When doing meal prep or any other large scale cooking projects that mean leftovers in the fridge, a quality and safety question immediately pops up. How long can we keep this in the fridge? Does it need to be covered? Do some components spoil faster than others?
In short, chicken lasts a few days in the fridge, and a few months in the freezer.
Today, we will focus on the safety aspect of cooked chicken and how long it lasts in the fridge. Specifically, this information comes directly from a leading authority in food safety and bacteria management; the United States Department of Agriculture or the USDA.
How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last?
No matter if you’re meal prepping to help with your busy schedule or used to cooking for a small army, leftovers are bound to happen. Leftover meat specifically can be some of the easiest components of a new meal or snack, but it’s important to make sure it’s safe first. Generally, leaving food out at all is a big no-no.
Refrigerated food has less of a chance of growing spoilage bacteria at a rapid rate, and so food left out on the counter can pose a serious health threat. Will you die? Probably not, but no one wants to spend hours in the bathroom after a bite of bad chicken.
A good rule to follow is that a few hours, or even a day on the counter probably won’t hurt, but outside of that the chances of you getting sick are pretty high.
How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last In The Fridge?
The jury is still kind of out on this one because of all the different kinds of chicken that we might find in the average fridge. Assuming that we’re talking about cooked chicken from dinner the night before, we look to the USDA for the answer. According to them, cooked meat should be used within 3-4 days if refrigerated at approximately 40°F. Putting your food in a fridge helps to slow but doesn’t completely stop all bacterial growth.
It’s important to know that there are two different kinds of bacteria: pathogenic bacteria, which are actually responsible for making you sick, and spoilage bacteria, which just cause food to break down and decompose naturally. Spoilage won’t really make you sick, but the quality of the food certainly suffers.
Learn How To Freeze Cooked Chicken
A great alternative for constantly reheating cooked leftovers is freezing them. For this, the USDA has a few ideas, both for raw and cooked chicken freezing practices. They have the opinion that chicken can be stored pretty much forever in the freezer, whether raw or cooked. Because of this, expiration dates can pretty much be ignored when frozen. With that said though, the best quality leftovers are used within the first few months in the freezer. Keep wrapped and covered and you should be good to go!
How Long Does Frozen Chicken Last In The Freezer?
The best answer is kind of forever. Frozen food tends to need extra moisture as it cooks, since a large part of the water was frozen and then melted as the food thaws. If you don’t really care about the quality of the food, then the freezer can hold on to it until you’re ready to use. For best results though, it’s best to use frozen chicken within the first 9 months of purchase.