Chicken is one of the most common foods you can enjoy at parties or any family occasion. In fact, in most cases, my wife and I always have chicken recipes for kids’ birthdays.
However, challenges start to surface when there is a lot of cooked chicken leftovers. Sometimes we ended up forgetting to freeze or refrigerate them.
The problem is that, cooked chickens cannot stay too long at room temperature.
So, how long can cooked chicken stay out?
The general rule is that foods, including cooked chicken, should not be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature. Bacterial growth can quickly deteriorate the quality of the foods after two hours.
Time is only one of the factors that can contribute to the spoilage of foods at room temperature.
The room temperature itself can also determine the length of time foods can remain safe to eat.
If the room temperature is too high, there is a high chance that the cooked chicken will not last long.
It should be consumed or refrigerated within an hour.
If you are on a picnic during summer, this is something to consider too. If you bring cooked chicken, try to store it in cold storage.
Or, the best thing that I can recommend in this case is to cooked the chicken only when you get in your picnic destination.
How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out in a Container?
I don’t know if you heard the assumption that chickens can last long if they are covered. But it is not true.
The truth is that, chickens will not last long even they are covered with some type of wrappings.
Covering the chicken will keep it safe from flies and other airborne pathogens. But the real problem is in the chicken itself.
Remember that the chicken already has bacteria in it. Therefore, the bacterial growth will start from within not from the outside.
This is the main reason why even covering the chicken will not eliminate the problem.
I also heard that chickens can last long if they have covered with sauce. This is also not true. Any sauce will not help the chicken from becoming bad.
Why Chickens Should Not Be Left Out?
The main reason why a cooked chicken should not stay out for too long is because of the bacterial threat.
As the cooked chicken cools down, the bacteria can immediately spread throughout the meat if stored at room temperature.
If the bacteria have successfully grown, they will produce some sort of toxins making the foods unsafe to eat.
The problem is that contaminated chicken is not easy to detect by human eyes and taste.
Sometimes the contaminated chicken may still taste good and have no indicators of spoilage. But it does not mean that the meat is still safe to eat.
For your safety, I recommend that you take the “2-hour” rule. This means that when food is left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, do not eat it.
I know that this seems too much of a waste of a delicious chicken, but health is even more important.
This is a very important reminder that next time you cook a chicken, make sure that you do not forget to refrigerate or freeze.
How to Store Cooked Chicken for Future Use?
The safest way to keep cooked chicken safe to eat is to refrigerate or freeze it. If you are planning to consume the chicken for the next day, you can store it in the fridge.
However, if you want to preserve the quality of the chicken recipe for several days, you can freeze it.
This means that as soon as the chicken cools down, put it in the safe freezer-safe container and pop it in the freezer or fridge.
Remember that you should not leave foods at room temperature for more than 2 hours and freeze it later. That won’t save the meat from getting spoiled.
If the bacteria are already spreading, the chicken will not be safe from getting bad even in the freezer or refrigerator.
The best thing about freezing or refrigerating cooked chicken is that you can prolong the quality of the recipe. When you are ready to eat the chicken, you can just reheat it.
How Long Can Cooked Chicken Last in the Fridge?
Now that you place the leftover chicken in the fridge, the next logical question would be how long cooked chicken lasts in the fridge.
Cooked chicken can be left in the fridge for about 3-4 days. This is according to Healthline. Beyond that time period, cooked chicken may turn bad.
The main cause of this is the bacteria mostly Salmonella and Campylobacter. These bacteria can potentially cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and dehydration.
The risk can be reduced by cooking the chicken thoroughly. Also, before eating the refrigerated cooked chicken, do not forget to reheat it.
Learn more about freezing food here.
Learn more about reheating food here.
Cooked foods including chicken recipes should not be left out at room temperature for too long.
So, how long can cooked chicken stay out? As a general rule, the cooked chicken should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Leftover cooked chickens should be stored in the fridge or freezer. This is to prevent them from getting bad.
When you are ready to consume the refrigerated chicken, you can just reheat it and enjoy.
The most important take away is that never compromise your family’s safety.
Can I eat chicken left out for 6 hours?
Chicken that is left at room temperature for more than 2 hours should be discarded. Even the chicken does not show signs of spoilage such as bad smell or bad taste, it is still not safe to eat.
How long can cooked chicken sit out before going bad?
The general rule is that chicken and other foods can only be left at room temperature for less than 2 hours. If left out for more than 2 hours, cooked chicken can already be bad.