Can you leave cooked chicken out of the fridge overnight and eat it? Many people want to know if they can eat their cooked chicken left out overnight. Consider this situation: you prepare a dish of fully cooked chicken and leave it on your kitchen counter, uncovered. Your apartment isn't air conditioned, but you believe the temperature is not over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Do you think you can eat it the next morning, after 12-14 hours? You may think it's hard to answer this question, but it is not. Keep reading to find out what to do if you left cooked chicken out overnight.

Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight: Can I Eat This?

If you left cooked chicken out overnight, you just cannot eat it. Your health is always more important than the money you've invested on preparing your chicken. There is a time limit for cooked chicken left out overnight, and it is usually no more than 4 hours. What it actually means is that you can eat your chicken if you left it outside for a couple of hours, and maximum for 4 hours. It is still a good idea to throw it away if it was out in the open for 4 hours. The reason is that bacteria will multiple at temperature somewhere around 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. After 4 hours in the open, the chances are quite low that you can salvage your chicken. Eat it the next morning, probably after 10-12 hours, and you will most definitely become sick. So, don't take any chances – throw it away!

How Long Can I Leave Cooked Chicken Out at Room Temperature?

Can you leave cooked chicken out of the fridge overnight and eat it when you know the temperature in your room was not that high? It actually depends on a number of factors. The most important thing to consider is the temperature over the oven you set when you first cook it. If the temperature in your oven was 140 degrees Fahrenheit or below, it usually means your chicken may already contain some bacteria because this temperature isn't going to kill all those microorganisms. If some of them have survived and you leave your chicken overnight, they will most probably be multiplying during the night.

If you set a higher temperature on your oven and cook your chicken for half an hour or so, the chances are there aren't any bacteria left to contaminate your dish. Now, if you don’t get your chicken out and leave it in the oven overnight, you may be able to eat it in the morning because the environment in the oven is good enough to keep bacteria at bay for 12-14 hours. Still, it is a good idea to avoid eating it after so many hours.

How to Preserve Cooked Chicken

It is important to cook your poultry with temperature set to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help kill the bacteria. You will also be fine when cooking your chicken up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit – this works well for grilled chicken as well as salads, casseroles, and fried chicken.

Freeze It Quickly

The best way to preserve your cooked chicken is to freeze it within a couple of hours of preparing it; in fact, you should put it in your freezer after an hour if your oven temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Speaking of grilled chicken, the "safe window" is even smaller. You cannot socialize and wait for several hours to freeze the leftovers.

In case of a chicken casserole, you need to package it as soon as you get it out of the oven. You can also place it into a bowl until it cools down a bit and then put it in the refrigerator. It is a good idea to cut your large rotisserie chicken into smaller pieces first before refrigerating.


Wrap It Properly

In the freezer, you need to pay attention to how you wrap the chicken. Use airtight packaging, such as plastic wraps or zip-top bags – don't use your regular container that lets air to enter and encourage bacterial growth.

You need to use a foil to wrap your chicken patties and fried chicken. It is important to mention though that you should bring these items to room temperature first and then wrap them to put in your refrigerator. It is important because the steam will make the crust soggy when you heat it again to eat.


Know Its Life Span

The way you cook your chicken will have an impact on how long it can survive. Even if you have packed your chicken properly, you may still not be able to use them beyond a certain time limit. For instance, roasted, plain grilled, and baked chicken can last only three days even when packaged properly. You may also be able to use your fried chicken pieces after three days, but you will be better off reheating it in a warm oven.

You can use a chicken casserole for three days only when packaged into smaller airtight containers. Homemade chicken salad will have a relatively longer life; in fact, your deli versions can last up to five days when packed carefully. You should, however, be consuming your leftover chicken nuggets and patties within a day or two. Remember, sometimes, you think you have packed and stored chicken properly, but that may not be the case. It is therefore important to be careful when eating your chicken after a few days.


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  • Johny WalkerSep.30 18:00
    I left some chicken out overnight, and there were 4 pieces of fried chicken left in the morning sitting on the counter. 24 hours later I farted out shit. Listen to the article.
  • BritniSep.23 15:35
    Ok I've eaten left out chicken all I do is hear it up and my health is amazing
  • AustinSep.22 21:06
    I decided to perform an experiment to test this. I left a chicken leg and thigh out overnight and ate it for lunch today. I feel fine. Don't waste food, people.
  • Alex RailtonJul.24 16:20
    Throw it away? All you have to do is reheat it, it may lose some flavour but jesus there are people starving in third world countries, our answer to chicken that's been out for a while is to throw it away? Everyone ignore this article, BS, just reheat it.
  • TiaJun.13 06:20
    I agree with John. I have left a cooked chicken out over 2 nights, still on the bone, and never been ill.
  • robFeb.27 01:32
    at about 2am i grilled some chicken, a little under cooked. microwaved it off the grill and got it over 160 degrees. left a breast in the microwave overnight. approx 10 hrs later i realized and re-heated it in the microwave up to 160+, then put it in the fridge. that night i reheated it again up to 160 and ate it. no issues.
  • john coldFeb.7 19:45
    This i so not true, i've been leaving chicken out overnight, even 2 nights and i've never been ill.
  • Jeanne CrosbyJan.31 22:27
    So if I take the offending chicken and make a soup stock out of it, bringing it to a full boil, I should be okay?
  • James JonesOct.7 23:57
    If you follow food guidelines then about 2 hours at room temperature is enough to establish a new population of bacteria. But I find these guidelines to err FAR on the side of caution, its all personal preference but no pathogenic bacteria survive over 140 F, and if your paranoid, heat your food to 165F for 10 minutes. you'll damage the flavor of some foods, but it won't have much bacteria left - apply the same rules to leftovers and there are few situations where the food will have any negative characteristics. The exception is Staph and a couple others that form spores that are heat resistant or toxic, but if your kitchen is clean and sanitized this is probably unlikely.
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