How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last in the Fridge?
We all love a good chicken dinner. Or a good chicken lunch. Or even, a good chicken mid-afternoon snack. And with so much versatility and deliciousness, it’s no surprise that chicken is a mainstay in many fridges. But how long is cooked chicken good for in the fridge? We’ve outlined everything you need to know about keeping cooked chicken fresh, safe and tasty in your fridge and freezer. Before we get started, make sure your fridge is at or below 40° F (4° C) and your freezer at 0° F (-17.8° C).
To ensure your cooked chicken is safe to eat, it’s important to keep food out of the “danger zone” after cooking. According to the USDA, bacteria grows rapidly between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F. That means that after chicken is cooked, it must be kept hot (140°F or warmer) to prevent bacteria from growing on your food before you eat or store it in the fridge.
Cooked chicken should be refrigerated within no more than 2 hours after cooking or removal from an appliance keeping it warm.
How Long Can Cooked Chicken Stay in the Fridge?
Heads up! Cooked chicken doesn’t last in the fridge for as long as you might think. That’s why we set up a quick guide on storing cooked chicken in your fridge.
Chicken Breast: A cooked chicken breast can last around three to four days in the fridge, and a raw chicken breast can last up to two days. In both cases, it’s better to store chicken breasts in the freezer whenever possible.
Whole Chicken: A whole cooked chicken can stay in your fridge from 3–4 days when you divide it into smaller portions and follow the leftover guide. A raw whole chicken will last 1–2 days in the fridge. If you plan to cook it later, it’s better to leave the raw whole chicken in the freezer where it will stay good for up to one year.
Ground Chicken: Unlike other cuts of chicken, cooked ground chicken will last three to four months in the freezer. To keep ground chicken tasting great, store it in your fridge using Glad® Press’n Seal® Wrap or in your freezer with Glad® Freeze’n Seal™.
Be sure to wash your hands and surfaces before and after handling chicken, especially if it’s raw. Be smart, keep foods apart. Keep your raw chicken separate to prevent cross contamination.
Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken?
Of course! Freezing cooked chicken is an excellent way to extend its shelf life. But, making cooked chicken last in your freezer is all about doing it the right way.
Your cooked chicken can be kept in the freezer for 3 to 4 months. Before storing cooked chicken in your freezer, ensure it hasn’t sat at room temperature for over 2 hours. More than a couple of hours out of the fridge is all it takes for bacteria to breed and spoil your leftovers.
How to Store Cooked Chicken in the Fridge
Now that you know how long cooked chicken can stay in the fridge, it’s time to learn how to store it properly.
To store cooked chicken safely in the fridge, we recommend placing it in a clean and dry container or bowl to avoid any contamination. Next, seal the bowl with Glad® Press’n Seal® Wrap or Glad® Cling’n Seal™ Wrap to help lock in some extra freshness.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to date your storage container to track the days you have left to enjoy it. Just remember to use your leftovers within three to four days.
How to Defrost Cooked Chicken
Unfortunately, defrosting chicken isn’t as easy as taking it out of the freezer. Below, we’ve outlined a couple surefire methods to thaw chicken safely and relatively quickly.
The simplest way to defrost chicken is to transfer it to your fridge. Once in the fridge, it will typically take a full day to thaw, so plan your meals accordingly. Remember to cook chicken (reaching 165°F internal temperature) right after thawing it to kill potentially dangerous bacteria.
Alternatively, if you’re under a time crunch, you can also defrost cooked chicken using cold water. Place your chicken into a tight sealing bag and submerge the bagged chicken in a bowl with cold water to prevent bacterial from being introduced into the food. Glad® Flex’n Seal™ Freezer Quart Bags seals tightly and should do the trick.
Be sure to change out the water every thirty minutes. About a pound of chicken may thaw in an hour or less. When thawed completely, food must be cooked as soon as possible. Foods thawed by the cold-water method should be cooked before refreezing.
For safe meat preparation, reference the USDA website.
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