wanted to share the outcome with the rest for future use BUT it is on your own risk to follow it or not. This was totally an experiment. I just wanted to know how long an uncooked meat would last in the refrigerator but still be good to eat. I am a single macho adult man so give it to my stubborn macho man quality while criticizing me harshly, will you?

                        Okay, so....I had two uncooked very large chicken breasts that were sitting in the refrigerator which I took out of the freezer exactly ten days ago. After I washed 3 pieces with light-warm water to split them apart, I wrapped one in an aluminum foil and put it back to the freezer immediately while two others in the same manner in a plastic bag in the refrigerator's middle row. Initially, my intention was, once the meat was thawed, I would cook it but I've changed my plans for dinner. Then, I did the same the next day; then, another day...you got the point!

                        First, I washed it for a few seconds and got rid of the foil and bag as I knew they would have smelt bad a little or maybe even terrible (I did it not to have a negative opinion right away. Though, I sort of intended to throw it away when I kind of realized one piece slightly smelled bad more than the other). Since this was an experiment, I kept washing the meat for about 5 minutes with light warm water making sure the meat did not have slippery surface. Color-wise, it wasn't perfect like a fresh meat would be but it wasn't darker either.

                        After 5 minutes of washing, the smell was gone or barely had any unusual smell. I did not want to use any veggies, onion or sort except a little garlic, variety of spices in case if I wanted to throw it away, why waste the veggies, right?

                        I chopped the two pieces of large chicken breasts in very little pieces and cooked a little longer than I normally would. I tasted a tiny piece and waited for 4-5 minutes in case It did not feel right so the experiment would end with probably a little v,,mitting rather than ending at the hospital emergency unit. I had two food poisoning experiments in my life time with 20 years apart. One was right after a large size burger I ate. I got sick within 15 minutes and ended in the emergency unit. The second was from a cold-meat sandwich which I bought from a vending machine at work and I threw up after the first bite and was sick the entire day. It was my meal (breakfast) after a long night sleep.

                        Anyhow, back to the cooked chicken breasts. So, I kept eating one piece at a time about five pieces in the next five minutes so that I would know if I am going to have another food poisoning or not. After that, I had a large spoon of it next to some rice and beans on my plate. Well, it sure did not taste as good as the previous times. It had some nasty taste, erhm, sort of...maybe, old meat taste? It could very well because of the various spices I used, one of which was called "chicken seasoning" which I have in my cupboard for almost 6-8 years..lol.. I really wanted used some just to finish it up soon. I am always reluctant to waste things so I can't easily throw unused things away. Also, I always use onion when cook meat but not this time. Nevertheless, I am pretty sure it was because the meat was not fresh (the fact that it stayed too long in the refrigerator), and that is why it did not taste so good.

                        Last but not least, if you ever want "not to waste the meat," and if you haven't had food poisoning yet, I strongly suggest you to eat the meat very slowly; otherwise, you really can not ignore the smell(taste) of the meat after being cooked. Well, at least it was for me; but again, I did it for two reasons: It was an experiment, and the chicken cost me easily $7-8 and was enough for 4 meals. Of course, I am aware of the fact that I could have had food poisoning and end up at the hospital which would have cost me A LOT more than $7-8. Oh well, It looks like I saved the money. :))

                        Peace out!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: tomtomtummy

                          food poisoning can take as long as 72 hours to manifest -- so you can eat it as slowly as you like, and it still won't tell you whether or not the meat is toxic.

                          There are professional food laboratories and government agencies that exist for the sole purpose of testing the longevity of packaged food. Your kitchen is not the place for that research.

                          Many bacteria that result in foodborne illnesses also don't have a color or smell, so even using your nose is not necessarily a reliable indicator. The real kicker is that the ones that don't typically have a smell are the ones that can land you in the ICU.

                          Is it worth it?