The Ultimate Guide on How to Tell if Chicken is Bad

If you love chicken, there is a high tendency that you would overstock pieces of chicken in your refrigerator or freezer. I understand that as I tend to do that too. And often, you would forget it’s there until the time that you decide to clean your refrigerator.

I know this because it happened to me many times already. In fact, there’s a time when I cooked an amazing chicken curry dish but little did I know that it was already spoiled. The spices concealed the sour taste of the chicken so I did not notice that it is no longer good for eating. The results? My stomach hurt so bad and I had to stay in the hospital for three days due to bad case of food poisoning.

Since then, I got more careful with the food I eat, especially chicken as I don’t want that to happen ever again. I also don’t want that to happen to you too.

Did you just clean your refrigerator and came across a piece of chicken that has been there for who knows how long? Is it still safe to be eaten? Or maybe you should just toss it?

I know tossing chicken would seem wasteful but consuming a chicken that is already past its prime can be dangerous for you as it may contain harmful bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella. With that in mind, you need to learn how to tell if chicken is bad. Well, I am here to help you with that.

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Tell if Chicken is Bad

As mentioned above, chicken is the most common food ingredient inside our refrigerator. If you are a chicken lover like me, there is a high chance that you have a stock of all kinds of chicken – raw, cooked, and frozen.

If that’s the case, then you need to know the steps on how to determine if your raw, frozen, or cooked chicken is already past its prime. I am here to help you out!

How to Tell if a Raw Chicken is Bad

Step 1. Check its color.

A fresh raw chicken has a pinkish color. Its color may look duller and fade to gray as it starts to spoil. If your chicken already exhibits a gray color with yellow spots, it is best to throw it away.

Step 2. Check the smell.

A fresh raw chicken does not exhibit any strong scent. But a spoiled raw chicken gives off a very potent unpleasant smell. And if you try cooking it, the scent will be more noticeable.

Pro Tip: Some people describe the scent of a spoiled raw chicken to a sour smell. On the other hand, some people claim that it is similar to the smell of ammonia.

Step 3. Check its texture.

Many people say that a spoiled chicken has a slimy texture. This test is a bit difficult than the smell or color test as even the fresh chicken has a slightly slimy feel.

The key to this is to rinse the chicken. If the chicken is still good for cooking, the slimy texture will be removed after that. But if the slimy and sticky feeling remains even after rinsing it, the chicken is already most likely to be spoiled.

Step 4. Look at the “best by” date.

If the chicken is already past its best by date, it would be best for you to toss it away.

Pro Tip: As per USDA, you should not store raw chicken in the refrigerator longer than two days.

How to Tell if a Frozen Chicken is Bad

Step 1. Thaw it.

Telling if a frozen chicken is already bad can be quite tricky as it is covered with chunks of ice. That is why the first step that you can take is to thaw it.

Remove it from the freezer, put it in a plate and allow it to stand at room temperature for a few hours until the ice melts.

Step 2. Check the color, texture, and smell.

Once it is already correctly thawed, take a look at the common factors—smell (ammonia-like or sour smell), color (grayish color), and texture (sticky and slimy).

Step 3. Look for freezer burns.

If the thawed chicken pass your color, texture and smell test, the next best thing that you can do is to look for freezer burns.

Freezer burn is characterized as white marks or rashes in the chicken which isn’t fat. The burns are also slightly elevated and rougher in texture as compared to the skin around it.

While freezer burn is not a sign of spoilage, its mere presence can make the chicken less enjoyable and appealing.

How to Tell if a Cooked Chicken is Bad

Step 1. Look for any changes in color.

A cooked chicken is white in color. If it still has a white color, you can reheat it. If the flesh of the chicken is already grayish or greenish, it would be best to toss it out.

If you are dealing with breaded or marinated chicken, it may be a bit difficult to monitor if its color has changed. With that in mind, you move to the next step.

Step 2. Look for molds.

A mold is the best telltale sign that a chicken has gone bad. It is characterized by a fuzzy green, gray or black growth in any part of the chicken. If there are signs of mold in the chicken, throw it right away.

Step 3. Taste the chicken.

If there are no molds or changes in color, the next best thing that you can do is to taste the chicken but don’t swallow it. If it already tastes a bit sour, spit it out and discard it immediately.


Eating spoiled chicken may lead to food poisoning and in worst cases, death. Sadly though, determining if a chicken is still good for eating is not as easy as it seems. That is why it is essential that you know how to tell if chicken is bad.

As mentioned above, you can do that by checking the smell, texture, and color of raw chicken. For frozen chicken, you must look for freezer burn. For cooked chicken, you need to examine the taste, smell, color, and presence of mold.

Did you find our mini-tutorial helpful? If you did, please do share them with your fellow chicken lovers! If you have more tips or questions on how to tell if chicken is bad, please share them with us below!

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