Most of us have encountered slimy chicken at one point or another. The question is, does this mean the meat is spoiled? Or is it safe to cook it off and eat it even if the texture is off?
Chicken can be slimy after defrosting due to the fact that moisture expands when it’s frozen. Most of the time, though, slimy chicken serves as a warning sign. If the meat smells foul or shows any other signs of spoilage, discard it immediately.
Why It’s Important
Slimy chicken is unpleasant to touch, but it could cause even bigger problems. If the chicken is slimy, there’s a chance that it’s gone bad. That’s part of what we’re here to discuss.
The sliminess is typically caused by the presence of bacteria. These cause the proteins and fats in the meat to break down, leading to a mushy or slimy texture.
These types of bacteria won’t necessarily lead to food poisoning. They can cause discoloration and foul odors in addition to the sliminess, but you won’t necessarily get sick if you consume them. That said, it probably won’t be the best choice you ever made.
Even if you don’t have severe symptoms, consuming meat that’s riddled with spoilage bacteria can cause gastrointestinal distress. Moreover, it just doesn’t taste good. Needless to say, that’s not how you want to finish off your cookout.
A slimy surface on a meat product doesn’t always denote spoilage, either, but it is one of the warning signs. That’s why you should always be on high alert when inspecting your meat before cooking.
Telltale Signs of Spoiled Chicken
When it comes to poultry, you can usually tell whether it’s spoiled just by opening the door of the refrigerator. In most cases, it gives off a foul odor, like rotten eggs.
This is good news and bad news. Good, because at least you can tell immediately whether the chicken should be thrown out. Bad, because no one wants to smell spoiled chicken.
Whenever you open a package of chicken, give the meat a sniff before proceeding. Sometimes the smell isn’t as obvious, but it may still be there. If there’s any discernible odor, the chicken has probably turned the corner and should be discarded.
Discoloration or moldy patches are other telltale signs of spoilage. The raw chicken should be peach or pink in color. Once it’s cooked, the chicken will turn opaque and white. If you spot any patches of green, gray, or brown, don’t eat the chicken.
Pro Tip: When dealing with raw chicken, take a look at the fat as well. It should be creamy white, not yellow or grayish.
Slimy Chicken No Smell: Is It Still Good?
If the chicken passes the smell test and you don’t notice any discoloration, can you assume it’s safe to eat? Not necessarily.
Spoiled chicken may also have a slimy texture. It can also feel overly sticky beneath your fingers.
Run your finger along the surface of the flesh. The texture should be firm and springy. It will also feel slightly damp, but not soggy.
Slimy chicken isn’t necessarily rotten, as we’ll discuss more in the next section. But a slimy texture is a definite red flag. Now is the time to remember the old adage, “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Chicken Slimy After Defrosting
Sometimes, when you take chicken out of the package after defrosting, you’ll notice that it feels wet or slimy to the touch. While this certainly could indicate spoilage, it’s not always a cause for concern.
For one thing, the chicken contains natural moisture that will expand when the meat is frozen. As the chicken thaws, this fluid can cause excess moisture to build up on the surface.
The processors may also have injected the chicken with a solution to preserve or tenderize the meat. If this is the case, the chicken is bound to feel slimy once you’ve defrosted it.
Another possibility: This isn’t the first time the meat was defrosted. Although it’s safe to thaw and refreeze chicken without cooking it off, you need to be careful.
Freezing meat halts the growth of bacteria, which is why we do it in the first place. But every time you thaw the meat, the bacterial growth starts up again. Hence, repeated thawing and refreezing can be problematic.
After defrosting, you only have a day or two to cook the chicken before it starts to deteriorate. If you’ve waited two days only to freeze it again, there’s a solid chance that it’s already started to turn the corner.
Our advice would be to cook the chicken as soon as possible after defrosting. Should your plans change, you can pop it back into the freezer, but don’t wait too long to do it.
Also, know that there’s only one defrosting method that allows you to safely refrigerate or refreeze the meat afterward. For more information, see Defrosting Tips, below.
How Long Does Raw Chicken Keep in the Fridge?
When you purchase raw chicken, expect it to keep for two days, tops. We prefer to buy it the same day or the day before we plan to cook it off, depending on the cut and the cooking application we have in mind.
As soon as you know you won’t be cooking the chicken within a 2-day time frame, it’s best to freeze it. You can either keep it in its original packaging or portion it out into freezer-safe containers or zip-top bags. Label the packages before freezing them.
Keep the chicken in the coldest part of the fridge. That’s the wisest course of action no matter what meat product you’re dealing with. Also, be sure the refrigerator temperature is set below 40 degrees.
Don’t leave chicken out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, whether it’s raw or cooked. If it’s an especially hot day, or if the chicken spent any time in a hot car, shorten that window to just 1 hour.
Refrigerate leftovers promptly, and consume or freeze them within 3 to 4 days.
Try to plan ahead when defrosting chicken. As we mentioned, you won’t have much leeway in terms of time. It’s best to start preparing it as soon as the meat has had a chance to fully thaw.
Defrosting chicken in the refrigerator takes about 4 to 5 hours for every pound of meat. So if you’re planning to cook a whole 6-pound chicken, you should take it out of the freezer a day in advance. Smaller cuts will only need to thaw a few hours, or overnight.
Set the chicken on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that the juices won’t contaminate anything that might be sitting below it. For similar reasons, you should keep it on a rimmed platter or baking sheet until it’s defrosted.
You can also thaw the chicken in a bath of cold water. Don’t use hot water, as this will put the meat in the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees for too long. When that happens, bacteria begin to multiply rapidly.
Fill a sink or large container with cold water, then submerge the wrapped chicken. It should thaw at a rate of about 30 minutes per pound. Be sure to swap out the cold water at 30-minute intervals, or it might get too warm.
Don’t refrigerate or refreeze chicken that’s been defrosted this way. Refreezing is only safe if the meat was thawed in the refrigerator. Otherwise, you’ll have to cook it straight away.
The microwave will also work in a pinch. We try not to rely on it, especially with whole chickens or other large bone-in cuts, but it can be suitable for boneless breast and tenderloin when you’re in a hurry.
Use your microwave’s defrost setting, or set the unit so that it’s running at just 30 to 50 percent power. Thaw the chicken in 2-minute intervals for about 3 to 5 minutes per pound.
Again, it’s not safe to hold onto the meat once it’s been defrosted in the microwave. You need to cook it as soon as it’s thawed. Of course, if you’re using this method, you’re probably in a hurry anyway.
Never leave meat out on the counter to thaw. You might think that you’ll be saving time, but it will actually invite bacteria to set up camp. When pressed for time, use cold water or the microwave instead.
Can You Cook Chicken Without Defrosting It?
We should also point out that it isn’t necessary to defrost chicken before you cook it. Cooking meat from a frozen state takes about 50 percent longer, but depending on which cut you’re using, this might not pose much of an issue.
On the other hand, if you’re worried that the meat might not be at its freshest, we would recommend thawing it before you start to cook. There’s no sense in doing all that work if the chicken has gone bad.
The Bottom Line
Most of the time, a slimy texture means that spoilage bacteria have begun to collect on the meat. But if you’ve taken the chicken out of the freezer, the excess moisture might just be a byproduct of the defrosting process.
Use your best judgment when dealing with fresh meat products. If you think it’s gone bad, then it probably has. Don’t take the risk.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!