Have you ever wondered how long chicken can sit out before you need to toss it? It's easy to lose track of time when you're enjoying dinner with the family or hosting a party. I'll go over everything you need to know about how long it is safe to let raw or cooked chicken sit out and also how to properly store it. That way, you can help ensure that it your chicken is always safe and delicious to eat.
Did you know that chicken is the most popular meat in the US? In fact, 43% of all meat consumed in this country is chicken. So, why is chicken so popular? Probably because it's versatile, affordable, readily available, and can be part of a healthy diet.
You can roast chicken in the oven, grill it, use it in soup, salads, kebabs, and even quesadillas. Some of my family's favorite chicken recipes are my Marry Me Chicken, Creamy Paprika Chicken, and Air Fryer General Tso's Chicken.
When it comes to food safety, one of the most important things to keep in mind is how long food can sit out at room temperature before it becomes unsafe to eat. Chicken, in particular, is a food that requires careful handling and storage. That's because we want to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
If you've ever wondered how long chicken can sit out and if you can enjoy it safely, don't worry, I've got you covered! In this post I'll go over everything you need to know about how long chicken can sit out, including raw and cooked chicken. I'll also discuss how to properly store chicken so that it's always safe to eat.
How Long Can Raw Chicken Sit Out?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), raw chicken should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours. If the temperature in the room is above 90°F (32°C), then the time limit decreases to just one hour.
The reason for this two-hour time frame is that bacteria can start to multiply rapidly when chicken is left out in the temperature range of 40°F (4°C) to 140°F (60°C). This temperature range is referred to as the "danger zone."
To keep chicken safe to eat, it's important to keep it either below 40°F (4°C) or above 140°F (60°C) at all times.
How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out?
The same general rule of thumb applies for cooked chicken as for raw chicken. Cooked chicken should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours. Once again, if the ambient temperatureis above 90°F (32°C), such as at a picnic or barbecue, the two-hour rule decreases to just one hour.
It is not safe to eat raw or cooked chicken that has been sitting out at room temperature for more than two hours. Instead, you should discard it because otherwise, you're putting yourself at risk for food poisoning.
If you're not sure about the amount of time your chicken has been sitting out, use your best judgment and err on the side of caution. When in doubt, throw it out!
What Is The Danger Zone?
The "danger zone" for food refers to a specific temperature range, typically between 40°F and 140°F (4°C and 60°C). This is the temperature range at which dangerous bacteria and other microorganisms can rapidly multiply in food.
It is referred to as the danger zone because in this range, you are at increased risk of foodborne illness caused by bacterial growth from organisms such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. The number of bacteria can double every 20 minutes!
It is very important to avoid keeping food in the danger zone for an extended period of time because bacterial growth can lead to the production of toxins. These toxins can cause food poisoning if you eat the contaminated food.
To prevent bacterial growth and the risk of foodborne illnesses, you should always keep hot foods above 140°F (60°C) and cold foods below 40°F (4°C).
If you're serving food at a party, keep food hot in chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. Keep cold food, like salads and deli meat, cold by nesting them in bowls of ice. Discard any leftovers that have been sitting out for more than 2 hours at room temperature (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F)
Also, it is important to cool food rapidly before storing it in the fridge. You want to make sure it reaches the safe refrigerator-storage temperature of 40° F or below as soon as possible to prevent bacteria from multiplying.
Proper food handling and storage practices are essential to ensure that the food we eat is safe and free from harmful bacteria.
What Happens If You Eat Spoiled Chicken?
Eating spoiled chicken can lead to food poisoning. The symptoms of food poisoning can vary depending on the type of bacteria present and the amount of contaminated food eaten. Food poisoning can range from mild symptoms to severe cases requiring hospitalization.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of food poisoning are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- Fever and chills
What are Signs of Spoilage in Chicken?
There are several signs of spoilage in chicken to look out for, including:
- Appearance- if the chicken looks gray or greenish, it may be spoiled. If it has any mold or strange discoloration, it is not safe to eat.
- Smell- if the chicken has an unpleasant, bad smell, it is likely spoiled.
- Texture- if the chicken has a slimy texture or is sticky to touch, it is likely spoiled.
- Expiration date- if the expiration date on the packaging has passed, the chicken may be spoiled and should not be eaten.
When it comes to chicken, the bottom line is that it's better to be safe than sorry. If you suspect you may have bad chicken, discard it!
How To Properly Store Chicken
Chicken should be stored properly in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and decrease your risk of food poisoning.
The best way to store raw and cooked chicken is on a shelf in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below. Do not store any type of chicken on the refrigerator door, which is subject to greater temperature fluctuations.
Do not store raw chicken meat and cooked chicken together. Store uncooked chicken at the bottom of your fridge to prevent cross-contamination. You don't want raw chicken juices dripping onto other items in your fridge!
Make sure to wrap the chicken in plastic wrap or put it in a sealed container so that it doesn't come into contact with other foods.
Cooked chicken should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. Let it cool down. Then, put it in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag to prevent moisture loss and contamination.
Cooked chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. After four days, it can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
If you have leftover chicken that you do not plan to eat within four days, you can freeze it for longer-term storage. Cooked chicken can be stored in the freezer for up to six months, provided that it has been stored properly.
Freeze chicken in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag to retain the chicken's quality and help prevent freezer burn. It's a good idea to label your frozen chicken with the date to remind you of when you stored it.
How To Safely Thaw Frozen Chicken
The best way to safely thaw chicken is in the refrigerator overnight. However, if you're in a rush, you can also thaw chicken in a cold-water bath, changing the water every 30 minutes. You can also thaw chicken in the microwave but I don’t typically like using a microwave.
When reheating frozen chicken, it is important to make sure that it is heated to an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C) as measured with a food thermometer. This will kill any bacteria that may have grown during storage.
Tasty Chicken Recipes
Now that you know all about how to properly handle and store chicken, here are some tasty recipes that you'll love!
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