Everyone is guilty of harboring the occasional leftover in the fridge and then forgetting to eat it. If you’re one to keep cooked chicken in the fridge for a while and then get concerned about its suitability for consumption, you’ve come to the right place.
It could be quite disastrous to eat cooked chicken that is well past its prime, so we’re here to let you know how long cooked chicken will last in the fridge, whether it’s grilled, fried, or cooked through other methods. Also, learn how to keep chicken properly and determine if it’s gone bad.
Chicken Nutrition Facts
Tips for Keeping Cooked Chicken in the Fridge
If you are wondering how best to store cooked chicken in the fridge and the period during which it remains safe for consumption, these tips should give you a basic idea about the right thing to do:
Freezing and thawing cooked chicken – If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat up all your chicken within three to four days, freeze it. Cooked chicken can be frozen for up to three months if placed in a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag labeled with the date. Chicken that has been out at room temperature for more than two hours or kept in the fridge for more than four days should never be frozen.
To thaw the chicken, place it in its storage container in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. You can also use the defrost settings on your microwave.
Storing cooked chicken in the refrigerator – The cooked chicken should be refrigerated in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag within two hours of cooking. If chicken is kept at room temperature for more than two hours, it can reach the temperature danger zone, the temperature range between 40 and 140 degrees F, where bacteria grow the fastest.
Recommended storage duration – According to the USDA, the cooked chicken will survive for up to three or four days in the refrigerator and up to two or three months when frozen. Even at chilled temperatures, bacteria can thrive and cause foodborne disease if you eat cooked chicken beyond this time.
This may lead you to wonder if you can’t just zap it in the microwave. Microwaves heat food from the outside in, not the other way around; therefore, reheating cooked chicken in the microwave will kill bacteria on the surface but not the toxins created by bacteria growing beneath the surface.
The main takeaway is that if your chicken has been sitting out for five days, it is no longer safe to eat, even if it has been reheated.
Ways to tell if the chicken has gone bad – If you’re not sure how long your chicken has been in the refrigerator, there are a few clues that will let you know if it is beyond its prime:
- The color: A green/grayish hue tends to appear on chicken that has gone rotten, whether cooked or raw.
- The smell: A smell test can be quite useful when inspecting your chicken for spoilage. The chicken will develop an ammonia-like odor or a generally “odd” smell. However, you can’t always rely on smell alone because seasonings and marinades can cover these odors.
- The texture: Another sign of spoiling is a change in texture. A slimy film will cover the bad chicken, acting as a powerful deterrent to biting into that week-old chicken.
A word of warning – never use your sense of taste to determine if your chicken has gone bad; you risk spending a few hours in the toilet if you do so.
Ways to use up cooked chicken – Understandably, throwing away leftovers is a pain. There are, however, several low-effort alternatives to throwing away perfectly fine food, and the only trick is to get to it before it becomes questionable.
- Freezing: Put the chicken in the freezer before it reaches the point of no return. According to the USDA, cooked chicken can be frozen for up to a year, depending on the item. To avoid freezer burn, we recommend using everything within a few months. Food that has been frozen-burned is safe to eat, although it does not taste very nice. To get rid of a stash of frozen chicken, you can also create a batch of chicken stock, especially if you’re storing bone-in chicken.
- Soups: You could also shred the leftover chicken and toss it into a quick soup.
- Pasta: For a quick dinner, you could toss the chicken with some spaghetti or other pasta kinds.
- Chicken salad: You could also make a salad using the chicken, and ideally, eat it the same day or the next day.
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Recommended Time to Keep Cooked Chicken in the Fridge
See the table below for guidelines on how long to store cooked chicken in the freezer and refrigerator:
|Storage method||Storage time|
|Refrigerator storage||Three to four days|
|Freezer storage||Two to three months|
- 200g leftover roast chicken, shredded
- 2 teaspoons of cornflour
- 2 tablespoons of fish sauce or soy
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 2 blocks of medium egg noodles
- 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
- 1 large red pepper, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 4 spring onions, sliced
- 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon of chili powder
- 100g of frozen pea
- ½ a pack of basil or coriander leaves (20g), shredded roughly
- Combine the cornflour, fish sauce, and sugar in a mixing bowl, then gradually add 8 tablespoons of water until it becomes smooth. Cook the noodles for 4 minutes in a boiling pot of water.
- Meanwhile, in a wok, heat the oil and stir-fry the pepper, garlic, and spring onions for 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken, spices, and peas for a few seconds more, then add the fish sauce and flour mixture. Stir in the drained noodles and basil or coriander after the sauce has thickened.
This recipe gives amazing and great-tasting results. There are many more ideas on how to use up your leftover chicken in delicious recipes. Some of such ideas have been described in this video recipe. Watch it and try your hand at as many as possible, and you’ll never have to throw out your leftover chicken anymore.