Food and Recipes Kitchen Assistant 6 Chicken Storage Mistakes You Might Be Making Time to check your fridge. By Taylor Tobin Taylor Tobin Taylor Tobin is a freelance food and lifestyle journalist based in Austin, Texas. She has been covering home cooking and home bartending for over five years, with bylines in publications like Eater, HuffPost, Insider, Allrecipes, Wine Enthusiast, and The Spruce Eats. She's an avid home chef who's always eager to try new recipes, and she's constantly inspired by the culinary traditions of the exciting city of Austin, which she calls home. Southern Living's editorial guidelines Updated on April 16, 2023 Medically reviewed by Brierley Horton, MS, RD Medically reviewed by Brierley Horton, MS, RD Brierley Horton is a registered dietitian nutritionist with 15 years of experience as a writer and editor for national media outlets such as Cooking Light, EatingWell, Livestrong.com, and All Recipes. She has been the editor of articles that won journalism awards from the James Beard Foundation and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She's appeared on the TODAY Show, MSNBC's Thomas Roberts, and more. Brierley holds a master’s degree in Nutrition Communications from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. learn more Fact checked by Jennifer Hawk Fact checked by Jennifer Hawk Jennifer Hawk is a former English professor with 24 years of experience guiding even the most reluctant through the labyrinths of writing, rhetoric, and research. brand's fact checking process Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Dotdash Meredith A lean protein that can easily adapt to countless recipes and flavor profiles, chicken is immensely popular in home kitchens for very good reason. But because chicken can carry several types of bacteria (like Salmonella and E. coli), storing it improperly may result in foodborne illnesses. To help avoid that fate and to keep your chicken in the best possible condition (whether it's raw or cooked), we've asked a group of food safety experts to point out the six biggest mistakes home cooks make when storing chicken, along with the best ways to prevent those issues. 1. Letting raw chicken become too warm during the trip home from the grocery store. To stop chicken from forming dangerous bacteria, it's crucial to store the raw meat at a cold temperature (40°F or below). Of course, it's not possible to bring a fridge in the car with you when you head to the grocery store, but you should still make every effort to keep the chicken as cold as you can for the duration of your trip. "One of the biggest mistakes that people can make is failing to properly cool chicken during a commute home. This isn't necessary for people with short commutes, but consumers in rural areas often have to drive over 30 minutes to the grocery store. I would recommend using a cooler to store chicken for any commute over 30 minutes to minimize bacterial growth," suggests medical reviewer DJ Mazzoni of Illuminate Labs. 2. Keeping raw chicken above or next to ready-to-eat foods in the fridge. It's very important to store raw chicken in the refrigerator, but it's equally important to consider its specific location within your fridge. "Don't store it in the refrigerator above or directly next to other raw foods or foods that are ready-to-eat. This is a concern because the raw chicken, or juices from the chicken, can accidentally drip onto other foods and transfer pathogens to them," warns Kimberly Baker, Ph.D, the director of the Clemson University Extension Food Systems and Safety Program Team. "If the contaminated food is not handled safely and cooked to a safe temperature, then the person consuming that food could get sick with a foodborne illness." Tightly wrapping the chicken in plastic and placing it on the bottom rack of your fridge will prevent drippage and contamination. 3. Not cooking raw chicken quickly enough. Like many other proteins, raw chicken is perishable, so it's best to avoid letting it linger in your refrigerator for too long before cooking. "It's important to use fresh raw chicken within one to two days of storing it in the refrigerator—at 40°F or below. Any longer, and you could risk the chicken spoiling or becoming unsafe to eat. Fresh poultry can be kept in a freezer at ideal quality for up to nine months," says microbiologist and senior account manager Lisa Yakas of NSF International. 4. Wrapping large amounts of raw chicken together to freeze. Speaking of the freezer, while freezing raw chicken is an effective way to extend its freshness, "wrapping a large quantity of raw chicken together to freeze isn't a great idea because it will be hard to take out a small quantity of chicken in the future," explains chef-instructor Christopher Arturo of The Institute of Culinary Education. Instead, Arturo advises "freezing chicken in small bunches so you can pull out only what you need. Plus, the smaller and flatter the wrapped chicken is, the faster it will freeze." 5. Leaving cooked chicken on the counter for too long. Leftover cooked chicken is also susceptible to breeding bacteria, so "don't leave cooked chicken on the countertop too long after cooking it before putting it in the fridge. As it sits on your countertop [at a warm temperature], it creates a perfect environment for bacteria to start growing again, so it's important to get it back in the fridge before too much bacterial growth takes place," says food scientist Caitlin Clark, M.S., a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University. "It shouldn't sit out for more than two hours before being refrigerated." 6. Keeping cooked chicken in the fridge for too many days. Just as raw chicken shouldn't linger in the refrigerator for more than a couple of days, it's also wise to limit the amount of time that you leave cooked chicken in there before consumption. "When you move leftovers into the refrigerator, leave them loosely covered for the first couple of hours so that the cold air can chill them quickly. Then cover them tightly," says Chris Boyles, the Vice President of Food Safety for Steritech. "Refrigerated leftover chicken should be consumed or discarded in three to four days. Otherwise, you can freeze it [in an airtight container] and keep it for three to four months." Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Southern Living is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. U.S. Department of Agriculture. What bacteria are associated with chicken? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Four steps (clean, separate, cook, chill) to food safety. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service. Food Safety Education Month: preventing cross contamination. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Services. Chicken from farm to table. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chicken and food poisoning.