We do a lot of entertaining so appetizers and grilled meat sit out on the counter for hours. After a long day and some drinks, people will keep picking at the food. So I always wonder: how long can cooked chicken sit out? I do not want to be responsible for people feeling sick the next day! Well, I guess I can blame it on their drinking, but still, I know that if you freeze meat that is already spoiled, it will still be spoiled when thawed...so...
How long can cooked chicken sit out?
The simple answer: two hours. Yikes! Harmful bacteria have already started to develop after two hours out on the counter. Also, if chicken sits out at temperatures higher than 90 degrees (often happens here in AZ), you should toss it after an hour. The USDA considers temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees as the “danger zone” for bacteria growth. Bacteria grow the fastest in the danger zone- they double in only 20 minutes! Next time we have people over, I am going to take the grilled chicken away after 2 hours and get it in the fridge.
Now that we know how long can chicken sit out (2 hours), we need to figure out what to do to preserve it. The USDA says that 40 degrees should be maintained in your fridge, then your cooked chicken can last 3-4 days.
If you want your chicken to last longer, keep it in the freezer. Freezing slows bacteria into a dormant stage. However, once the meat is thawed, the bacteria can again become active and multiply. So do not freeze the meat that has sat out all day. It is spoiled and will still be spoiled when you thaw it. You can wrap each chicken breast (cooked or thawed) in wax paper and put it in a freezer bag. That way you can just take one breast out to reheat at a time. Your raw chicken will last up to 1 year and your cooked chicken will last about 6 months.
When thawing your chicken, remember how quickly bacteria grows in the danger zone. Do not defrost your meat on the counter; keep it in the fridge. When you reheat the chicken, be sure it is hot and steaming or has an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.
How long can cooked chicken sit out? 2 hours. Will you get sick immediately if you eat the chicken that has sat out all day? Well, it depends on how much alcohol you have in your stomach to kill the bacteria…no, you probably won’t get sick immediately. However, you will have an upset stomach and maybe even gradually develop some stomach cramps. So it is not worth reaching for that chicken wing at the end of the night.
Please let us know your thoughts in the comments. You may also enjoy finding out how long yogurt can sit out.