Is cooked chicken still good if left out overnight?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Is cooked chicken still good if left out overnight?”, and tell you how to store cooked chicken properly. We will also mention the shelf life of chicken, list down ways in which you can spot spoiled chicken, and mention what happens if you eat spoiled chicken.

Is cooked chicken still good if left out overnight?

No, cooked chicken that has been left out overnight is not good and should be discarded. Cooked chicken should not be left out for more than 2 hours after cooking. It should be placed inside the refrigerator as soon as it cools down to room temperature to avoid contamination.

Chicken, both cooked and raw, is perishable. Temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees are called the ‘danger zone’ because most bacteria rapidly multiply in these temperatures. 

How to store cooked chicken?

To make sure that the cooked chicken is safe to eat after it has been sitting in the fridge, it should be placed in the fridge within 2 hours of cooking it. When placing the chicken in the fridge, make sure it is placed in an airtight container or a ziplock bag for added safety against harmful bacteria.

If you wish to store cooked chicken for weeks, it is better to freeze it rather than putting it inside the fridge.

What is the shelf life of chicken?

Chicken contains a bacteria called Salmonella which is why it has a reduced shelf life. Salmonella is one of the most common pathogens that cause food poisoning. Uncooked raw chicken lasts for about 1-2 days in the fridge while cooked chicken lasts for about 3-4 days in the fridge.

Raw chicken can be stored for 9 months up to a year in the freezer. So if you wish to store the chicken for longer periods of time, you should freeze it rather than refrigerating it.

How to tell if the cooked chicken has spoiled?

You can tell if the cooked chicken is spoiled by looking at its texture, color, smell, or any mold growth. No matter which cooking technique you choose to cook the chicken, it will spoil in a few days. 

Cooked chicken is firm, opaque, and white from the inside. Spoiled cooked chicken on the other hand, may have a slimy or gooey texture. It may even feel softer on touch than it was when it was cooked. 

Spoiled chicken will almost always give off a very bad odor. You can smell it as soon as you open the container that it was stored in. This smell is a very apparent sign that the chicken has spoiled.

Cooked chicken is usually white on the inside and brown on the outside. Spoiled chicken may turn gray, or even greenish-blue in color. If you see a perfectly seared brown chicken on the outside, make cuts on it to see if the insides are white in color or not. 

One of the many reasons for color change may be the growth of mold. Mold growth on chicken is not uncommon because it is relatively wet with all the chicken juices. It is easily spotted and such cooked chicken should be thrown out. 

If all else looks fine, go with your gut feeling. If your gut tells you that consuming leftover chicken is not safe, then just discard it.

What happens if you eat spoiled chicken?

While it is easy to spot spoiled chicken, sometimes some bacteria produce toxins which do not alter the appearance or the smell of chicken so there is no way to tell if the chicken is safe to eat.

Eating spoiled chicken will lead to food poisoning. The symptoms of food poisoning are nausea, diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite and headaches. 

Some toxins may also be heat resistant so if you think reheating the chicken will make it safe to eat, think again!

Salmonella is basically the most common pathogen present in poultry that is notorious for causing food poisoning. This is why it is advisable to not consume the chicken that has been left out overnight.

Learn more about food poisoning here.

Other FAQs about Chicken that you may be interested in.

Can you eat chicken past the sell-by date?

Can you eat chicken 3 days after the sell-by date?

Can you eat smoked chicken without cooking it?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question, “Is cooked chicken still good if left out overnight?”, and told you how to store cooked chicken properly. We also mentioned the shelf life of chicken, listed down ways in which you can spot spoiled chicken, and mentioned what happens if you eat spoiled chicken.

Citations 

https://oureverydaylife.com/signs-bad-cooked-chicken-38326.html
https://www.livestrong.com/article/516689-the-signs-of-bad-cooked-chicken/
https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/12635/is-it-safe-to-leave-cooked-poultry-at-room-temperature-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.