How Long is Cooked Chicken Good for?

How long is cooked chicken good for: We probably never consider the possibility of injury (or even death) from prepared food when it comes to eating.

According to the USDA, cooked chicken can be kept in the fridge for three to four days and in the freezer for two to three months. After this time, eating cooked chicken can make you sick from foodborne illness since bacteria can still thrive even in the refrigerator.

This can have you wondering: Why not simply microwave it? Reheating cooked chicken sitting out for a week in a microwave can kill surface bacteria.

Still, it won’t eliminate the toxins that the growing bacteria underneath the surface create since microwaves heat food from outside, not the other way around.

How Long Does Chicken Last in the Fridge?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that raw chicken can be stored in your refrigerator for 1–2 days. The same holds for poultry, including raw turkey. In the meantime, cooked chicken can be stored in the fridge for 3–4 days.

Since germs generally develop more slowly in temperatures below 40°F (4°C), storing chicken in the refrigerator helps slow bacterial growth.

Storing it in a leak-proof container is better to avoid juices from raw chicken spilling and contaminating other meals. In an airtight container, cooked chicken should be stored in the refrigerator.

It’s best to store chicken in your freezer if you need to keep it for more than a few days. A complete chicken can be frozen for up to a year, while raw chicken bits can be kept there for up to nine months. Cooked chicken can be kept in the freezer for two to six months.


How Do You Freeze and Thaw Cooked Chicken?

The best action is to freeze your chicken if you think you need more time to eat it. Transferring cooked chicken to a freezer-safe container or zip-log bag, marking it with the date, and freezing it for up to three months is how you freeze it. 

Never freeze chicken kept in the refrigerator for more than four days or at room temperature for longer than two hours.

The chicken should be refrigerated overnight to defrost after being moved from its storage container. You can also use your microwave’s defrost setting.

What are the Risks of Eating Spoiled Chicken?

Food poisoning, or a foodborne sickness, can be contracted by eating rotten chicken. Chicken may be infected with bacteria, including Campylobacter, Salmonella, and others, increasing the risk of food poisoning. These bacteria are typically destroyed when fresh chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Cooking and eating rotten chicken must still be avoided. Even though reheating or cooking can eradicate surface germs, it won’t eliminate some of the toxins that bacteria create, which can cause food poisoning if consumed.

Symptoms of food poisoning can include a high temperature (over 101.5°F or 38.6°C), chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, and dehydration, which can be uncomfortable and occasionally hazardous.

Severe food poisoning occasionally necessitates hospitalization and even results in death. Don’t consume your chicken if you think it might be ruined. It’s advisable always to throw away chicken you feel has gone rotten.

How Do You Defrost Cooked Chicken?

Unfortunately, pulling chicken out of the freezer is easier than defrosting it. Here are a few tried-and-true techniques for thawing chicken fast and safely.

Transferring the chicken to your refrigerator is the quickest way to thaw it. Plan your meals properly because it usually takes a day for food to defrost after being placed in the fridge. To eliminate potentially harmful microorganisms, immediately cook the chicken after defrosting until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

If you need to defrost cooked chicken quickly, another option is to use cold water. To stop bacteria from getting into your food, put the chicken in a bag with a tight seal and dunk it in a basin of cold water. 

Make sure to replace the water every 30 minutes. A pound of frozen chicken might defrost in an hour or less. Food must be prepared as soon as it is fully defrosted. Foods that have been thawed with cold water should be cooked before freezing again.

What Happens if I Eat Cooked Chicken that Has Gone Bad?

Don’t freak out if you’ve consumed chicken that has gone bad or been out for three to four days. You might be OK. However, spotting and removing any ruined cooked chicken in your fridge is a good idea.

Cooked chicken can also result in foodborne illness (also known as food poisoning), especially in small children, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with weakened immune systems.

Food poisoning can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and bloody stools. Consult a doctor if any symptoms last longer than 12 to 24 hours.


When is Chicken Still Safe to Eat?

The USDA advises eating cooked chicken within 3 to 4 days. Pretty basic. What if it had been more time—say, five days? It’s then up to you. Infections can develop on chicken that doesn’t affect the bird’s flavor or appearance. Make the best decision you can.

As they say in the proverb, “When in doubt, throw it out.” Chicken salad (5 days), chicken hot dogs (2 weeks unopened, one week after opening), packaged chicken lunch meat (2 weeks unopened, 3 to 5 days after start), and deli chicken lunchmeat (3 to 5 days) are the exceptions to the 3 to 4-day rule.

Bottom Line

Raw chicken is kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, whereas cooked chicken is kept for 3–4 days. Check the “best if used by” date and watch for spoiled food indicators, including color, texture, and smell changes. 

Even if you thoroughly cook the chicken, you should avoid eating ruined chicken because it can make you sick.

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