How long can leftover chicken stay in the fridge?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how long can leftover chicken stay in the fridge” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of a leftover chicken. Moreover, we are going to discuss tips to properly store leftover chicken.

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

How long can leftover chicken stay in the fridge?

Leftover chicken can last for about 3-4 days when stored properly in the fridge at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in an air-tight container or plastic zipper bag. 

Thus, the cold temperature of the fridge will decrease the rate of bacterial growth and will subsequently prolong the shelf life of your chicken.

The proper way to store your leftover chicken in the fridge is to put it in the air-tight container or zip lock bag once you have cooled it thoroughly at room temperature. According to USDA, it is best practice to refrigerate the leftovers of your chicken within 2 hours after they are being cooked. 

How long does leftover chicken stay at room temperature?

Leftover chicken lasts for about 2 hours when kept out at room temperature. 

You should discard the leftover chicken that has been left in open for more than 2 hours as bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between the temperature of 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, therefore there are greater chances of the leftover chicken being already contaminated with bacteria when left out for more than 2 hours.

Moreover, if the temperature of the surroundings is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then the process of spoilage takes place at a faster pace and it is recommended to discard leftover chicken that is left out in the open for more than an hour at 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

How long does leftover chicken last in the freezer?

Leftover chicken if kept in an air-tight container or air-tight bag in the freezer can last for about 4 months provided that it was stored properly. 

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

It is worth mentioning that the figures mentioned above are the estimated shelf life of the leftover chicken.

How to thaw frozen chicken properly?

You can thaw frozen cooked chicken by leaving them in the fridge overnight. The cooked chicken that you thaw in the fridge can stay there for 3-4 days before you decide to reheat and eat it.

On the other hand, you can also directly thaw and reheat your frozen cooked chicken in the microwave but the chicken thawed and reheated this way should be consumed immediately.

Can you reheat the refrigerated or frozen chicken?

When you’re prepared to eat the leftovers of chicken that you have in your freezer or fridge, warm them in the oven, on a stove, or microwave until the inside temperature arrives at 165 °F (74 °C). 

The usage of slow cookers is not suggested for warming the leftovers. The reason behind this is that slow cookers may not be able to reheat the leftovers to such an extent that is recommended to eliminate disease-causing microbes and bacteria.

You can read how to make coconut curry chicken here.

Can I refrigerate the reheated cooked chicken?

So once you have reheated the cooked chicken, you should never refrigerate it. As when you reheat the chicken, its temperature rises more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and we know that bacteria grows at a faster rate between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. So the bacteria will find their way to your chicken and you should never refrigerate the reheated chicken.

Tips to properly store leftover chicken

  1. You should always store your leftover 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.
  1. It is a good practice to store chicken on one of the shelves of the refrigerator rather than the door as there is a lot of temperature fluctuation at the door of the fridge that can mess up the quality of chicken.
  1. One thing to keep in mind is to let your cooked chicken cool thoroughly before putting them in the container or the zip-lock bag. If you put a steaming hot chicken in these airtight bags or containers, the moisture will build up inside them which can provide suitable conditions for the bacteria to grow.
  1. Thaw the chicken properly before reheating it. If you are thawing your chicken by keeping it in the refrigerator then you can reheat and utilize them within 3-4 days but if you are directly thawing and reheating them in the microwave it is recommended to consume it immediately.

Other FAQs about Chicken that you may be interested in.

Can you eat chicken skin?

Can you eat medium-rare chicken?

Can you eat chicken if you have gout?


In this brief guide, we answered the question “how long can leftover chicken stay in the fridge” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of a leftover chicken. Moreover, we discussed tips to properly store leftover chicken.


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.