How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge (+3 ways to spot bad chicken)

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of a cooked chicken in different conditions. Moreover, we are going to discuss the different ways to tell if your chicken has gone bad, steps to deal with chicken properly, and the health implications of eating a bad chicken.

Chicken is a popular food item consumed worldwide and has secured the rank of staple food in many households that is enjoyed by all and sundry. So if you have made chicken in a larger amount than you need and are wondering about “how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge”, then you do not have to worry as we are going to give you a thorough overview of the shelf life of a chicken.

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge?

Cooked whole chicken, as well as cooked chicken parts like breasts or drumsticks, can last for 3-4 days if stored at approximately 40°F or below in the fridge according to the standards set by the USDA. 

Fried chicken and chicken cooked with gravy also stay fresh for 3-4 days in the fridge while cooked chicken patties and chicken nuggets have a shorter shelf life and last for 1-2 days in the fridge.

How long does cooked chicken last in the freezer?

Cooked chicken pieces if kept wrapped in an aluminum foil in an air-tight container or air-tight bag can last for up to 4 months while the whole cooked chicken and fried chicken can stay fresh without the risk of going bad for almost 4 months in the freezer.

Chicken patties can last for about 1-2 months while cooked chicken dishes can last for about 4-6 months in the freezer.

Thus keeping the cooked chicken in the freezer will increase its shelf life considerably owing to the cool temperature of the freezer that halts the bacterial growth on the chicken.

What are the food safety steps for chicken?

USDA recommended taking into consideration the following four steps whenever you are dealing with chicken.

  1. Wash hands and surfaces often so that the risk of microbe transfer can diminish. 
  2. Separate raw meats and poultry from other foods so that the risk for cross-contamination can be halted. 
  3. Cook all poultry to 165°F, it is only if you cook the chicken thoroughly that you can get rid of bacteria that might have found their way to your chicken.
  4. Refrigerate promptly at or below  40°F.

What is the optimum temperature to store cooked chicken?

You should always store your chicken at 40°F or below. Bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between the temperature of 40°F and 140°F, therefore it is always advised to store your cooked chicken at a lower temperature.

How to tell if the chicken has gone bad?

You can tell whether or not your chicken has gone bad by considering its appearance, texture, and smell.

Appearance

If you can see the color of the chicken change to grey-green or if you can spot molds of grey-green color on the surface of the chicken then it is the indication that your chicken has gone bad.

Texture

If you can feel something slimy while touching the chicken then it means that your chicken has gone bad. 

But keep one thing in mind that rinsing the chicken won’t help you in this scenario as you won’t be able to get rid of the bacteria. Rather rinsing the bacteria-laden chicken will put you at risk of cross-contamination as the bacteria will spread in the utensils and other food items that will come in contact with the water from the chicken that has gone bad.

Smell

If you can smell something acidic or sour then it means that your chicken has gone bad and you should discard it. 

Noticing this particular smell can be difficult in cases where you have marinated the chicken with spices and condiments.

What will happen if you eat a chicken that has gone bad?

Eating a chicken that has gone bad can put you at the risk of many food-borne illnesses especially food poisoning. Eating a bad chicken can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and severe food poisoning that can even lead to hospitalization and serious health issues.

Chicken can have bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter on it. You should keep one thing in mind that refrigeration or freezing the chicken won’t kill these bacteria. The only way to kill them is by thorough cooking.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question “how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of a cooked chicken in different conditions. Moreover, we discussed the different ways to tell if your chicken has gone bad, steps to deal with chicken properly, and the health implications of eating a bad chicken.

Citations

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/poultry-preparation/chicken-from-farm-to-table/ct_index

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-long-does-chicken-last-in-the-fridge#spoiled-chicken-risks

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