Chicken Stock, Bacteria, and Food Safety Guidelines -Oh My

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Hi there,

Why can chicken stock only last for 2-3 days in the refrigerator? If it’s refrigerated, wouldn’t it be good for 4 or 5 days? I made some homemade chicken stock on Saturday and never got around to using it for soup. Is it really no longer good?

Boiled in Boston

Heather says:

I spent quite a bit of time at the airport this past week (and I’ll be spending more this weekend and trust me, there is a segue here). is currently engaged in a massive public service campaign to educate the public on proper food safety precautions. I have many people ask me questions like yours, “Well, I know what the guidelines are, but can I?”

I cannot, in good conscience, recommend anything but the official guidelines for food safety.


Because food poisoning can have serious and occasionally fatal consequences, and I’m not willing to dole out advice that could harm someone’s family. I couldn’t live with that on my conscience.

You may think that the cooking process of making chicken stock would kill all the bacteria and that the food would then be safe for an extended period of time. If your home were a clean room in a lab, that could potentially be true. However, your home is not a cleanroom. This is especially true if you have children and / or pets. Kids don’t wash their hands, pets walk in litter boxes and then on counters or shake, and their slobber goes flying.

Forced air heat and air conditioning pipe dust from one end of the home to another, this dust lands on uncovered food, carrying whatever spores or dander it came into contact with.

Additionally, some forms of bacteria are encapsulated by a protective protein coating and can survive high temperatures in a sort of self-made survival pod. Once the temperature drops below the temperature they can’t tolerate, they start dividing, and by dividing, I mean multiplying.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Just because your chicken stock is relatively low in bacteria immediately after it is cooked, there are many points at which new bacteria could be introduced to your stock. Wet foods are a great growth medium. If you choose to make the personal choice –and I still would not recommend this–  to ignore food safety guidelines, know that reheating the stock to 150°F for one minute will kill active bacteria, and boiling for ten minutes will break down the dangerous botulism toxin.

Now what you absolutely must remember is this:

Heating food to 150°F is not the same as heating it to a palatable temperature.

Use a thermometer to ensure your food is being heated to the proper temperature.

Know that refrigeration only slows bacterial growth; it does not eliminate it.

Please know that pushing the guidelines increases your risk even though I can’t tell you exactly how much due to the incredible number of variables involved.

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2 thoughts on “Chicken Stock, Bacteria, and Food Safety Guidelines -Oh My”

  1. Thanks. My son was just asking me why I freeze broth yesterday, instead of just putting it in the refrigerator. I’ll keep in mind the 150-degree heating next time just to be safe.

  2. Hmmm! Good information to share with people because I have a Costco baked chicken in my frig on carcass—4 days and only a couple of slices off on side of breast. I was going to eat somemore tonight until reading this. No thinks. It was under $5 so I will toss it! Even if $10 I would have. Ha! Good thing I researched this! I knew turkey was immediately taken care of the carcass as soon as dinner was over so why in the world would I have thought it okay to eat the chicken that was kept on the carcass. Beats me but at least I had the good sense to check it out before indulging!


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