While public health agencies in the United States recommend that cooked chicken be refrigerated within two hours of cooking, there is actually a bit of leeway when it comes to how long cooked chicken can stay at room temperature.
How long it can sit out at room temperature depends on how it was cooked.
It’s generally not recommended to leave cooked chicken sitting out for more than 2 hours.
Here are some guidelines on how long cooked chicken can safely sit at room temperature:
- 1 hour: Best if eaten right away, but still safe up to 1 hour after cooking.
- 2 hours: The maximum recommended time cooked chicken should be left out at room temperature. Bacteria can start multiplying quickly after this time.
- 4 hours: The absolute maximum time before cooked chicken is considered unsafe to eat. At 4 hours, the risk of food poisoning increases dramatically.
- 1-2 days: If cooked chicken has been left out overnight for more than 4 hours, it should be discarded. At this point, the growth of harmful bacteria makes it very unsafe.
Proper storage of cooked chicken is important after 1-2 hours:
- Refrigeration: Store cooked chicken in the fridge within 2 hours and use within 3-4 days.
- Freezing: For longer storage, freeze chicken immediately in an airtight container. It will keep for several months.
The 2 hour rule is based on food sitting in the “danger zone” between 40°F-140°F, where bacteria grows rapidly.
So cooked chicken shouldn’t stay out too long before going into proper cold storage. When in doubt, remember the phrase “2 is the limit, 1 to be safe”.
How long can cooked chicken sit out before it becomes unsafe to eat
Cooked chicken is safe to eat after it has been sitting out for two hours or less.
Beyond that, bacteria can start to grow and make the chicken unsafe to eat.
If you’re not sure how long cooked chicken has been sitting out, err on the side of caution and throw it away.
It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to food safety.
When in doubt, always check with your local health department for guidance on how long cooked chicken can safely sit out.
How to store cooked chicken so you can enjoy it later
After cooking a delicious chicken dinner, you may be tempted to save the leftovers for later.
However, it is important to store cooked chicken properly in order to prevent food poisoning.
Here are a few tips to help you enjoy your leftover chicken safely.
- First, make sure that the chicken is cooled completely before storing it in the fridge. Hot food can cause bacteria to multiply, so it is important to let the chicken cool to room temperature before putting it away.
- Secondly, be sure to wrap the chicken tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will help to keep it fresh and prevent it from drying out.
- Finally, try to consume the leftovers within three days. After that, the risk of food poisoning increases dramatically. By following these simple tips, you can enjoy your cooked chicken without worry.
How long can cooked chicken sit out at room temperature?
In general, cooked chicken can be safely held at room temperature for up to four hours. This is based on the assumption that the chicken was cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and that it is being kept in a clean, dry environment.
However, there are a few factors that can affect how long cooked chicken can be safely held at room temperature.
- For example, if the cooked chicken is being kept in a warmer environment (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), it should be refrigerated within one hour.
- Additionally, if the cooked chicken is being kept in a moist environment (such as in aluminum foil or plastic wrap), it should be refrigerated within two hours.
Ultimately, it is always safest to err on the side of caution and refrigerate cooked chicken within two hours of cooking.
What happens if cooked chicken sits out too long?
If cooked chicken is left out at room temperature for too long, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
- The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that cooked chicken should be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above, or stored in the refrigerator.
- If chicken is left out for more than two hours, it should be thrown away.
- Bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature, and cooked chicken is an ideal host for bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica, and Escherichia coli.
These bacteria can cause food poisoning, with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
In severe cases, food poisoning can lead to hospitalization or even death.
As a result, it is important to take care when handling cooked chicken and to make sure that it is stored properly to prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria.