It’s Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or a family gathering, or an uncle’s birthday, and you’ve had too much food prepared for everyone to eat that no one has barely touched that chicken dish you’ve cooked.
A week has passed, and the chicken dish remains untouched in your fridge, and you start to wonder if you should answer the urgent call of hunger and grab the week-old chicken for a quick bite and risk an intestinal problem, or just painfully throw the entire dish away.
Whether a chicken is roasted, fried, grilled, baked, or whatever form the chicken has cooked, it is essential to know how long is cooked chicken good in the fridge, so you don’t risk yourself or anyone in the family a major stomach disaster.
How Long Can You Keep Cooked Chicken In the Fridge?
According to the cold storage chart released by the USDA, cooked meat or poultry and chicken nuggets or patties leftovers can only be stored for up to three to four days given the temperature is maintained at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. In the freezer, cooked meat or poultry can last for two to six months at a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit and below.
This goes for any type of leftover cooked chicken. Be it grilled, smoked, baked, fried, or grilled, whether made at home or ordered from a restaurant.
Always trust your instinct and your sense of smell. When a cooked chicken already smells pungent or weird–not its usual smell when it was first prepared, then it’s best to say goodbye to the chicken and just order a new one. Losing money over fresh-cooked chicken is always better than losing money over hospital bills.
Common sense will tell you the answer to how long can chicken stay in the fridge. Leaving anything you consume anywhere for too long is never good, and you must always be extra careful in the kind of food you put in your stomach.
How to Properly Store Cooked Chicken
Storing leftover chicken is just as important as cooking them.
Cooked chicken, or any cooked meal for that matter, belongs on the top shelf of your fridge. Why? Cooked meals are bound for simple reheating, recooking, or microwaving when you’re ready to eat them again. To make sure your food is safe to eat, place it in a higher elevation where there’s no chance that any other food, juices, or sauces won’t be able to contact your cooked chicken.
After we learn how long can cooked chicken stay in the fridge, it’s time to know how to store them.
As a general rule, cooked chicken must be stored within two hours of leaving them at room temperature or one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Leftover stuffing should also be removed from the chicken to minimize the possibility of bacterial growth.
To store cooked chicken, allow it to cool before packing it up. In the case of a whole rotisserie chicken, it would be better to cut them up first before storing them.
Make sure to wrap your cooked chicken in air-tight bags like Ziploc bags or covered containers. The size of the containers should be just enough for your leftover cooked chicken because large containers encourage more circulating air, therefore increasing moisture and bacteria growth.
How about fried chicken? How do we store them, and how long does fried chicken last in the fridge?
For breaded items like fried chicken, allow them to cool at room temperature before wrapping them in foil or packing them to lessen the sogginess brought about by the steam trapped when covering them.
An important thing to note is never to mix cooked and raw chicken. Just never do that.
How to Tell If A Chicken Has Gone Bad?
If you aren’t in charge of cooking and keeping food and happen to see a pack of cooked chicken in the fridge, there’s no way you would know how long that chicken has been there for, right?
We could only rely on our human senses to tell if a cooked chicken has already gone bad. The rule of thumb is, if unsure, throw it away. But here are a few tips you can try to evaluate whether a cooked chicken on your top shelf already has red flags all over it:
When a cooked chicken (or even a raw one) starts discoloring in any manner, often green or grayish, then, by all means, throw it away.
In terms of smell, cooked chicken with strong seasonings and marinade will be pretty hard to evaluate by smell, but if it has a foul or unusual odor than usual, then it’s usually not a good sign.
Texture-wise, bad cooked chicken will generally feel slimy. If your fried chicken is starting to look and feel slimy, do not consume it.
Never use your sense of taste to check whether a food has gone bad. It’s just not worth the risk.
How to Reheat Cooked Chicken (If It’s Still Good!)
No matter what kind of cook you’ve prepared for your chicken, only reheat it once after taking it out of the fridge.
If reheating through a microwave, cut the chicken into smaller pieces and plate them into a microwave-safe container. You can cover the chicken with a damp paper towel to prevent the chicken from drying out. Afterward, reheat for 1.5 to 5 minutes, flipping once, depending on the amount of chicken you’re putting on the microwave.
When reheating through a stovetop, it’s better to choose a nonstick pan, especially when chicken skin is still present since the fat on the skin will most likely stick to the pan. Pour one tablespoon of oil, or you can substitute for butter, or water, to prevent the chicken from drying out. Reheat the chicken in the pan, making sure to move them about so they don’t burn, and the heat is just enough to warm the cooked chicken again.
If you can, leave the chicken to rest at room temperature from the fridge before reheating them to avoid it from drying out.
Before reheating in an oven, make sure your chicken is not in a frozen state. You can thaw it by placing it in a Ziploc bag, running water over it, or thawing it over a microwave.
Cut the chicken into smaller pieces and arrange them in an oven-safe pan, spreading remaining juices, if any. Preheat the oven at 425 to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, then reheat the chicken at 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a meat thermometer to check if the middle of the chicken is already reheated.
Dangers Of Eating Bad Cooked Chicken
There are so many risks in eating a spoiled chicken in the fridge, which is why you should never taste a chicken to see if it has gone bad.
Spoiled chicken can be contaminated with bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella, eventually causing food poisoning. Reheating won’t get rid of these bacteria, so if a chicken has gone bad, do not consume them in any way.
Food poisoning brought about by spoiled chicken can cause high fevers, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, and dehydration.