Can you eat cooked chicken left out overnight?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question, “can you eat cooked chicken left out overnight?”. Moreover, we will discuss how long can cooked chicken be left out at room temperature? How to safely store cooked chicken? and the risks of cooked chicken left out overnight.

Can you eat cooked chicken left out overnight?

No, you can not eat cooked chicken left out overnight. Chicken is highly perishable, meaning that it should be stored in a refrigerator to prevent bacterial multiplication at room temperature, otherwise it can lead to foodborne illness if the food is “temperature abused.”

Chicken does not last long after it has been cooked, and even if the chicken that was left out overnight looks precisely the same the next morning, it should be discarded. This is because once the cooked chicken starts to cool, it becomes a breeding spot for bacteria. 

The unrefrigerated leftover chicken starts spreading bacteria in quite a few hours and following a night on the kitchen counter, they are unsafe for consumption.

The risks of cooked chicken left out overnight

Bacterial contamination 

Chicken has to reach a minimum internal temperature before it is safe for consumption. Before it reaches that temperature, bacteria can multiply in and on the chicken. 

Between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the chicken is in what the United States Department of Agriculture describes as the danger zone, which is the perfect environment for harmful pathogens, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli, to multiply rapidly.

Food poisoning 

A great number of bacteria can colonize chicken when it is kept out overnight. Rewarming the chicken may destroy some of the bacteria but those bacteria would have already multiplied and secreted out enough toxins.

Not all these bacteria will destroy by reheating the chicken and may lead to food poisoning. Bacteria only need a higher temperature, moisture, and some time to grow and produce toxins, all of which are present when you leave your chicken overnight, guaranteeing contamination.

Consuming chicken that has been left out overnight, can lead to severe symptoms of food poisoning due to contamination by the bacteria. 

Common symptoms of food poisoning include 

  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • stomach cramps 
  • fever 

These symptoms can last for a day to one week and can appear as early as 4 hours after eating chicken contaminated with bacteria or as late as one week after consumption of contaminated chicken. 

The United States Department of Agriculture records that some groups of people are at a greater risk of falling sick than others; these include 

  • Elderly people
  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • People with a weakened immune system, including transplant patients and people with diabetes, kidney disease, cancer and also people with HIV/AIDS. 

For these people with increased susceptibility, food poisoning can even be lethal.

How to safely store cooked chicken?

To prevent the spoilage of cooked chicken and to keep it safe for consumption, it should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours after being cooked. If it is not kept in a refrigerator within this period, it will become unsafe for consumption. 

If the room temperature is higher than 90℉, the timeline is even shorter, and your chicken should not be left out for more than 1 hour before you put it in a container to store it.

Storing the cooked chicken in a freezer or refrigerator does not necessarily mean it is safe. Large quantities of chicken, like whole roasts that have not been sliced, take more time than smaller portions to cool off in the fridge. 

This means that even though the temperature in your fridge is under 40℉, the chicken you store in the fridge takes too long to reach the corresponding temperature, and stays in the danger zone. 

To safely store cooked chicken, it should be cooled quickly. Slice it and place it into an airtight container to keep bacteria out and to ensure the quickest cooling possible.

Even cooked chicken that is properly stored does not last forever. This is because storing the chicken does not necessarily kill microorganisms, it only hinders their growth. After some days in the fridge, the leftover chicken will still have bacteria and ultimately mould. 

Always store cooked chicken in a fridge for 3 or 4 days, and if you desire to preserve it longer, then keep it in the freezer. No doubt, the chicken will stay safe in the freezer for longer at 0℉, but the texture and taste will start to worsen. Based on the type of chicken, it may last for 6 months in the freezer.

Other FAQs about Chicken that you may be interested in.

Can you eat cream of chicken soup by itself?

Can a chicken lay more than one egg a day?

Can you half cook chicken then finish later?


In this short article, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat cooked chicken left out overnight?. Moreover, we will discuss how to safely store cooked chicken? and the risks of cooked chicken left overnight.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.