How to Tell If Chicken Is Bad

Food often goes bad especially if you did not keep it in the recommended conditions. Whether it is milk, spinach, chicken or other meal, poor storage can make the food go bad easily.

You do not want to eat a meal that has gone bad given the aftermath it will have on your stomach. If you are wondering whether that chicken you just bought is rotten or damaged, here is how to know.

What does it mean chicken going bad?

How to know if chicken is bad or gone bad, damaged
Signs your raw chicken is rotting.

When chicken goes bad, it means that it would have gone stale with the likelihood of having foreign organisms like mold and fungi growing on it.

The consistency, the taste, and the general look of the food changes from their natural versions when the food goes bad.

When food goes bad, it would be acted upon by enzymes, oxidation, heat, yeast, mold, bacteria and others.

The carbohydrates will ferment, the proteins will become soft, putrid, squishy and likely green, and the fats become sour and rancid.

Depending on how your chicken was prepared before it was stored, it may decompose, rot, disintegrate, turn rancid and similar states.

Signs that chicken has gone bad

You can tell that chicken has gone bad if you notice any of the following signs (or a combination of them):

1. It has a slimy feeling

If the chicken is sticky and slimy even after washing it, it is a clear sign that it has gone bad. Good chicken should be moist but not sticky or slimy.

2. The color changes to gray

Raw chicken ought to have a light pink color with the fat being white. If the chicken has turned gray and the fat yellow, it will be bad.

3. It has overstayed in your home

If you have had your raw chicken for more than 4 days in your fridge, or more than 4 months in the freezer, you need to throw it out as soon as you can. It isn’t worth eating it unless you want to risk food poisoning.

4. A bad smell

All foods tend to change the way they smell after going bad. Chicken is no exception. As a matter of fact, the smell will become funky when the chicken has gone bad.

Refrigeration might mask the smell a little although you will know it the moment you warm it up.

How to keep raw food from going bad

Although once chicken has gone bad there is not a way to bring it back to a good state, you should do the following once you have the chicken:

1. Boiling and heating

When you heat food, you kill the germs that will be growing on the food. Most germs such as bacteria, fungi and others die at high temperatures.

If you do not have a freezer or fridge, you can warm the chicken at least once a day to kill the germs in it.

2. Use food preservatives

There are some chemicals that can be added to the chicken to keep it from going bad.

If you are to use these preservatives at home, you should read the labels carefully to make sure that they are used correctly. For most of them, large amounts can be toxic.

The preservatives include:

a. Sequestrants

Oxidation reactions are catalyzed by trace metals such as copper and iron. The presence of these trace metals in food will thus increase the rate at which food will go bad. Chelating agents (sequestrants) work by taking up the trace metals from the food. Among the most common sequestrants are:

  • Citric acid
  • Polyphosphates
  • Ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA)

b. Enzyme inhibitors

Enzyme inhibitors work by inhibiting the work of enzymes as far as spoiling the food goes. Used commonly in dried apricots and raisins, enzyme inhibitors such a sulfites are used in the inhibition of enzymatic degradation reactions.

c. Antioxidants

Fats will turn rancid when exposed to the air. The presence of oxygen in the air oxidizes them and turns them rancid. To prevent that, antioxidants are added to food to inhibit the oxidation process. They include the following:

  • Sulfites
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  • Tertiary butylated hydroquinone (TBQH)
  • Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  • Propyl gallate
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

These preservatives are found in crackers, cereals, nuts and potato chips.

d. Antimicrobials

Antimicrobials are food preservatives meant to inhibit the growth of molds, bacteria and yeast. The contents of antimicrobials are:

  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Propionates such as calcium propionate which is used to prevent the growth of molds in baked products such as bread.
  • Sulfites (used to preserve wines, vinegar, fruit juices and fruits)
  • Benzoates such as sodium benzoate which is used to prevent the growth of fungi in products such as pickles, cheeses, fruits, beverages and others.

Use these preservatives with care and in the right amounts to avoid poisoning your food. Also, ensure that you have used the appropriate preservative for the chicken (or other food you choose).

3. Refrigerate it

Putting the raw chicken in the freezer will prevent it from rotting or generally going bad. You can also put it in the fridge for a few days then eat it.

  • If you decide to use the fridge, make sure the chicken does not go beyond four days.
  • In the freezer, on the other hand, you should not keep the chicken there for more than four months.

The reason for these limitations is that, even at temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria can grow from as low as 10,000 to 10 billion in a period of four days.


No matter the method you use to preserve your raw chicken, you need to know exactly what it is you are doing with it.

Some preservatives, for example, will change the taste of the chicken to one which you may not like at all. For that reason, ask the person selling the preservative if it will change the taste in any way (or taste it).

Also, ensure the preservatives are used in the correct ways to avoid turning them into poisons.

If all these complicate matters, choose the normal food preserving methods such as warming it, freezing it and others.


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