I Thawed Some Chicken. Do I Have to Cook it Today?
Question: I thawed some frozen chicken pieces for dinner tonight, but I’ve had a change in plans and I’d rather make them tomorrow. Do I still have to cook the chicken today?
Answer: You don’t have to cook the chicken right away — as long as you thawed it in the refrigerator.
Poultry that’s been defrosted in the fridge can be safely kept for an additional one to two days in the refrigerator before cooking, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You also can safely refreeze it within that same timeframe.
On the other hand, if you thawed the chicken in the microwave or in cold water, the USDA advises that you cook it immediately.
That’s because with either method, the chicken could have at least temporarily warmed up to a temperature higher than 40°F. At that point, harmful bacteria can begin to multiply rapidly and prompt cooking is required to destroy it.