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Store chicken in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Raw poultry can be refrigerated for two days. Cooked chicken can be refrigerated for three days. If not served immediately, cooked chicken should be kept either hot, between 140°F and 160°F (60°C and 71°C), or refrigerated at 40°F (4.5°C) or colder. When transporting cooked chicken to another dining site, place it in an insulated container or ice chest until ready to eat. If a cooked chicken is stuffed, remove stuffing to a separate container before refrigerating leftovers. Freeze fresh chicken if you do not plan to cook it within two days after purchase. Wrap chicken parts individually in foil or freezer bags before freezing, and label the package for ease in selecting just the right number of parts to thaw for a single meal. Be sure to press the air out of the package before freezing. You may also freeze chicken in its original wrapping. Whole uncooked chickens may be kept for about 6 months in a freezer compartment or 12 months in a deep freeze; chicken cut in parts and frozen is best when used within 3 to 6 months. Cooked chicken parts may be frozen in the same way as fresh. However, if the dish is made with a sauce or gravy, pack it tightly in a rigid container with a tight-fitting lid. Thaw uncooked chicken in the refrigerator or in cold water. Never thaw chicken at room temperature. In the refrigerator, a whole chicken (4 pounds or 1,800g) should thaw within 24 hours; cut-up parts require 3 to 9 hours, depending on the size and number of parts. To thaw more quickly, place chicken (wrapped in a watertight bag) under cold water. Change the water often. A whole chicken should thaw in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. For fastest thawing of uncooked or cooked chicken, use the microwave. Thawing time will vary according to whether you’re thawing a whole chicken or parts, and the number of parts frozen together. Use the Defrost or Medium-Low setting, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Turn the chicken and separate parts as they thaw, taking care the chicken does not begin to cook. Repeat as needed.

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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2024.