Understanding Chicken Sell By Date: Ensuring Your Poultry Is Safe For Consumption

Rating: 5/5 - (1 vote)

Regarding poultry, particularly chicken, freshness is a non-negotiable factor for quality and safety. But, understanding the details behind the “Chicken Sell By Date” on the packaging can often lead to confusion. Does the date mark the end of its safety? How long can you still consume the chicken after this date?

This article will delve into these questions, providing a comprehensive understanding of chicken sell by dates, how they relate to food safety, and what you need to know to ensure you’re handling and consuming chicken at its best quality. 

What Is Chicken Sell By Date?

Definition and importance

The “Chicken Sell By Date” is a term you’ll find on the packaging of poultry products, and it serves as a guideline for retailers, indicating how long to display the product for sale. However, for consumers, understanding this date is also essential to determine whether the chicken is safe to eat.

Contrary to what some may think, chicken can often be consumed safely after the sell-by date, provided it has been stored correctly. It’s key to remember, however, that although the chicken may remain safe, its peak quality in terms of taste, texture, and nutritional value might diminish after this date.

What is Chicken Sell By Date?
What is Chicken Sell By Date?

Difference between Sell-By, Use-By, and Expiration Date

The terms ‘Sell By’, ‘Use By’, and ‘Expiration Date’ often create confusion but are crucial in determining the freshness and safety of your chicken sell by date.

  • Sell-By Date: This date is primarily for retailers, marking the final day the product should be sold, but not necessarily consumed. It’s possible to eat the chicken after the sell-by date, assuming it’s been properly stored and shows no signs of spoilage.
  • Use-By Date: This is the last date recommended for using the product at its peak quality. The chicken may still be safe to eat after this date, but its quality may degrade.
  • Expiration Date: This date is a clear deadline, indicating when the food will likely become unsafe to consume. To ensure safety, consuming or freezing the chicken before the expiration date is crucial.

If you choose to freeze the chicken sell by date, it effectively pauses the clock on any bacterial growth, extending the period in which the chicken is safe to consume. Freezing raw chicken also maintains its quality, preventing it from becoming spoiled chicken, which could potentially lead to foodborne illness. Always check these dates and thoroughly inspect the chicken before preparing or consuming it. It takes hours to digest chicken, but you can have a stomachache if the chicken is not good.

How Long Is Chicken Good For After Sell By Date?

Raw chicken

Raw chicken is usually good for 1-2 days past its sell-by date when stored in the refrigerator. However, if you’re not planning to cook the chicken within 1-2 days after the sell-by date, it’s best to freeze it. Freezing the chicken effectively extends its safe consumption period, as the freezing process halts the growth of bacteria that can make it unsafe to eat. 

Therefore, if the date on the chicken package indicates the sell-by date is approaching and you aren’t ready to cook it yet, store the chicken in the freezer until you’re ready to prepare it.

How long is raw chicken good for after sell by date?
How long is raw chicken good for after sell by date?

Cooked chicken

Cooked chicken can have a longer lifespan than raw chicken if stored properly. Once cooked, the chicken should be safe for consumption for about 3-4 days when stored in the refrigerator. You can freeze the cooked chicken if you want to store it longer. In the freezer, cooked chicken lasts about 2-3 months. 

It’s important to remember to promptly refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of cooking to minimize the risk of bacterial growth. As with fresh chicken, if you’re unsure whether the cooked chicken is still good, rely on your senses – the smell of raw chicken and sight can often indicate if the chicken is no longer safe to eat.

When And How To Cook Chicken Safely

Checking for freshness before cooking

Before cooking, it’s essential to confirm the freshness of your chicken. Even if the sell-by date on the package of chicken has not passed, always inspect the chicken visually and olfactorily. Fresh chicken should be pinkish in color and should not have a strong, unpleasant odor. If the chicken has a grayish hue, slimy texture, or a strong foul smell, it will likely go bad and should not be consumed.

If you plan to cook chicken within two days of purchase, you can store the chicken in the refrigerator. However, if you don’t plan to cook it within that timeframe, it’s best to freeze the chicken to preserve its quality and safety.

Spoiled chicken
Spoiled chicken

Ideal cooking temperature for chicken

It’s time to cook once you have confirmed the chicken’s freshness. Regardless of how long the chicken can remain safe to eat after the sell-by date, it’s essential to cook it to the correct internal temperature to ensure safety. The chicken should reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C) to kill any potential bacteria. A food thermometer is the best way to confirm that the chicken has reached this temperature.

Storing and reheating cooked chicken

After you’ve enjoyed your meal, store any leftover cooked chicken properly. If you plan to eat the chicken within three to four days, you can store it in a covered container in the refrigerator. If you want to keep it longer, freeze the leftovers.

Cooked chicken can remain safe for consumption for about four months in the freezer. However, this is not recommended for keeping the cooked chicken for that long.

When reheating, ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), especially if stored in the freezer. Remember, even if the sell-by date has passed, as long as the chicken was cooked before spoilage and correctly stored and reheated, it should be safe to consume.

Common Myths And Misconceptions About Chicken Sell By Date

When it comes to the sell by date on raw chicken, several misconceptions can lead to unnecessary food waste or potential health risks. Here, we aim to debunk some of these myths.

Common myths about chicken sell by date
Common myths about chicken sell by date

Myth: Chicken is unsafe to eat once it’s past the sell-by date.
Reality: Many believe chicken past its sell-by date should be immediately discarded. However, the chicken sell by date is a guide for retailers rather than consumers. It is usually safe to eat chicken within a couple of days past this date, as long as it has been properly stored in the fridge.

Myth: You can extend the expiration date by freezing the chicken.
Reality: While freezing chicken does ‘pause’ the spoiling process, it doesn’t technically extend the expiration date. When you thaw and consume the chicken, it’s best to use it immediately and not refreeze it. Always cook thoroughly and check the quality of the chicken before consuming.

Myth: You can rely solely on the sell-by date to determine if the chicken is good to eat.
Reality: While the sell-by date is a good indicator, it isn’t foolproof. It’s always important to physically examine the chicken, checking for an off smell, slimy texture, or grayish color.

Myth: Keep the chicken in the fridge indefinitely until the sell-by date.
Reality: Once you place the chicken in the fridge, it’s best to use it within 1-2 days, regardless of the sell-by date. If you won’t be using it within that time, freezing is a safer option to preserve the quality and safety of the chicken.

Final Word

In poultry consumption, understanding the “Chicken Sell By Date” is fundamental to ensuring quality and safety. Utilize this guide, remember the tips, and enjoy your chicken dishes confidently and safely.


How long can I safely consume chicken after its sell-by date?

While the exact duration can vary, chicken is typically safe to consume for 1 to 2 days after its sell-by date, provided it has been correctly stored in the refrigerator.

How can I best keep my chicken sell by date?

To maintain freshness, if you aren’t cooking the chicken within 1 to 2 days of its sell-by date, it’s best to freeze it. When ready to use it, thaw it in the refrigerator and cook it thoroughly.

Is chicken good 4 days after sell by date?

The safety of consuming chicken four days after its sell-by date depends on how it was stored. If refrigerated immediately and stored at a safe temperature (below 40°F), it might be safe but not at its peak quality. However, it’s generally recommended to cook or freeze chicken as soon as possible after its sell-by date to ensure safety and quality.

Should I cook my chicken as soon as possible after purchasing it?

While it’s not a requirement, cooking chicken within 1 to 2 days after purchase is usually best. This practice ensures you enjoy the chicken at its peak freshness and reduces the chance of it spoiling before you cook it.

How can I track how long chicken has been in my refrigerator?

A simple yet effective way is to write the purchase date or the date you put it in the fridge on the chicken’s packaging. This method helps you track the time and ensures you consume or freeze the chicken within the recommended time frame.

How can I tell if the chicken has gone bad?

Chicken that has gone bad will often change color, become dull or grayish, and develop a slimy texture. A potent, foul, or off-putting smell is another clear sign that the chicken is no longer good to eat. Always trust your senses; if the chicken smells off or looks questionable, it’s better to err on safety and not consume it.

Is there a way to tell if the chicken is bad even if it’s not past its sell-by date?

Yes, the sell-by date is just a guideline for retailers. Always check the chicken’s color, smell, and texture. Fresh chicken should be pinkish, have a mild odor (or no noticeable smell), and not be slimy to the touch.

What are the best ways to keep your chicken fresh?

To keep your chicken fresh, it’s crucial to store it properly. If you plan to use it within one to two days, keep it in the refrigerator at a temperature below 40°F. If you won’t use it within that time, freeze the chicken. It’s best to freeze the chicken in airtight packaging to preserve its quality and prevent freezer burn.

Leave a Comment