Chicken is a light and healthy option for those looking for a satisfying, protein-packed meal. It’s a versatile food that can be cooked in several ways.
If you’re having a party, barbecuing can be an easy, tasty method to cook for a large group. Just light up the bbq and let those chicken legs and breasts grill away! Batch cooking is another way to plan meals ahead if you’re short on time throughout the week. You can bbq for this or roast or grill the chicken indoors.
When cooking such large amounts of food, it won’t get consumed right away. Your guests might naturally trickle in and eat the BBQ slowly.
You’ll also want to save most of that batch cooking for later meals. But before packing up any leftovers, you’ll need to let the food cool before putting it in the fridge.
So now you might be wondering how long can cooked chicken sit out. Cooked chicken left out overnight should not be consumed. Read on to understand how long chicken can sit out cooked and the best ways to preserve your food.
1. How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out?
So how long can you leave cooked chicken out?
The general rule is that cooked chicken can sit out for 2 hours. However, this can vary depending on the weather and climate of an area. The Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) says that the “danger zone” for food is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, if you live in hot or humid climates, you should err on the side of caution when asking how long can cooked chicken stay out. Moisture and heat tend to accelerate the growth of harmful bacteria. Therefore, if you live in regions that are over 90 degrees Fahrenheit or particularly humid, it is recommended to not let the chicken sit out for more than 1 hour.
Another thing to consider is the environment. If you are outdoors for a barbecue, cooked chicken may attract bugs or animals. It is recommended to cover it with proper food netting or simply put it in a container. Keeping it high off the ground will also prevent insects like ants from discovering your food quickly.
If you do not put your chicken away within a safe time frame, harmful bacteria may grow. This can cause food poisoning or a gut microflora imbalance. It may be mild, or it could potentially be life-threatening, depending on the severity of the infection and your current gut health.
Many people cook just before bed and wonder, can cooked chicken be left out overnight? The answer is no. It cannot. This time frame will be much longer than the recommended 1-2 hours.
How Long Can Fried Chicken Stay Out?
Regardless of how the chicken is cooked– whether it is BBQed, grilled, roasted, or fried– it follows the same rule. Fried chicken can stay out for 2 hours in moderate or cold climates and 1 hour in hot or humid climates.
2. How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out in a Container?
How long can cooked chicken be left out when in a sealed container?
The rules are actually the same for chicken left out in a container or openly. Chicken left out in a container can remain out for 2 hours. However, if you live in hotter climates with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it is only safe to let food sit out for 1 hour.
Food kept in a container may be more protected from the elements. It is less likely to attract insects or animals. However, it takes very little air for bacteria to grow.
Chicken is capable of growing bacteria despite being in a container or sealed. It may have picked up bacteria before being sealed. Small amounts of bacteria are normal and not a health concern. However, this bacteria will grow in certain conditions and can lead to food poisoning.
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3. How Does Bacteria Spread When Food Is Left Out?
Staphylococcus aureus is a bacteria naturally present in the environment. It exists almost everywhere including the air, dirt, plants, surfaces, and animals. Humans and animals carry it with them on their skin, nasal passages, and sweat.
It is very common for these bacteria to be transported to food products. This normally occurs via human or animal contact. Staphylococcus aureus grows in temperatures between 50-120 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, when food is left out in these temperatures, it can multiply into dangerous quantities.
How long can chicken stay out after cooked without worrying about bacteria? Well, this comes down to temperature and length of time.
When food is in the “danger zone”, between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria have the ability to double every 20 minutes. Up to 2 hours, food is still considered to have safe amounts of bacteria. However, after this point, it is recommended to refrigerate your food or toss it.
Bacteria also grow faster on uncooked chicken. To ensure cooking chicken through fully, you should make sure the temperature of the cooked chicken reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
In small amounts, staphylococcus aureus is harmless. Our body’s immune system can manage up to a certain amount without issue. However, in large amounts, the bacteria will produce a toxin that can cause mild to serious illness.
4. Tips to store and reheat Cooked Chicken
- Let chicken cool after cooking. Remove it from heat and keep it in a safe area. Cover it to protect it from the elements or any insects and animals.
- Keep the chicken in a sealed food-safe container or vacuum seal it for maximum freshness. Plastic bags also work when sealed properly.
- When it comes time to reheat, check the chicken for signs of spoilage. Observe the smell, texture, and color. If there haven’t been any noticeable changes, it should be okay to consume.
- When reheating, you may use any method to reheat including microwaves, stovetops, ovens, or BBQs. Just bear in mind that heat does not kill harmful bacteria when food is reheated.
5. How Long Will Cooked Chicken Stay Good in the Fridge?
Are you curious how long is cooked chicken good for in the fridge? You’ve come to the right place.
Cooked chicken can keep up to 3-4 days in the fridge when properly cooked and stored. After this period, it may have spoiled and grown unhealthy bacteria. Regardless of how long it’s been in the fridge, it is best to check it for signs of spoilage to make sure it is safe to consume.
6. Is It Safe to Eat Cooked Chicken Left Out?
Are you wondering can you leave the cooked chicken out overnight? Well, the answer is a resounding no. The likelihood of harmful bacteria multiplying to dangerous quantities increases after 1-2 hours. If food were to stay out all night, it would easily surpass this amount of time.
It is safe to eat cooked chicken that has been left out for up to 1-2 hours.
If you live in a hot climate, with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit or in humid environments, it is not safe to eat chicken that has been left out longer than 1 hour. If you live in milder or cold climates, you can leave the chicken out for 2 hours safely.
After this, the food may be contaminated by harmful bacteria. To preserve the quality of your chicken, you should store it in the refrigerator within that time frame. Once the chicken is refrigerated, it is much harder for bacteria and mold to grow.
7. Do Not Let Your Chicken Sit Out for Too Long
If you let your chicken sit out for too long, a few negative consequences can occur.
Harmful bacteria can multiply and wreak havoc on your body. It increases the chances of food poisoning which can range from mild to severe depending on your current health and the amount of bacteria present.
It can also disrupt the ratio of good to bad bacteria in your gut. Even without obvious or immediate symptoms, introducing too much harmful bacteria into your gut flora can stimulate the growth of bad bacteria, causing an imbalance gut microbiome.
The chicken will lose its freshness and flavor. To avoid compromising the quality of your food, consume it within a couple of hours or store it in the fridge!
8. Does Reheating Chicken That Has Been Left Out Too Long Protect Me?
No, reheating chicken that has been left out too long will not protect you from food poisoning.
Many bacteria, including staphylococcus aureus, are heat-stable. This means that if the bacteria has already been produced, heat cannot kill it.
After this point, you should dispose of the chicken or store it in the refrigerator. How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge?
It can keep 3-4 days safely in the fridge. If kept past this point, it will lose flavor and has the potential to grow harmful bacteria or mold.