You probably spent some time cooking your chicken in your favorite recipe, and you are wondering – how long is cooked chicken good for in the refrigerator before it goes bad?
Cooked chicken is a great way to get your protein fix. It’s versatile, and delicious and can be seasoned in many different ways depending on your taste preferences. However, once you’ve cooked it, how long does it last in the refrigerator?
The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. While refrigeration can help keep your cooked chicken safe for consumption, there are still some important things to consider when determining just how long it will stay fresh.
In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about storing cooked chicken in the refrigerator including tips on how to tell if it’s gone bad and what other preservation methods are available.
You can also read our article – Does hummus also needs refrigeration? to learn more about the lifespan of foods in the refrigerator.
how Long Can You Keep Cooked Chicken In The Fridge?
So how long is cooked chicken good for in the refrigerator? The short answer is that cooked chicken lasts up to 4 – 7 days in the fridge at 40°F or below.
However, that timeline isn’t set in stone because factors such as temperature fluctuations and cross-contamination affect its shelf life. For example:
One of the most significant factors affecting food safety is temperature control. Bacteria thrive between temperatures of 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C). So leaving cooked chicken out for too long or not cooling it down quickly enough increases bacterial growth which reduces its lifespan even further.
To avoid this problem make sure:
- That any leftovers are stored promptly – ideally within two hours
- Your fridge has an accurate thermometer reading at around 40°F
- Avoid overloading your fridge with hot food since rapid chilling depends largely on good air circulation
Cross-contamination occurs when harmful bacteria from one surface transfer onto another surface through direct contact or by exposure via air currents or moisture droplets. For example:
- Placing the cooked chicken on the same plate you used earlier to hold raw chicken
- Using utensils that touched raw chicken to serve cooked food
To avoid cross-contamination, be sure to wash your hands and surfaces thoroughly after handling any raw poultry products.
How To Tell If Cooked Chicken Has Gone Bad
The shelf life of cooked chicken in the fridge is typically shorter than its frozen counterpart. So it’s crucial for food safety reasons, to know when your leftover chicken has gone bad or not.
Some signs that your cooked chicken may have spoiled include:
Cooked foods typically lose their pleasant aroma over time as they age in the fridge. Spoiled or rancid meat often smells sour, ammonia-like, or a little like sulfur dioxide gas (rotten eggs).
If you notice an off smell coming from your stored leftovers, discard them immediately.
Texture And Appearance
Another way to tell if cooked chicken has gone bad is by examining its texture and appearance closely. Here are some key things to look out for:
- Slimy film: A thin slimy layer on top of meat indicates bacterial growth.
- Discoloration: Meat with a greenish tint or light brown color means bacteria are breaking down proteins which could make you sick.
- Mold: Any mold growing on leftovers usually results from improper storage conditions such as high humidity levels inside the refrigerator.
If you notice any of these signs, don’t take chances with eating what’s left – throw it away instead!
Preserving Cooked Chicken In The Refrigerator
Preserving leftover cooked chicken safely helps reduce waste while ensuring tasty meals throughout the week without risking anyone’s health.
Here are some tips for storing leftover cooked chickens properly:
- Store It In An Air-Tight Container
Air-tight containers help preserve freshness and prevent odors from permeating other foods in your fridge which can spoil faster if exposed to bacteria.
Be sure to place your cooked chicken in a well-sealed container, and label it with the date of storage so that you know when it was stored. This helps keep track of how long it’s been in there, which can help prevent food poisoning.
- Keep It In The Coldest Part Of Your Fridge
Ensure that your leftover chicken is stored in the coldest part of your fridge – usually on the bottom shelf where temperatures are most consistent.
Avoid storing leftovers near raw meats or other foods that could contaminate them directly or indirectly.
- Reheat Chicken Thoroughly Before Eating
Before eating any leftover cooked chicken, reheat it thoroughly until its internal temperature reaches at least 165°F (74°C). This step kills off any remaining bacteria that may have grown while being refrigerated.
- Freeze Leftovers If Needed
If you’re not going to eat all of your leftover cooked chicken within four days, consider freezing some portions for later use instead of risking spoilage in the refrigerator.
Freezing slows down bacterial growth dramatically as microbes go dormant below 0°F (-18°C). However, be mindful of freezer burn – which happens when moisture evaporates from meat surfaces exposed to air resulting in toughened textures and unpleasant flavors over time.
Other Ways To Preserve Cooked Chicken
In addition to preserving cooked chicken by storing it safely in the fridge or freezer, there are other methods available:
Canning entails processing freshly-cooked poultry into jars using high heat and pressure equipment effectively killing harmful microorganisms present inside before sealing them shut. Canned foods last years without spoiling if they remain sealed intact during storage under dry conditions away from direct sunlight- making them ideal emergency food supplies too!
Dehydrating involves removing moisture from meat pieces by exposing them to low temperatures for extended periods allowing bacteria-killing enzymes within cells to dry out. Dehydrated chicken pieces can last up to several months when stored in airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags.
Pickling involves marinating cooked meats like chicken with acidic solutions such as vinegar, lemon juice or sour cream that slow down bacterial growth by lowering pH levels. Pickled food lasts for months if kept refrigerated in tightly sealed jars or containers.
In conclusion, cooked chicken is safe to consume within four days of being stored in the fridge at 40°F (4°C) and below. However, factors like temperature fluctuations and cross-contamination can reduce its shelf life even further.
To avoid this problem:
- Store leftovers promptly
- Keep them in air-tight containers
- Reheat thoroughly before eating
- Freeze any portions you won’t eat immediately
Additionally, other preservation methods like canning, dehydrating, and pickling are available options for preserving leftover cooked chicken safely while reducing waste over time!