You get home from a long day of work, starving and ready to eat. You pull out your chicken you bought from the store a day or two ago and open the package to get it ready for cooking.
When you do this, the smell of boiled eggs hits you in the face like a ton of bricks. This has not happened to you before and you are unsure of why the meat is giving off this particular smell. What are you supposed to do with it?
Chicken is a tricky meat that may or may not have an egg smell and may or may not be edible even with the distinct odor.
So, why does chicken sometimes smell like eggs? Chicken may smell like eggs due to the blood in the chicken being spoiled, the oxidation of the packaging it came in, or because it contains traces of salmonella poisoning.
However, just because it has a slight eggy smell does not necessarily mean it is inedible.
Keep reading to better understand why raw and cooked chicken smells like eggs, when chicken is safe to eat or when it should be thrown away, how to store it, and the best place to buy it.
Why Does My Raw Chicken Smell Like Eggs?
When opening a package of fresh, frozen or vacuumed sealed chicken you may notice an eggy smell to the meat.
It is important to note that we are talking about a boiled egg smell, not a rotten egg smell (you will want to throw your chicken away immediately if it smells rotten or rancid).
If you are confused about the difference, chicken that smells like boiled eggs will not knock you off your feet, whereas chicken that smells like rotten eggs will be rancid and have the potential to make you queasy. Trust your gut here!
Here are a few reasons why your raw chicken may smell like eggs, and why it may still be edible even with the odor.
Sometimes chicken opened before or on the expiration date still has a funky smell. This may be due to the blood spoiling faster in the chicken than the meat itself.
Because the blood in the chicken can spoil faster than the meat, it may result in the smell of boiled eggs.
However, this does not automatically mean your chicken is bad. You can rinse off the chicken with water and let it sit for a few minutes to get rid of the eggy smell.
If the chicken no longer has the smell of eggs, it is safe to cook and eat. Just make sure to cook it to the correct internal temperature of 165°F.
Another culprit responsible for the eggy smell in raw chicken is a bacteria called Salmonella Enterica.
Salmonella is the number one bacteria responsible for a majority of food poisoning and is similar to E. coli. Salmonella has the potential to cause bacterial enterocolitis and greatly affects both chicken and egg products.
Salmonella is the specific bacteria that causes a sulfur or egg smell in raw chicken.
However, it is an avoidable bacteria that can be removed if the meat is cooked properly.
To ensure the salmonella is taken care of and removed from the chicken, make sure to cook it to the correct internal temperature of 165°F.
One last reason raw chicken may smell like eggs is due to the packaging it comes in.
Unless you are buying your chicken over the counter at a grocery store or from a butcher, you will find your meat in vacuum-sealed packages. This is the case for both fresh and frozen chicken.
Many grocery stores will warn you about the eggy smell of packaged chicken, yet they do not explain exactly why that smell occurs.
This eggy smell, also known as a confinement smell, appears due to the gasses used in the process of packaging the meat.
The process of packaging chicken requires the removal of oxygen and the addition of another preservative gas, like sulfur dioxide.
Both the addition and removal of these gases are what cause the eggy smell in vacuum-sealed chicken.
However, this may not be a cause for concern.
The boiled egg smell should be removed from the chicken after it has set out on the counter for a few minutes and then eventually cooked to the correct internal temperature of 165°F.
Cooked Chicken Smells Like Eggs
Even after cooking chicken it may still have an eggy odor to it. You may try to cover it up with spices and sauces, however the smell may still remain very present.
The reasoning behind the eggy smell of cooked chicken is the same as raw chicken.
It could be from the blood spoiling before the meat does, salmonella may be present, or it could be due to the loss of oxygen and the addition of a preservative gas that has stayed with the meat throughout the cooking process.
Unfortunately, smell alone cannot determine whether or not the chicken remains edible. Therefore, cooked chicken with an eggy smell may or may not be edible.
It is important to use your best judgement with cooked chicken and you may have to utilize other signs to decide if the chicken is or is not edible.
Is Chicken That Smells Like Eggs Safe To Eat?
Well…that is a complicated answer. Most often, if it is just a slight eggy smell, the chicken is most likely edible.
There are also ways to make that boiled egg smell disappear in the meat (keep reading for some tips on how to do this).
In short, it is up to you and what you are comfortable consuming.
What To Do If Raw Chicken Smells Like Eggs
Though the smell of eggy chicken may freak you out, it does not mean that the meat has actually gone bad. There are a few steps to take that may get rid of that smell and in turn ensure the chicken is in fact edible.
- First, remove the chicken from its packaging and let it sit on the counter for about 10-15 minutes. Giving the chicken some fresh air can sometimes result in the smell disappearing.
- However, if the smell is coming from salmonella do not expect the smell to disappear (it may linger before the chicken is cooked and should go away after cooking).
- If you left your chicken on the counter and it still has an eggy scent to it, wash it thoroughly under cold water to help remove some of the smell.
- Another step you may take is applying some type of acid to the chicken. Vinegar or lemon juice work best here to remove the smell.
- You may wash the acidic ingredient off of the chicken after 2-3 minutes if you do not want it to affect the taste of your chicken. Or you may leave the acidity on to give the chicken some flavor, but also to up your chances of it not smelling like eggs even after you have cooked it.
- You can also wash your chicken then cover it with salt to attempt to get rid of the smell.
- You’ll want to cook the chicken with the salt already all over it, so just be wary of what other ingredients you are putting on it (you are trying to get rid of the egg smell, not indulge in chicken that is too salty!)
- A sprinkle of baking soda is another method to get rid of the boiled egg smell. Simply sprinkle a bit all over the chicken, let it sit for a minute, then wash it thoroughly before cooking.
- Adding spices and herbs, like oregano or bay leaves, may also help mask the boiled egg smell and make the chicken more enjoyable.
Though these methods may remove smell, use your best discretion on whether or not you should eat the chicken.
Smell alone does not dictate whether the chicken is or is not edible, so it is important to know some other signs, like discoloration, to make an educated decision on whether to cook the meat or toss it in the trash.
How To Tell If Your Chicken Has Gone Bad
Because the boiled egg smell can be present before and after cooking chicken, it is important to look at other aspects of the meat to make an educated decision on whether or not you should consume the product.
These other aspects of the chicken, like color and texture, can help you determine whether the chicken you are about to cook, or have already cooked, has gone bad or if it can still be eaten.
Texture is one of the first ways to decide if your chicken is edible or not.
For raw chicken, you want the texture to be smooth and glossy, but not slimy. If the raw chicken feels slimy and tacky, and/or leaves a sticky feeling on your hands after handling it, it has gone bad and should not be cooked.
For frozen chicken, the same anti-slimy rule applies. If it is slimy, and/or overly covered in ice (imagine freezer burn) it is inedible and should not be cooked.
Cooked chicken should have a very firm and dry texture.
Juices coming from the chicken are okay, but they, again, should not be slimy or sticky. If the texture feels sticky or extremely stringy and tacky, it is probably not safe to consume.
The color of your chicken is another indicator of whether or not your meat is safe to consume.
With raw chicken, you want a bright pink, almost fleshy, color with the fatty pieces being pretty close to white.
If the fat pieces on the chicken look cream or almost yellow, that is a sign your chicken is bad.
If the raw chicken looks even a bit green, grey, or dull, it also is a sign it has probably spoiled. Do not risk eating the discolored chicken and make sure to throw it out.
Very similar rules apply for frozen chicken in regard to color.
It should be a bright pink fleshy color, and any frost on the outside should be clear-colored, not cloudy or dull.
The fat should be pretty close to white, and if it is a dark cream or yellow, it is not safe to eat.
For cooked chicken, the color of the flesh should be white all the way through. If there are any pink pieces, that is a sign your chicken is not cooked all the way and can put you at risk for salmonella.
If your chicken starts to look grey and dull or a bit green once you start cooking it, that is also a sign of spoilage, and you should not consume the meat.
In all kinds of chicken, fresh, frozen or cooked, any spotting of mold is also a sign your chicken is no longer edible.
Now that we’ve gone over how to figure out whether or not your chicken has gone bad, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
How Long Can Chicken Be Left In The Fridge Before Cooking?
Chicken should be cooked no longer than 1-2 days after being in the fridge.
Even if the expiration date is later, to ensure the best quality without the eggy smell, cook your chicken ASAP. This will also help you avoid consuming spoiled chicken.
How Long Can Cooked Chicken Be Left in the Fridge?
Cooked chicken will remain edible in the fridge for about 3 days. You should not eat chicken that has been left there any longer. Each additional day raises the risk of food-related sickness.
What Is The Best Way To Store Chicken?
If you are not going to cook raw chicken in 1-2 days after purchasing, it is best to store it in the freezer until you are ready to cook it.
Raw chicken can last in the freezer for about 6-9 months before spoiling.
For cooked chicken, make sure it is in a tightly sealed container in your refrigerator. Your refrigerator can go no higher than 40°F to ensure the chicken does not go bad.
Where Is The Best Place To Buy Chicken?
To ensure the best quality chicken, try finding a local butcher in your area. Butchers tend to have the freshest cuts of meat.
If that is not an option, try grabbing your chicken from your grocery store’s meat counter instead of the prepackaged chicken.
Also opt for organic and free range chicken to ensure better quality meat.
How Can I Avoid Spoiling My Chicken?
First, double check the expiration date on the package. If you plan on cooking it in 1-2 days, it is okay to pick a package that is expiring soon.
However, if you plan on cooking it later in the week, try and look for a later expiration date.
When grocery shopping, pick up your chicken last and make sure to get it into your refrigerator or freezer ASAP.
Chicken has about a 1-hour window from when you take it out of the cool case to when it gets back into a refrigerator or freezer before bacteria starts building.
Always make sure to cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F. This will reduce the risk of salmonella poisoning.
The best way to ensure the chicken is thoroughly cooked is to invest in a digital meat thermometer. Using your eye to check for doneness in a chicken is not as reliable as a meat thermometer.
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