How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge?
According to Healthline, cooked chicken has a fridge life of three to four days. After that period, chicken will start to go bad and can carry harmful bacteria that could lead to food poisoning.
Some of the most common types of bacteria that grow on chicken are Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can cause humans to experience nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, and dehydration. However, if chicken is prepared and cooked properly, this reduces the risk of getting food poisoning.
Can you freeze cooked chicken?
The USDA guidelines on how temperature affects food say that freezing food keeps it safe by “slowing the movement of molecules, causing bacteria to enter a dormant stage”.
While raw chicken can be stored in a freezer for nine months to one year (just make sure the chicken is fresh and the freezer remains at temperatures of -18°C and below), you can store cooked chicken in the freezer for two to six months. Fried chicken like nuggets can be frozen for one to three months.
How to store cooked chicken in the fridge
Place leftover chicken in a sealable container before storing it in the fridge. The Australian Chicken Meat Federation says you have to wait for the steam to evaporate before storage. They advise “dividing [chicken] into smaller portions” to speed up the cooling process. But don’t leave chicken out to cool for too long, especially if you live some place warm.
Cooked chicken shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for longer than two hours. When the temperature is anywhere above 32°C, food should be stored in the fridge within an hour of cooking.
Love Food Hate Waste recommends keeping cooked chicken on the top shelf of your refrigerator and away from raw meats.
How to store cooked chicken in the freezer
If you want to store cooked chicken in the freezer, the best way to go about it is to place the chicken in reusable ziplock bags. Try to remove as much air as you can before sealing off the bags. It's a good idea to divide chicken into smaller bits so you can decide how much chicken you want to thaw out later. Frozen chicken takes about 12 hours to thaw completely in the refrigerator.
How to tell if chicken is off
There are three easy tests you can do to find out if chicken has gone bad: the colour test, the smell test, and the touch test. First, check if the chicken has changed colour. When chicken goes bad, it usually turns greyish green due to the growth of mould. Next, smell the chicken. If it smells sour, don’t eat it. Lastly, the touch test. Spoiled chicken can get slimy or fuzzy.
What to do if you eat spoiled chicken
If you suspect you may have eaten rancid chicken and are experiencing food poisoning symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue, here’s what you should do:
Visit a doctor
A doctor will be able to diagnose if what you have is food poisoning. They will know what kind of medicine or care you will need depending on how badly the food poisoning has affected you. Some people may be sent home right away if their symptoms aren’t so bad, while others may need to be kept at the hospital for monitoring, especially if they’re experiencing dehydration.
Drink lots of water
If you can’t see a doctor right away, stay hydrated. Vomiting and diarrhea will cause you to lose a lot of water, so make sure to replenish your body’s supply.
If you’re experiencing food poisoning, your body will probably reject anything coming in. Save yourself the trouble of making an extra trip to the bathroom by keeping your food intake to a minimum. Healthline suggests letting your stomach settle for a few hours, so try to avoid eating. If you’re really hungry, try eating bland foods like cereal, rice, saltines, toast, bananas, and oatmeal.
Tips for maintaining chicken freshness
Should you wash raw chicken?
According to the CDC, washing raw chicken is a no-no. "During washing, chicken juices [which contain bacteria] can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops”.
Thaw chicken outside of the fridge
Remember, chicken shouldn’t be left out at room temperature. Bacteria in the meat itself or its environment can multiply if chicken is left to defrost in warm temperatures. Thawing chicken in the refrigerator overnight or placing it in a bowl of cold water or the microwave is recommended.