We all know that you can’t leave chicken just sitting on the counter forever whether it is raw or cooked. But how long can cooked chicken sit out before it’s not safe to eat anymore?
The USDA states that as a rule perishable foods that are cooked shouldn’t be left out for longer than two hours. If it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer the limit is one hour.
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The Danger Zone
The “danger zone” when cooking is a reference to perishable foods in the range of 40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason for this is because bacteria like E.coli or salmonella start to grow between those temperatures. Foodborne illnesses are caused by such bacteria.
That is why you should keep cooked chicken above 140 degrees Fahrenheit and put it away as soon as you are done with it. For every 20 minutes, cooked chicken sits out in that “danger zone” foodborne illnesses can double.
So it is really important that once the cooked chicken has reached the “danger zone” you want to eat it or put into the fridge within two hours to prevent bacteria from contaminating it.
How to store cooked chicken
It is important to store chicken in a tightly sealed container or bag in your refrigerator. This helps to keep the freshness in and also prevents it from drying out.
Always make sure that you cover your chicken so that it doesn’t absorb other flavors, dry out or, attract other bacteria from other foods in your fridge.
Cooked chicken can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Putting cooked chicken into the fridge doesn’t stop bacteria growth completely but it is slow the process which allows you to still be able to eat it for a couple of days stored in the fridge.
If you decided to freeze your cooked chicken it will last anywhere from two to four months. Make sure that when you freeze your cooked chicken, you allow it to be completely cooled off in the fridge before you freeze it.
We have concluded that cooked chicken should never sit out longer than 2 hours. Make sure to take into consideration the temperature where your chicken will sit out.
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If it is hot or muggy then you should not leave it out longer than an hour. The same goes for if it’s below 40 degrees Fahrenheit as well.
This will keep bacteria like salmonella and E.coli at bay while you enjoy your cooked chicken and then get it put away in the fridge as soon as possible in an air tight container.