Meat is delicious, but can also be quite tricky to buy because sometimes it’s not enough to check the best-by date on the package to ensure you bought fresh meat. This is true for all animal meat, including white meat like chickens.
For a variety of reasons, you might come across chicken that smells funny. When raw chicken smells like eggs, it might be because of the package, the storage method, or other reasons. Depending on the reason, it could be still good to eat or it could make you sick.
Why does your chicken smell like boiled eggs?
It is not uncommon for meat to smell weird, even though it’s always an unpleasant experience. Some types of meat like pork might smell like rotten eggs, which is a huge red flag that makes us think we should throw it away, but that’s not always the case.
Unlike pork, when chicken smells funny it doesn’t smell like rotten food, but more like hard-boiled eggs, which is why many people are confused about whether the chicken is still good to eat or not.
When fresh chicken smells like eggs, sometimes it’s because the blood in the meat is spoiled, even though the meat is still good. In this case, you can wash the chicken thoroughly to get rid of the smell and proceed with cooking.
Some people would rather throw the chicken away in this case. Either way is fine, it is, after all, a personal choice because when the meat has unusual odors there’s no fixed rule that can assure you it is still good or not.
Before you decide whether to keep or throw out your chicken, here’s what you need to know.
You bought a package of chicken cuts at the supermarket which still has several days from its expiration date, yet when you open it at home you’re hit with an unusual smell, something that isn’t exactly unpleasant but definitely doesn’t belong to chicken.
When raw chicken smells like sulfur, the culprit is usually the bacteria called Salmonella enterica, best known for causing enterocolitis in humans. This bacteria affects eggs and chicken products, making them release a gas that smells like sulfur.
However, the bacteria that cause eggs to smell are spoilage bacteria and won’t cause food poisoning or diseases. Moreover, these bacteria will be made harmless once cooked at a temperature above 165°F (or 75°C).
Cooking meat at the right temperature is important whether it smells fresh or not because raw meat can cause food poisoning or carry illnesses even when it looks and smells perfectly fresh.
Vacuum packed chicken
Unless you’re buying your chicken fresh from a butcher shop, all of your chicken cuts come in sealed packages. Oftentimes, grocery, and online stores warn their customers that sealed meat might have an unpleasant smell upon opening.
The smell is due to the gas used in the packaging process, but more often, it’s an issue with vacuum-packed meat. During this process, oxygen is removed from the package, which can cause an eggy smell when you open it.
This smell is known as “confinement smell” and has no relation with the quality and freshness of the meat, which is still good to eat.
Vacuum packed chicken may also look a little darker, as the lack of oxygen makes the color change from pink to red.
The smell should quickly go away after you let the meat take some air. If it doesn’t, then there may be some problem with the meat and it’s better to throw it out.
What does bad chicken smell like?
If the meat has really gone bad, there is hardly any doubt about it. It will smell bad, it will look bad, and most likely, the mere presence of it in your kitchen will make you feel like throwing up.
When it’s bad, your raw chicken smells like rotten eggs, ammonia, or something as unpleasant. It will definitely not be a boiled eggs smell or anything as mild. Furthermore, the rotten chicken may start smelling or change color even during the cooking process.
If you have a seemingly perfectly fresh chicken that starts smelling like rotten food or changes from pink to a greyish color during the cooking process, throw it away because it’s definitely gone bad.
Fresh chicken has no smell, it’s bright pink in color and it’s tender but firm. These characteristics will change the longer the chicken stays in the fridge, so if the chicken you stored in the fridge is a little darker, but looks and smells otherwise alright, it should be okay to eat.
Unless you’re planning to eat the chicken the same day you buy it, when you’re buying chicken that is labeled as ‘fresh’ you shouldn’t settle for anything less than a fresh-looking pink chicken cut with no smell.
The truth is that chicken cuts from the supermarket may have a funny smell more often than you wish for, either because of the packaging process or because of the time spent in the fridge. That’s why some people find that chicken smells like eggs but it’s still in date.
If you want to eliminate the root of the problem, you should probably find a trustworthy butcher in your area and only buy freshly cut chicken from them, and when you cannot consume chicken immediately, always remember to freeze it as soon as possible.
If your frozen chicken smells like eggs when you take it out of the freezer, maybe it’s safe to eat but you probably don’t want to risk it.
If chicken smells like eggs, is it safe to eat?
The short answer would be: maybe. Stinky chicken is usually the consequence of spoilage bacteria or of the packaging process. Neither of those actually ruin the meat, which should be safe to eat after cooking it.
However, some people would rather play on the safe side and get rid of any meat that smells funny, which is understandable, but quite expensive if you can’t return it and are forced to throw it away.
There is no right or wrong answer, as there are many other things to consider before you decide whether to eat or throw away your chicken that smells like eggs, including but not limited to:
– Do you always buy chicken from the same store or do you change often? Buying always from the same place gives you an idea of the average quality of the chicken you eat and you can also trace it back to the source;
– Is it the first time you have this problem with the chicken from a certain place, or it’s a recurring event when buying from this specific place? If it’s not your first time, there might be a problem with the way the supermarket stores its meat and you should probably try somewhere else;
– Do you stored away the chicken before opening the package? It’s possible that you might have stored it improperly or waited too long to use it, even if it’s not expired. As a general rule, do not keep the meat in the fridge for more than one day. If you don’t cook it upon buying it, freeze it instead. Also, don’t move meat in and out of the fridge or freezer, it might spoil it. Once you take it out of the freezer, either cook it or throw it away;
– Are there people in your family who are more sensitive to gastric issues or food poisoning? Some people have stronger stomachs and may not experience any consequence from eating chicken that smells like eggs, but others may not be as lucky.
These are just some of the elements you need to consider before you decide what to do with your stinky chicken. However, oftentimes the smell should go away once the chicken has been out in the air for a while. If this smell sticks around no matter what you do, then it’s best to throw it.
What should you do if chicken smells like sulfur?
You decided that your chicken is still good to eat even though it has this odd eggy smell, but of course, you’d rather it goes away. What can you do when chicken smells like eggs?
There are several methods to reduce the smell of the chicken:
– Let it air for a while. This should work when the smell is due to the packaging process. On the other hand, if it’s due to spoilage bacteria, it may not be enough.
– Wash the chicken thoroughly under running water. This works for chicken that you just took out of the freezer as well.
– Pour an acidic ingredient over the chicken, like vinegar or lemon juice. You can wash it off later if you don’t want the acidic taste to linger on the chicken, but consider that including an acidic ingredient in your recipe may help reduce the smell further.
– Cover the chicken with salt after washing it, then cook it. However, watch the salt intake in your recipe since the chicken is already covered with it.
These are some ways you can fix your chicken smell before and during cooking. However, remember that if the smell seems to get worse or if the meat changes color, you should get rid of it right away.