Chicken, in all its forms, has become a staple in American cuisine. Roasted, fried, or shredded, it’s a versatile protein that can amalgamate with many flavors.
So, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than popping open a package of raw chicken and realizing something isn’t right. If you get a whiff of eggs, sulfur, or a rotten odor, then there's a good chance that chicken is bad.
In this article, we will cover the reasons why your chicken smells like eggs and what you can do about it.
Why Does My Raw Chicken Smell Like Eggs?
There are a couple of reasons why your chicken might smell like eggs. So, let's get right into it.
If your chicken smells like rotten eggs, then what you are most likely noticing is the smell of sulfur. Fun but also gross fact: the excretions of salmonella bacteria contain sulfur. If it smells sulfury, your chicken may be contaminated and no longer safe to eat.
Interestingly enough, the blood spoils long before the meat will. The viscous quality of blood makes it far easier to penetrate than muscle, so salmonella and bacteria, in general, tend to infect blood first.
As gross as that may be, it's actually a good thing. If your meat only smells slightly eggy, then the bacteria may only be in the blood, not the meat itself. After a vigorous washing, your chicken should still be safe to eat.
Of course, there is a range of egg smells to watch out for. If it's slightly eggy, it may still be safe to eat. If it smells like rotten eggs, it's probably time to let that chicken go. The middle ground? Boiled eggs.
If your chicken smells like boiled eggs, it's most likely on the road to contamination. However, there are a few steps you can take to try and make your chicken safe to eat again.
Is Egg-Smelling Chicken Unsafe to Eat?
This is when you have to really trust your nose.
Lean in close and take a whiff. Does your chicken smell like sulfur or rotten eggs? If so, it is most likely unsafe to eat.
If you feel disgusted when you lean in to smell your chicken or are taken aback by the odor, then it's time to move on and let that chicken go.
Does your chicken smell like boiled eggs?
If it's only slightly funny-smelling and lacks any other warning signs, your chicken may still be safe to eat. Wash it thoroughly and cook it very well to kill all the bacteria. But again, proceed at your own risk.
If it’s only slightly eggy, your chicken is probably fine. Be sure to clean and cook it thoroughly, smelling along the way.
If you're saying to yourself, "Oh, whatever, I'll just cook it anyway," even though it smells weird, it’s time to take a step back. Let’s say you cook it but it still smells like sulfur…You absolutely, 100% need to throw it away. That's one bad chicken. No need to sacrifice your own stomach for a roast chicken dinner.
Tell-Tale Signs Your Chicken is Bad
Picture this: you remove the vacuum packaging and get a whiff of a strong smell. If it smells…
…then your chicken is most likely bad.
After smelling the chicken, now it's time to take a good look at it. Discoloration in raw meat is usually not a good sign. Different colors include but are not limited to gray, yellow, pink, black, or purple. Locate the discoloration, whether it be in patches or other forms. Can you remove one bad piece? Or is most of the cutlet oddly colored?
Now, it’s time for the touch test. Of course, raw meat has a very slick or slimy texture by nature, but an excess of it is a very bad sign. This specific slime is actually the waste that bacteria produce. Ew.
If there’s a small amount, then you can wash it off and cook it well. But anything more than a very thin coating means bacteria have been living in your chicken for a long time. And that ain’t safe for anyone.
Finally, check for frostbite. If your chicken is frozen over, then the bacteria's excrement was so thick that it froze. Talk about a lot of slime.
There are really only two things to watch out for with cooked chicken:
If your chicken still smells eggy after being cooked, do your stomach a favor and toss it in the trash. Or bury it in the backyard. It’s not safe for your furry friends to eat either, so make sure and stash it somewhere they won’t look.
And then there was one. Discoloration. Of course, chicken naturally changes color slightly when it’s cooked. However, any gray spots, patches, or areas are an indicator that your chicken is rotten. To the core. As in, not safe for you or your pets, so dispose of it appropriately.
Steps to Remedy the Egg Smell (assuming the chicken is still good)
Wash it! Wash it super, duper thoroughly. Bacteria will infiltrate the blood first, so there’s always a chance the rest of the meat is still good. If the smell isn’t overpowering, wash your chicken incredibly thoroughly before cooking it.
When you cook it, you want to hit those high temperatures that kill yucky bacteria like listeria, e. coli, or salmonella. Most bacteria will die when exposed to 165°F and up. So, so long as you cook your chicken at or above 165°F for AT LEAST 20 minutes, it should be safe to eat.
Remember, it has to cook for that long so the heat can reach the very center of your meat. It needs to kill all that bacteria after all! So, invest in a good quality meat thermometer so you can check the temperature of the center of the cut. You’ll need that thermometer in a variety of situations, but especially if you are going to fry your chicken.
If you've determined the chicken is still good just a little smelly, there are a few other remedies you can try. You can pour vinegar or lemon juice on your chicken to reduce the smell and add some flavor. Strong spices or herbs would work too.
Or you could cover the chicken with a thick coating of salt after you wash it and allow it to cook under the salt bath. If the salt bath is unappealing to you, I recommend trying lemon, rosemary, or thyme instead.
Will the Egg Smell Affect the Taste (assuming the chicken is still good)?
No. If your chicken is still good, the eggy smell should have gone away during the cooking process and will not affect the taste.
However, if the smell is still there or the chicken looks a little off, it's not worth a taste test. No need to risk an upset tummy or potential food poisoning.
Tips to Avoid Egg-Smelling Chicken
One of the frequent causes of sour-smelling chicken is simply the way it’s sealed. Vacuum-sealed packages can cause confinement smells. This odor usually has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the meat itself.
So, one way to avoid egg-smelling chicken is to buy your meat fresh from a local butcher. Avoid the packaging process entirely!
If that's not an option for you, consider freezing your chicken as soon as you buy it, especially if you know you won't cook it for a day or two. The icy temperatures will slow its decomposition and bacterial growth, so it should last much longer.
Try not to keep meat in the fridge for more than one day. Once it's in the freezer, it cannot go back into the fridge. The temperature change could cause it to prematurely spoil.
Here’s how to handle freezing and dethawing chicken salad, since I know you're wondering.
Frequently Asked Questions
Safe Internal Temperature for Poultry
In order to kill all bacteria, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends cooking the meat at 165°F. However, placing a chicken in an oven set to 165°F for just one minute won't cut it.
It has to maintain the temperature for a long period of time to ensure every ounce of that chicken is cooked–AKA it’s time to invest in a meat thermometer!
Cooked Chicken Smells Like Eggs, What Should I Do?
Throw it away! Bury it! Do not feed it to your pets! That chicken is rotten and most likely ridden with salmonella.
If your chicken retains the egg smell despite the heat and cooking process, then you’ve got a real bad bird. It’s time to let that one go.
What Does Bad Chicken Smell Like?
There are a few particularly terrible odors to watch out for:
Essentially, all of the grossest things you can imagine. If your chicken is really bad, the smell will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. One whiff of that and you'll swear off meat for good.
What Does Bad Chicken Look Like?
One of the most common signs of a chicken gone bad is discoloration. Whether it’s dark patches, grey spots, deep yellow areas, or green tints, that’s a clear sign that your cutlet is now overgrown with bacteria.
If your chicken transforms from a pink hue to grey while cooking it, then it is no longer safe to eat. Bury it in the backyard or burn it. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it doesn't end up in your stomach or your pet’s.
Slimy Chicken? What Should I Do?
Most likely, you need to toss it. If it's got a substantial layer of slime, then that means the bacteria in the cut itself has been there a while. Long enough to produce all that slime.
The slime is actually the waste of bacteria, salmonella especially. One of the key ingredients in its excretion is sulfur, hence the terrible but identifiable smell.
Does Raw Chicken Have a Smell?
It's normal for chicken to have a slight smell--it is raw meat after all.
However, when it branches into ammonia, sulfur, or rotten odors, then you have a problem.
Can I Eat Expired Chicken?
Trust your senses first and foremost.
That expiration date, while very handy, is more of a guideline. If your chicken is slime-free, normal-looking, and smells okay, then you should be fine. If anything is off and I mean anything at all, then it's time to let that baby go.
If you wouldn’t feel comfortable feeding that chicken to your friends or family, then you shouldn’t feed it to yourself either.
If you open your package and inhale that unsavory smell, remember these few tips:
- Take a good look at the cutlet and check for any discoloration.
- Smell it again. What range of egginess is it? Slightly eggy? Boiled eggs? Rotten eggs?
- Clean and cook it thoroughly.
- Check for discoloration and smell after cooking.
Keeping these things in mind, you and your tummies should be safe from any harmful bacteria. Trust your gut–if that chicken doesn’t look or smell right, there’s no harm in letting it go.