Vacuum sealing can keep meat fresh longer than if you’d left it in the original packaging. How long does vacuum sealed chicken last in the fridge, and how can you tell if it’s turned the corner? Read on to find out.
How Long Does Vacuum Sealed Chicken Last in the Fridge?
Raw vacuum sealed chicken can keep for 4 to 5 days when properly stored in the fridge. After the meat is cooked, it might keep for up to 14 days once it’s sealed in the vacuum packaging. If you don’t think you’ll be able to use it in time, you can store the packages in the freezer for 9 to 12 months.
Why Vacuum Sealing Works
Why does meat last longer when it’s vacuum sealed? The answer is simple: Most bacteria need air in order to survive and reproduce.
When chicken is stored in regular packaging, it will only keep for a couple of days in the fridge. Unless you plan to cook it the day you buy it—or perhaps the next day—you might end up having to freeze the meat for a later date.
The less air there is in the environment, the longer the chicken will last. Vacuum sealing wraps the meat in an airtight package, helping to preserve its shelf life.
How Long Does Vacuum Sealed Chicken Last in the Fridge?
Though chicken doesn’t have a very impressive shelf life under normal circumstances, it can last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge when it’s vacuum sealed.
It’s important to note that the conditions need to be ideal in order for the chicken to keep for this long. If there’s too much bacteria present when the meat is sealed, it can still go bad inside the package.
Remember that the vacuum sealing doesn’t halt the growth of bacteria the way freezing temperatures do. If you try to keep the chicken in the fridge for too long, it will spoil, no matter how it’s wrapped.
Also, this estimate refers to cooked chicken. No matter how ideal the circumstances, raw vacuum sealed chicken will only keep for 4 to 5 days in the fridge.
Can You Vacuum Seal Chicken at Home?
You can—but only if you have the correct equipment. You’ll also need to follow a stringent set of rules to minimize the risk of food poisoning. For these reasons, many home chefs prefer to leave the job to the professionals.
First and foremost, make sure the chicken is as fresh as possible when you begin. When vacuum sealing raw chicken, do so as soon as you bring the meat home from the store. Seal cooked leftovers immediately, or no later than the next day.
Read the instructions for your sealing machine carefully before you begin. It’s important to understand every step in the process, and to know how to handle any problems that might arise.
Keep your work station clean, and wash your hands before and after handling the chicken. Wash any tools or equipment that you touched as soon as possible, too.
Date the packages and store them in the fridge at once. You can also store vacuum sealed chicken in the freezer, where it will keep indefinitely—though it’s best not to leave it exposed to the freezing temperatures for longer than a year (see below for more details).
Can You Vacuum Seal Whole Chickens?
While it’s technically possible, vacuum sealing whole chickens is a difficult project to take on. That’s because there’s a good chance that the chest cavity of the bird will still have air locked inside, even once you’ve used the sealing machine.
Some machines are powerful enough to remove the air from the chest cavity during the sealing process, but there are no guarantees. Your best course of action would be to divide the whole chicken into portions before you seal it.
Should You Vacuum Seal Cooked Chicken?
Absolutely. In fact, it’s better to cook the chicken off before you break out the sealing machine.
Cooking the meat will destroy any hazardous bacteria that’s already present, thereby keeping it fresh for longer. As we pointed out, vacuum sealed cooked chicken might keep in the fridge for as long as 2 weeks.
Raw chicken doesn’t have a very long shelf life in any case. By vacuum sealing it, you’d only be buying yourself an extra day or two. That cuts way down on the benefit you’d receive from taking on the project in the first place.
Can You Keep Vacuum Sealed Chicken at Room Temperature?
No. It’s never safe to keep chicken—or any meat product—at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. This applies whether the chicken is cooked or raw, or whether there’s vacuum packaging involved or not.
It’s true that vacuum sealing the chicken will slow the rate at which the bacteria can reproduce. But if the meat is kept at a temperature between 40 and 140 degrees, bacteria will still manage to thrive, increasing your risk of food poisoning.
Cooking the meat won’t be enough to save it if it’s been sitting out for too long. While the heat might destroy the bacteria, there will still be heat-resistant toxins left behind. If the chicken has been sitting out for too long, you’ll have to throw it out.
How To Store Vacuum Sealed Chicken
As we mentioned, it’s best to vacuum seal the chicken as soon as you can. When the cooked chicken has had a chance to cool off, seal it immediately, then keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy it.
Keep all meat products in the coldest portion of the fridge. This is on the bottom shelf, toward the back. If your refrigerator has an ice tray at the top, it will be colder in that area, but otherwise, the lower shelf is your best bet.
Freezing Vacuum Sealed Chicken
Can you freeze chicken after it’s been vacuum sealed? Yes, if you don’t think you’ll use it in time. It will still keep longer after thawing than it would if it were stored in its regular packaging, assuming you freeze it within a reasonable time frame.
What does that mean? Let’s assume you kept your cooked vacuum sealed chicken in the fridge for a week, and then decided to freeze it. In this case, it should keep for another week after you’ve thawed it, assuming it makes it to the 2-week threshold.
Similarly, if you froze it right away, you should still have that 2-week window in which to use it before the meat starts to deteriorate. But if you kept it around for close to 2 weeks before freezing it, you should be sure to use it up as soon as it thaws.
Vacuum sealed chicken should keep for 9 to 12 months in the freezer, since the sealing process will help to prevent freezer burn. As always, though, we would recommend thawing and enjoying it sooner rather than later.
How To Tell if Vacuum Sealed Chicken Has Gone Bad
It can be tough to tell when vacuum sealed chicken has gone bad, because it’s wrapped so tightly. However, if it has spoiled, there are telltale signs to watch out for.
Spoiled chicken might change color from peachy-pink (or white, if it’s fully cooked) to an unpleasant brown shade. The meat could also take on a grayish tinge, or be spotted with green or blue. If this is the case, discard it immediately.
On a similar note, there could even be mold on the surface of the meat. That’s another major red flag. Never eat meat that’s grown mold, even if you’ve carved away the offending areas first.
You can also check the texture of the chicken. Sliminess, stickiness, or excess moisture all indicate that the meat has gone bad during its stint in the fridge. While it’s disappointing, discarding the meat is the only safe course of action at this point.
Most of the time, we recommend sniffing chicken to determine whether it’s gone bad. But vacuum sealed chicken might smell a little bit off when you first open it, owing to the fact that the odors have been sealed inside for so long.
After opening the package, wait 10 to 20 minutes. If you still notice a sour smell or
detect a whiff of rotten eggs, then discard the chicken. If it smells fine after the waiting period is up, then the meat should be safe to eat.
Never be tempted to “test” the chicken by tasting it when you suspect that it’s gone bad. Even if it’s just a small amount, consuming spoiled meat can cause gastrointestinal distress.
Assuming that you’ve cooked the chicken first and sealed it as soon as it was cool, it could remain fresh for a couple of weeks. This should give you plenty of time to come up with ways to use it all.
If you have the right equipment, it might be a good idea to cook off large batches of chicken at a time, then vacuum seal it. That way, you’ll be able to add a boost of protein to your meals throughout the week without putting in any extra work.