How Long Can You Leave Grilled Chicken Out?

Wondering how long you can leave grilled chicken out for and still be safe to eat?

You’re not the only one and the answer may surprise you!

In this article, we will give you a definitive answer to this question and discuss how to store food safely. We will also provide tips on keeping your chicken fresh for as long as possible and how to reheat your leftover chicken.

By following our tips, you’ll be able to grill up some delicious chicken without having to worry about getting food poisoning. So what are you waiting for? Read on to learn how long cooked chicken can sit out.

US Department Of Agriculture (USDA) Guidelines

The USDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of (165°F) to kill any harmful bacteria.

This is the safest way to ensure that your chicken is cooked properly and will not cause you to become ill.

However, even a cooked bird can only be left out for so long before harmful bacteria start to introduce the threat of illness.

If your cooked chicken has been left out at room temperature then you only have two hours before you will have to throw it away. If it’s a hot day (over 90°F) then the food will become bad after an hour.

The “danger zone” is between 40°F and 140°F. At these temperatures, bacteria will thrive and quickly turn your bird from a tasty meal into a potential health hazard. Even cooked chicken will spoil surprisingly quickly when you leave it to sit out at room temperature.

The Dangers Of Leaving Food Out For Too Long

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably left food out on the counter for too long at some point and then wondered how long can cooked chicken sit out before it goes off.

Maybe you forgot about it in the rush of getting dinner on the table, or maybe you just got distracted and lost track of time.

Whatever the case may be, it’s not a good idea to leave cooked food out for too long. Here’s why:

Leaving food out of the fridge for more than two hours allows it to become a breeding ground for bacteria. After this point, bacteria start to multiply quickly, which makes it unsafe to eat because it can lead to food poisoning.

Bacteria like Staphylococcus Aureus,  Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli and Campylobacter can all cause a variety of food-related issues. If you leave food in temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (4.5°C and 60°C) then bacteria will quickly multiply, doubling every 20 minutes in fact. This means millions of bacteria could be present after a couple of hours at room temperature.

In fact, according to the USDA, one in six Americans gets sick from foodborne illnesses each year. In fact, around 3000 Americans die every year from food poisoning.

So, if you’re ever in doubt about whether or not your food has been out for too long, it’s better to err on the side of caution and throw it away.

It’s not worth risking your health over a few pieces of chicken.

Can I Smell If Chicken Is Bad?

Undoubtedly if you leave it long enough the chicken will start to smell bad. However, the sniff test is not a reliable method to tell if your chicken is still safe to consume. It’s possible that chicken still looks and smells fine but can be riddled with harmful bacteria.

Will A Sauce Or Marinade Prolong The Life Of Cooked Chicken?

Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how the chicken was coated prior to cooking you should try to eat the chicken as soon as possible. If cooked chicken has been sitting out for more than 2 hours then you have to consider that spoiled chicken and throw it in the trash. If you aren’t able to eat all the chicken within 2 hours then you need to store your cooked chicken in the fridge.

Can I Reheat Chicken That’s Been Left Out?

If you leave cooked chicken out then I’m afraid that even reheating the chicken will not guarantee that it is free of bacteria or other nasties. Don’t eat chicken that has been left out of the fridge for more than two hours even if you heat it up. Cooking the meat again may not kill all the bacteria present and there may also be other toxins that could be harmful to you. Unfortunately, you have to accept that the chicken has gone bad and needs to be thrown away.

How To Store Cooked Chicken

Assuming you haven’t left the chicken at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if it’s over 90°F) then you should be okay to pop it in the fridge for later. Always use an airtight container when storing chicken in the refrigerator as it will help to keep it fresh longer and avoid flavors from other foods affecting it. It’s also best practice to pop the date on the package so you know when the chicken may be safe to eat.

The chicken should be safe to eat for the next 3 days. Although you should always take into account any advice on the packaging of any foods.

Before storing any hot food in your fridge make sure that the item has cooled to room temperature. Placing hot food directly into the fridge will raise the temperature and might cause other foodstuffs stored there to go off.

Obviously, you want to keep raw and cooked chicken separate the same way you would with any other meat or fish. A simple way to do this is to keep all your raw meats on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. You can then place cooked meats on other shelves. Raw chicken should not be left at room temperature unless it is about to be cooked.

Can I Freeze Cooked Chicken?

One of the most important things to consider when you freeze cooked chicken is how to properly store it so it doesn’t go bad.

Make sure your freezer is operating correctly at 0°F (-18°C). Make sure you label food your putting in the freezer so you know how long it the chicken has been sitting being in there. According to US food safety advice, frozen chicken should be safe for 3-4 months.

To avoid waste its best to cut the chicken into smaller portions that you can defrost separately as and when you need them.

Your freezer will operate most efficiently if its full so if you don’t have that much food stored in it then you cold make some ice cubes and then bag them up to fill space.

You shouldn’t refreeze thawed chicken. It should be thrown away if not used.

The Best Ways To Reheat Grilled Chicken

There are several ways to reheat grilled chicken, but not all of them are created equal. The best way is by putting it in the oven.

In An Oven

This will ensure that the chicken is cooked evenly and thoroughly. Start by preheating to around 400°F then pop the chicken in on a baking tray for 10-15 minutes. If the pieces of chicken are small they will heat up more quickly so watch out that they don’t dry out.

If you want to keep the chicken as moist as possible then you could try wrapping them individually in foil with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water or stock. If you want crisp them up a little then at the end take them out of the foil an broil then for 1-2 minutes

In A Frying Pan

You could fry the chicken in a heavy pan or skillet in some oil, stock or water.

Start by half covering the pan with the water or stock and warming over a medium heat. Once the stock is hot add the chicken and cover with a lid. Leave for 2-3 minutes then flip over and repeat.

Turn the heat up at the end if you want to crisp up the outside of the chicken.

In An Air Fryer

Preheat your air fryer to 350°F (180°C). Brush the chicken with a little butter, oil or marinade to help seal in the moisture.

Place the chicken in the fryer basket making sure you leave room for air to circulate. Cook for 6-8 minutes flipping the chicken over halfway through to make sure it gets heated thoroughly.

In A Microwave

You can also be reheating cooked chicken in the microwave, but this may result in uneven cooking and dried-out chicken.

If you must consume cooked chicken in the microwave, be sure to do so on a low setting and use a moisture-rich method, such as adding water or broth to the dish.

Try adding 2-3 tablespoons of water or stock and then covering your microwavable dish to try and avoid in drying out.

Heat on 50% power in 30 second intervals until the chicken is piping hot throughout.

Although most people will avoid using the microwave it is possible with some extra effort to get nice chicken.

How Long Can You Leave Grilled Chicken Out: Summary

It is important to be mindful of how long you leave your grilled chicken out. After more than two hours, bacteria can start to form and multiply, which can lead to food poisoning.

If you’re ever in doubt about whether or not your food has been out for too long, it’s better to err on the side of caution and throw it away. This suggests that at normal room temperatures chicken will stay safe for up to 2 hours although that is reduced to one hour if the temperature is above 90°F.

By following these simple tips, you can enjoy delicious chicken without worry.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

How Long Can Cooked Chicken Be Left Out?

Leaving cooked chicken out at room temperature for more than 2 hours will allow harmful bacteria to grow and may cause food poisoning if the bird is consumed. If the chicken is sitting in temperatures above 90°F (32°C) then it needs to be eaten or stored within 1 hour to remain safe.

How Long Does Cooked Chicken Keep In A Refrigerator?

Assuming the fridge is operating correctly then cooked chicken should be safe for up to 3 days. Make sure to make a note of the date on items in your fridge so you can eat them before they become harmful.

Does Covering Chicken Prolong Its Shelf Life

No, covering some grilled chicken will not extend the period of time that you can safely leave it at room temperature. After 2 hours it should be thrown away.

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