Can I eat cooked chicken 5 days later?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question “Can I eat cooked chicken 5 days later?”, discuss ways to properly store cooked chicken, how to spot bad chicken, and the health risks of eating spoiled chicken.

Can I eat cooked chicken 5 days later?

NoYes, you cannot eat cooked chicken 5 days later only if it was refrigerated properly in a zip lock or a sealed bag. Ideally, cooked chicken lasts for about 3-4 days but if you havehad refrigerated it 2 hours after cooking it., chances are that it is still good after 5 days. Beyond 45 days, you should throw it out.

The World Health Organization reports that an estimated 600 million – almost 10% of people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years. Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year (1).

If you wish to store the cooked chicken for longer periods of time, your best bet is to freeze the chicken which would arrest the growth of most pathogens.

The more the chicken sits at room temperature, the more it is prone to go bad quickly.

Reheating the chicken will most likely kill most pathogens because Salmonella is heat labile, which means it can not survive in higher temperatures. So thoroughly heating the chicken will make it safer. Heat generated by microwaves kills naturally-occurring microorganisms as long as the size and type of food are carefully correlated with exposure time. Studies showed that natural occurring and inoculated bacteria were killed in meat products after cooking and heating in the microwave oven (2). The minimum internal temperature for safe cooking or reheating chicken meat is 165°F or 74°C (3).

How to spot bad chicken

Cooked chicken is white. If your stored chicken has a grayish or green-grayish hue to it, it has gone bad. Another way to tell if the chicken has gone bad is by smelling it. Usually spoiled chicken would give off an odor similar to rotten eggs. However sometimes the smell of seasonings can mask the bad odor.

Usually, fresh meat is characterized by a cherry-red color due to the formation of oxymyoglobin. However, oxidation of the heme pigment will convert the red color to brown. Lipid oxidation is considered as the major problem affecting meat quality because it changes color, generates off-odor, and impairs protein functionality. Protein functionality such as solubility, emulsification, water binding capacity, and texture are also affected by lipid oxidation and their interactions with protein oxidation products. Many lipid oxidation-related aldehydes such as propanal, hexanal, and pentanal are produced during storage of cooked meat (3).

Texture of the cooked chicken will give you another clue. If the chicken feels slimy or gooey on touch, it has obviously gone bad. Some pathogens present in chicken do not change its color or odor, or even the texture. So you wouldn’t know about their overgrowth. This is why cooked chicken should be consumed within 45 days.

Refrigerated cured meats and cooked products can become slimy or sticky to the touch because of the growth of yeasts, lactic acid bacteria, and some enterics and pseudomonads. This particular spoilage defect is caused simply by the accumulation of very high numbers of microbial cells and not by any specific metabolic activity of the microbes. Similarly, color changes in food can occur because of the surface growth of microorganisms. Examples include the greening of meats, caused by lactic acid bacteria; fluorescence in milk, caused by pseudomonads; and red spots on breadstuffs, caused by Serratia marcescens (4).

Potential health risks of eating spoiled chicken

Chicken is a very nutritious food. It is called lean meat because of its high protein content and low fat. On the other hand it is notorious for being the reservoir of a pathogen called Salmonella. It is the bacteria that causes Typhoid. 

The most common way by which humans can get infected by this bacteria is by eating undercooked chicken (5). If you store this undercooked chicken, the bacteria will get a chance to overgrow as long as the chicken stays refrigerated. It does not even change the texture of chicken or give it a bad smell so you can not spot it. 

Other pathogens that can grow on chicken are E.coli and mold (3,4). Mold is easier to spot as it produces green-bluish spots on chicken.

The symptoms of typhoid fever are headache, weakness, diarrhea or constipation, loss of appetite, and stomach pain. It requires a strong antibiotic regimen and in severe cases, even hospitalization. The anti-typhoid regimen can even lead to hair loss. The severe type of typhoid takes a long time to resolve. However, typhoid fever is not commonly transmitted by poultry meat. Typhoid fever is a systemic infection caused by Salmonella typhi. The bacteria is transmitted through food and water contaminated with feces and urine of an infected patient or a carrier (6). 

E.coli can cause food poisoning, symptoms of which are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Severe vomiting can even lead to dehydration which might require hospitalization (7). 

Mold is easy to spot but if you overlook some spots and consume the spoiled chicken anyway, it can cause toxicity. If your immune system is strong enough, your body may be able to fight small amounts of mold that you may have ingested. If it is not, mold toxicity can produce symptoms similar to food poisoning. Older people usually tend to have a weak immune system so they are at risk.

Another really dangerous bacteria found in poultry is Campylobacter Jejuni. Heat can kill it but it is still present in undercooked meat. It also causes food poisoning but on top of that, it can cause Guillain-barre syndrome. In this syndrome, there is weakness in legs first which spreads to the upper body. There is also tingling and pricking sensation in toes, fingers, wrist, or ankles.

It can lead to unsteady walking or difficulty in walking or climbing stairs. Moreover it can lead to a difficulty in facial movements such as eating, swallowing, or even chewing. If left untreated, the symptoms quickly get worse and can even lead to death. In long standing cases, full body paralysis can occur and if your respiratory muscles get involved, it can immediately cause death.

The best way to avoid all these complications is to store the cooked chicken properly and throw it out after 4 5 days if it remains unconsumed because it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Other FAQs about Chicken that you may be interested in.

How long does butter chicken last in the fridge?

Can you freeze a whole chicken?

Can you cook frozen chicken wings?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question “Can I eat cooked chicken 5 days later?”, discussed ways to properly store cooked chicken, and how to spot bad chicken. Moreover we discussed the health risks of eating spoiled chicken.

Citations

  1. Food Safety. World Health Organization. 2022.
  2. Fung, Daniel YC, and F. E. Cunningham. Effect of microwaves on microorganisms in foods. J Food Protect, 1980, 43, 641-650.  
  3. Chicken from farm to table. US Department of Agriculture.
  4. Cerveny, John, Joseph D. Meyer, and Paul A. Hall. Microbiological spoilage of meat and poultry products. Compendium of the microbiological spoilage of foods and beverages. Springer, New York, NY, 2009. 69-86.
  5. Kosa, Katherine M., et al. Consumer-reported handling of raw poultry products at home: results from a national survey. J Food Protec, 2015, 78, 180-186.  
  6. Peter, O. J., et al. Direct and indirect transmission dynamics of typhoid fever model by differential transform method.  JOSTE, 2018, 6, 167-177.
  7. Food Poisoning Symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022.