Are you deliberating how long cooked chicken can sit at room temperature and still be safe to eat?
Read on to find out what the USDA safety guidelines and recommendations are. We have also included helpful tips for the proper storage of cooked chicken. Plus, what the risks are when eating it if it hasn’t been stored at safe temperatures.
Hopefully, we will help you stay safe and save money by reducing food wastage.
The Cooked Chicken’s “Danger Zone”
“The danger zone” is a term for the temperature at which there is a risk of the growth of dangerous bacteria in chicken or any other perishable food.
According to the USDA’s official safety guidelines, the danger zone for cooked chicken is between 41 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is the temperature at which the pathogenic bacteria will start growing. This type of bacteria does not visibly affect the look, texture, and smell of the food. At the same time, it can lead to unpleasant and, in some cases, very dangerous foodborne illnesses.
The other type of bacteria, known as spoilage bacteria, can grow even in colder temperatures.
This is why the USDA recommends that the chicken be stored in the fridge at temperatures up to 40 degrees for no longer than 3-4 days after being cooked.
When the food is kept hot before consumption, you should keep it at a temperature of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid the danger zone.
The rule of the thumb is to either consume the chicken right after cooking it or refrigerate it within two hours.
In case the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, then the chicken-based meal should not be stored out of the fridge for more than an hour.
How to Safely Store the Cooked Chicken?
If you have leftover cooked chicken, you don’t have to throw it out. You can safely store it for up to three days in the refrigerator or for 2-4 months in the freezer.
To store the cooked chicken in the fridge, make sure that you place the meal in a sealed bag or container. This will help avoid it from drying out. In addition, this will help reduce the risk of cross-contamination with other food products. By covering or sealing the chicken, you will ensure it remains fresh and delicious, and most importantly – safe.
You can store the chicken dish at a temperature of a maximum of 40 degrees F for up to 3-4 days. As we mentioned above, even out of the danger zone, the spoilage bacteria will continue growing.
If you prefer long-term storage, then you can freeze the chicken. Make sure that the prepped dish has cooled down completely, and place it in an airtight container or bag before freezing it.
You can store the ready chicken in a freezer for two to up to four months.
It is crucial to pack it properly. You can use a tightly sealed container or bag in your refrigerator. This helps keep the freshness in and also prevents the food from drying out.
Can You Eat Cooked Chicken Which Has Been Left Out Overnight?
If you have forgotten the cooked chicken out of the fridge for over two hours, then it is not safe to eat. The USDA recommends that you abstain from consuming perishable foods which have remained in the danger zone for more than two hours.
Pathogenic bacteria like salmonella and e.coli will begin to grow at the danger zone temperatures. And their numbers will double every 20 minutes you leave the dish at unsafe temperatures.
What Will Happen if You Eat Chicken That Has Been Left Out Overnight?
There is a high risk of suffering from food poisoning, or at least a stomach ache.
To reduce the hazard of getting food poisoning, throw out any perishable food which has been left in
As you can see, leaving cooked chicken on the countertop overnight is not a good idea.
Remember to store it at safe temperatures if you don’t eat the dish immediately after preparing it.
This will help keep you and your family safe. And it will allow you to enjoy the chicken meal in the next several days without worrying about getting a foodborne disease.