Chicken is budget-friendly meat which is one of the reasons it is so popular. However, it is not the most stable meat, and it can go bad rather quickly if not taken care of properly.
There are a lot of different opinions out there about how long cooked chicken can sit out. Some say eating cooked chicken left out for 4 hours is safe, while others say you should only eat it within two hours of cooking. So, how long can cooked chicken sit out?
This blog will give you the answer, as well as some tips on how to keep your chicken fresh for longer. Let’s get started!
How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out?
According to USDA, cooked chicken in the fridge can sit out at room temperature for more than two hours before it starts to spoil. After two hours, the cooked chicken should be thrown out. Cooked chicken can only sit out for a short period of time because it is a poultry product. Poultry products are highly susceptible to bacteria growth, so it’s important to be extra careful with them.
This also applies to cooked chicken enjoyed outdoors, like at a picnic or barbecue. However, when the temperature is above 90°F (32.2°C), the cooked chicken is no longer safe to eat after one hour.
Why two hours? You may be surprised that cooked chicken can reach a temperature of 140°F (60°C) just two hours after it has been taken off the heat because the chicken is still cooking even after it has been removed from the heat source. This is due to the residual heat from the cooking process. The USDA recommends that all cooked poultry products be kept at an internal temperature of 140°F (60°C) or above. Once the internal temperature of the chicken drops below 140°F (60°C), bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli begin to multiply between 40°F and 140°F. The number of bacteria can double every 20 minutes. In other words, millions of bacteria can be present in a half hour.
Factors Affecting the Time Cooked Chicken Sit Out
Several factors can affect how long cooked chicken can sit out, including the type of chicken, the cooking method, and the temperature.
Type of Chicken
The type of chicken can affect how long it can sit out. Dark meat chicken, such as thighs and legs, can usually sit out longer than white meat chicken, such as breasts, because dark meat chicken has more fat, which helps to keep it moist and juicy. White meat chicken is more likely to dry out if it sits too long.
The cooking method can also affect how long cooked chicken can sit out. Whether your chicken has been roasted or baked is less likely to dry out than chicken that has been grilled or fried. This is because the roasting and baking help seal the chicken’s natural juices. Grilling and frying can cause the chicken to lose moisture, making it more likely to dry out if it sits out too long.
The temperature can also affect how long cooked chicken can sit out. Chicken cooked at a higher temperature is less likely to dry out than chicken cooked at a lower temperature. This is because the higher temperature helps seal the chicken’s natural juices. Chicken cooked at a lower temperature is more likely to dry out if it sits for too long.
Whether Or Not the Chicken is Covered
Chicken that is covered is less likely to dry out than chicken that is not covered. This is because the cover helps to keep the chicken’s natural juices.
How To Tell If Cooked Chicken Has Gone Wrong?
After all, chicken is a perishable food, there is a risk of foodborne illness if it is not stored or handled correctly.
Here are some tips to help you tell if your cooked chicken has gone wrong:
- Check the color. Fresh, cooked chicken should be white or light pink. It has gone wrong if it has started to turn green, gray, or blue.
- Check the texture. Fresh, cooked chicken should be moist and tender. It has gone bad if it is dry, stringy, or rubbery.
- Check the smell. Fresh, cooked chicken should have a mild, chicken-y smell. It has gone bad if it smells sour, fishy, or otherwise unpleasant.
If you’re unsure whether your cooked chicken has gone bad, err on caution and throw it out. Better safe than sorry!
The Best Way To Reheat Cooked Chicken
There are a few different ways to reheat the cooked chicken. Here’s a guide to reheating chicken so it’s moist, juicy, and delicious.
The best way to reheat cooked chicken is in a covered pan on the stove over low heat. This method takes a little longer, but it’s worth the wait. Place the chicken in the pan and add a little chicken broth or water. Cover the pan and cook the chicken for about 10 minutes, or until heated.
Another good way to reheat chicken is in the oven. This method is a bit quicker than the stovetop method, but it can dry out the chicken if you’re not careful. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the chicken on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until heated through.
You can also reheat chicken in the microwave, but this is not recommended. Microwaves can dry out the chicken and make it challenging. If you must reheat chicken in the microwave, do so on the low setting and only heat it for a minute or two.
You may like: How to Defrost Chicken in a Microwave
What are the Food Safety Concerns With Leaving Cooked Chicken Out For Too Long?
If you’ve ever left cooked chicken out for too long, you know the risks of it. The longer it sits, the more likely it is to spoil, and the less safe to keep cooked chicken is to eat. Here are some of the risks you face when you try to eat cooked chicken that’s been sitting out:
This is the most common risk associated with eating cooked chicken that’s been left out. Chicken is a prime target for bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, and those bacteria can multiply quickly when left out at room temperature. Eating chicken contaminated with bacteria can get very sick, with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.
Even if the cooked chicken is left out for just a few hours, it can start to spoil. The spoiled chicken will smell bad and taste even worse. It can cause nausea and vomiting and in severe cases, lead to food poisoning.
When chicken is left out, it loses moisture and can become dry and tough, making it difficult to eat, and leading to dehydration.
Loss of Nutrients
Cooked chicken that’s been left out loses some of its nutrients, including vitamin C and B vitamins.
Risk of Cross-Contamination
If cooked chicken is left out on the same surface as raw chicken, there’s a risk of cross-contamination. This means that the bacteria from the raw chicken can contaminate the cooked chicken, making it unsafe to eat.
How Do You Know If You Have Food Poisoning From Eating Chicken?
Symptoms of food poisoning can include nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention, as food poisoning can be serious.
Cooked chicken sitting out for too long can be a breeding ground for bacteria. The longer it sits, the more time bacteria have to grow. And when you eat bacteria-ridden chicken, you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of foodborne illnesses.
- Salmonella is the most common type of foodborne illness associated with chicken. It can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. In severe cases, it can even lead to death.
- Campylobacter is another type of bacteria that can be found in chicken. It can also cause diarrhea and vomiting, but it’s usually not as severe as salmonella.
- E. coli is another bacteria that can be found in chicken. While most E. coli are harmless, some can cause serious illness.
- Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, it can lead to death.
- Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria that can cause listeriosis. Listeriosis is a severe infection that can cause fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal issues. In extreme cases, it can lead to death.
How To Safely Store Your Cooked Chicken?
Here are a few tips on how to safely store cooked chicken:
- Chicken should be stored in the fridge in a clean, airtight container.
- Make sure to cool the chicken completely before storing it. The hot chicken will cause the container to sweat, which can spoilage.
- If you’re not planning on eating the chicken within a few days, it can be stored in the freezer. Wrap it tightly in a freezer-safe wrap or place it in a freezer-safe container.
- When reheating chicken, make sure it is cooked all the way through. Bacteria can survive in chicken that is only partially cooked. Make sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Date the container or bag, so you know when the chicken was cooked.
By following these simple tips, you can be sure that your cooked chicken will be safe to eat.
How Long Can You Leave Frozen Chicken In The Freezer
One of the most popular ways is to cook it frozen. But how long can you leave the chicken in the freezer before it goes wrong?
The answer to that question is quite simple. Chicken can be stored in the freezer for up to two years. However, it is important to note that the quality of the chicken will start to decline after the first year.
So, if you want to save money, you can store chicken in the freezer for up to a year. But if you want the best quality, you should only store it for six months.
Here are some general guidelines for how long chicken can be stored in the freezer:
- If the chicken is freshly killed and frozen within 24 hours, it can be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months.
- If the chicken was previously frozen and then thawed, it can be refrozen but should only be kept for up to 4 months.
- You can store your freeze cooked chicken for up to 4 months.
- You can put the thawed chicken in the refrigerator and can be stored for up to 2 days before it needs to be cooked or refrozen. Remember, never thaw chicken at room temperature. This can cause bacteria to grow on the chicken and make it unsafe to eat.
Q. How Long Can Cooked Chicken Last In The Fridge?
A. Cooked chicken can last in the fridge for 3–4 days.
Q. Can I Eat Cooked Chicken That Has Been Left Out Overnight?
A. Cooked chicken should not be left overnight to be eaten. The chicken may have been left out for too long and could be contaminated.
Q. Does Barbecue Sauce Help to Preserve Chicken?
A. If you store sugar-based sauces properly, they can last a long time. However, these sauces will not help preserve cooked chicken. You need to refrigerate the chicken within the recommended time frame, regardless of what type of sauce it has on it.
Q. How Long Can Leftover Chicken Sit Out in a Container
A. There are some popular misconceptions about food safety. The most common one is that covering chicken will keep it fresh and safe. However, this is not true. Bacteria will grow in the meat, whether it is covered or not. Thus, for your health, it is essential to know this fact.
Q. Do I Need to Wash My Hands After Handling Raw Chicken?
A. Yes, you should always wash your hands, as there is a risk of contamination with bacteria. They can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can cause food poisoning. Then washing your hands with soap and water will help remove any bacteria present and reduce the risk of food poisoning.
Q. How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out in Tupperware?
A. Cooked chicken can sit out in Tupperware for up to two hours.
Regarding food safety, it is always better to err on the side of caution. It means chicken in a sealed container should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. If your chicken still looks and smells okay, is stored at a temperature above 40°F (4.4°C), and has been there for more than two hours, you should throw it out.