How Long Can Cooked Or Raw Chicken Sit Out?

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Wondering how long can chicken sit out? Here’s storing tips, buying tips, and answers to every question about chicken you have!

Hi everyone! If your family….cough, cough…husband….is like my family…cough, cough….husband, then I’m sure you’ve heard “Is this chicken still okay to eat?!”

After chicken has been in our fridge for a day or two or if we have leftovers, my husband always wants to know if it’s still safe to eat.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you buy from my link I might make a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay. See the full affiliate disclosure here.

We have three, almost four, little kids and I’m grateful he wants to keep us safe.

I’ve scoured the internet and come up with every fact you need to know, plus some extras, about how long chicken can sit out.

I hope you find what you’re looking for. So the next time any of your family members, or husband, asks if something is safe to eat, you’ll know exactly what to tell them!

Chicken wings on a cutting board with a dark blue background.

How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out?

Cooked chicken shouldn’t sit out for over 2 hours. If it’s over 90 degrees, it shouldn’t sit out for more than an hour.

That’s because harmful bacteria can start to grow on the chicken. And in a hot environment of over 90 degrees, bacteria growth can happen quickly. It can give you food poisoning and no one wants that!

Remember that these are only guidelines. Chicken can be unsafe to eat under two hours in some cases.

Here are some helpful things to remember about chicken sitting out.

  • Even if chicken has been covered or if it has been marinated or has a sauce on it, it’s still not safe to eat after sitting out for two hours. It can still make you sick!
  • Chicken in small pieces will spoil faster than a whole chicken will.
  • It’s good to keep in mind that if you’re hosting a party and you have a buffet, the chicken won’t last as long at room temperature as you might think it will. It will need to be back in the fridge within two hours or it will be unsafe to eat.
  • If you’re hosting, put out half of the fresh chicken for the party first, and bring out more as needed. That can help lengthen the time you have a buffet for your guests to eat.
  • Even if you reheat chicken that’s sat out for two hours, it still won’t be safe to eat.

What Is The Danger Zone?

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) says that the danger zone for food is between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria can grow really quickly in these temperature.

Foodborne illnesses can happen in those temperatures. If you have food born illness, you’ll feel nauseous, have a headache, have diarrhea, and vomit.

Make sure to see a doctor if any of those symptoms last for more than one day.

Things That Affect How Long Chicken Can Sit Out

  • Type of chicken– Dark meat like chicken legs or wings will go bad faster than white meat chicken.
  • How the chicken has been cooked– If the chicken was grilled, roasted, or fried, it will go bad quicker.
  • If the chicken has been covered– If the chicken has been covered, it will still be good longer. If it hasn’t been covered, it will go bad quicker.
  • Temperature of the room– In a warm room, food will go bad quicker. If it’s a cooler room, you’ll have more time the chicken will be still be good.

Chicken in a sealed container should still follow the same guidelines are chicken that’s not in a sealed container.

How Long Can Raw Chicken Sit Out?

Raw chicken and raw meat follows the same timeline that cooked chicken does. It needs to be put back into the fridge or the freezer within two hours of being out. If it’s above 90 degrees, it will need to be put away within an hour.

Storing Chicken Tips

Here are a bunch of tips to for storing chicken.

  1. Let chicken cool down before you store it. This will help the chicken not go from to a high temperature to a cold temperature too quickly.
  2. Put the chicken in the fridge within two hours of cooking it.
  3. Wrap the chicken or put it in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or a sealed airtight container before you put it in the fridge.
  4. Cooked chicken shouldn’t be touching any other food, especially raw chicken, because it could cross-contaminate it.
  5. Raw chicken and cooked chicken shouldn’t be stored together. Store cooked chicken with cooked chicken and raw chicken with raw chicken.
  6. Make sure you put the date and label the chicken so you know what it is and when you need to eat it by.
  7. Cooked chicken can last up to four days in the fridge, but the sooner you eat it, the better.
  8. Frozen chicken that’s thawed can last in the fridge for up to four days before you need to cook it.
  9. Don’t forget you can always freeze leftover chicken if you’re not going to eat it within four days. It will last four to twelve months in the freezer. Just remember that the quality might go down the longer the chicken is in there. It also might get freezer burn.
  10. Keep chicken in a ziplock bag, airtight bag or container, or a food saver bag to freeze it for the best results. Don’t forget to label what it is. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t. Trust me! Everything looks the same when it’s frozen.
  11. And my favorite tip is to make and freeze cooked shredded chicken! I love to cook a bunch of chicken in my crockpot and then freeze it for fast meals down the road. It’s the best!

These tips will help you eat chicken safely and not worry if it’s going to make you sick.

A whole chicken is on a table between a fork and a knife.

How To Know If Chicken Goes Bad

There are a few things to pay attention to if you’re trying to decide if chicken has gone bad.

I first look at the chicken. If it looks different than when I first cooked it, I don’t eat it.

The next thing I look at if it passes the look test is the smell test. How does it smell? Does it have a good or bad smell? If it doesn’t smell good, I don’t eat it.

The next thing I see is if feels weird. I tough it and if it feels normal, I move to the next step.

The last step is how it tastes. If it tastes bad or weird, I don’t eat it.

Buying Chicken Tips

There are a few steps in buying chicken that can help you buy good chicken next time you’re at the grocery store.

  1. The first thing you should look at is the expiration date. Get one as far away from the current date as you can. This will give you more time to eat the chicken safely.
  2. The second thing you should look at is the packaging. Is it in good condition? Is there a rip or tear in the package? If there is, don’t buy it. It definitely could be not safe to eat.
  3. Next, I look at the chicken itself. Does it look normal?
  4. The last thing I do is I smell it. Does it smell like normal chicken? If it doesn’t, don’t buy it.

How Can Bad Chicken Affect You?

You can get food poisoning from bacteria in the chicken if it has been out for too long. The quality of the chicken will lessen and the chicken won’t be safe to eat.

Cross-contamination can also happen if chicken has sat out too long. Salmonella, listeria monocytogenes, and staphylococcus aureus are some illness you can get from eating bad chicken.

Thawing And Reheating Chicken

There are three different ways you can thaw frozen chicken.

  1. The Fridge– The best way to thaw chicken is in the fridge. It’s a cool environment that won’t shock the chicken too much going from frozen. Take the chicken out of the freezer and put it into the fridge a night or two before you need it. This will make sure there’s enough time to defrost it.
  2. Cold Water– The next best way is to put frozen chicken into a bowl and run cold water over it for a few minutes. Change the water frequently to make sure it’s always cool.
  3. The Microwave– You can thaw chicken in the microwave. I do this all the time if I forget to put it into the fridge the night before I need it. Make sure you check the chicken often when using the microwave. My microwave tends to start cooking the chicken, so I make sure I watch it closely.

When you reheat chicken, you just have to watch the internal temperature to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. A food thermometer can be your best friend when reheating chicken. It needs to be 165 degrees.

Once you’ve thawed the chicken, you can cook it as you normally would. Don’t forget to let chicken fully defrost before cooking it. This will help it to cook evenly.

The USDA says you can refreeze raw chicken as long as it hasn’t gotten over 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Bottom Line

Chicken can sit out for up to two hours before it needs to be in the fridge or freezer. Food poisoning can happen if you eat chicken that’s been out too long.

Even if chicken looks and smells fine, it still might not be safe to eat. Things could be growing in it that you can’t see.

Allow chicken to cool before you put it in the fridge or freezer. Dangerous bacteria can be in the chicken. Always looks for signs of spoilage before you eat anything.

A general rule is to not eat anything if you’re concerned about it. I hope you learned a lot about food safety with chicken!

Fried chicken in on a cutting board with lemon wedges, french fries, and coleslaw.

FAQs

1. Can I eat chicken left out for 6 hours?

No, I would definitely not eat chicken that had been left out for 6 hours. You can get food poisoning from bacteria in the chicken if it’s sat out too long.

2. How long can chicken sit out and be safe to eat?

Chicken can sit out up to 2 hours in a room that’s under 90 degrees Fahranheit. If it’s over 90 degrees, it can sit out for up to one hour, but maybe less. It depends on a few other things as well.

3. Can chicken stay out for 5 hours?

No, chicken can’t sit out for 5 hours and still be safe to eat. Bacteria will start to grow in it and it can make you very sick. You don’t want to eat rotten chicken.

4. Can chicken sit out for 30 minutes?

Yes, pretty much any kind of chicken cooked or raw can sit out for 30 minutes.

5. How long will cooked chicken last in the fridge?

Cooked chicken will last up to four days in the fridge, but try to eat it as soon as you can.

6. Does chicken go bad if not refrigerated?

Yes, if chicken is not refrigerated or frozen after two hours of sitting out, it will go bad.

7. Can I eat cooked chicken that has been left out overnight?

No, definitely don’t eat cooked chicken that has been left out overnight. You could get very sick.

8. How long can I leave my cooked chicken in a sealed container outside?

If it’s under 90 degrees Fahrenheit, cooked chicken can be outside for up to two hours. If it’s over 90 degrees, it will only be good for up to one hour.

9. What should I do to defrost cooked chicken properly?

You can defrost it in the fridge by putting it in a day or two before you need it. You can defrost it by running cold water over it for a while. You can also defrost it in the microwave. The fridge is the best way to defrost chicken.

10. Does barbecue sauce help to preserve chicken?

It’s a common misconception that barbecue sauce can preserve chicken, but it’s not true. Barbecue sauce doesn’t help preserve chicken. It still can only sit out for up to two hours in a temperature of less than 90 degrees.

11. Should chicken be at room temperature before cooking?

No, chicken doesn’t need to be at room temperature before cooking. It can be though. You can also cook chicken that’s just been in the fridge.

12. Can you freeze cooked chicken?

Yes, you absolutely can freeze cooked chicken. Make sure it’s put into the fridge or the freezer within two hours of cooking it.

13. How long can cooked chicken sit out and still be considered safe?

Cooked chicken can sit out and still be considered safe for a maximum of up to 2 hours. Just remember the two-hour rule.

14. Can I eat fried chicken at room temperature?

Yes you can! Just make sure it’s not out longer than two hours.

Final Thoughts On Chicken Sitting Out:

I hope you learned everything you wanted to know about when it’s safe to eat chicken! Let me know what you think in the comments.

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