Imagine waking up in the morning to find that the leftover chicken from yesterday’s dinner was sitting on the kitchen counter all night; you forgot to put it in the refrigerator! Of course, some people will say, “Well, I can just pop it into the refrigerator now and reheat it for my chicken sandwich tomorrow.”
But is it safe to eat cooked chicken left out overnight? What should you expect when you leave your cooked chicken out overnight? Let’s find out in this article, shall we?
Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight? Here’s What to Expect
Here is what to expect when you leave your cooked chicken out overnight.
- When left out at room temperature, cooked chicken is susceptible to microbial contamination. This is because the room temperature falls within the danger zone temperature for food storage which is 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Within this temperature, the multiplication rate of bacteria present in the chicken increases more and more rapidly, posing a risk of food poisoning.
- You may or may not see signs of spoilage, such as off-color in the cooked chicken. The growth of pathogenic microorganisms in food is often accompanied by a change in color, texture, and odor. Although you may not see such physical change in the cooked chicken left out overnight, that does not make it less unsafe.
Hence, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated in their guidelines that food that has been left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours should be discarded.
Can You Eat Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight Covered?
No, you should not eat cooked chicken left out overnight, either covered or uncovered. Covering your chicken does not prevent it from being susceptible to microbial contamination. Pathogenic bacteria will start to multiply in your chicken after just a couple of hours after you finish cooking it if you fail to put it in the refrigerator.
Can You Eat Cooked Chicken Left Out For 24 Hours?
It is not safe to eat cooked chicken left out for 24 hours. The maximum time your cooked chicken should stay out is 2 hours; anything longer than that puts you at risk of food poisoning.
Note that even if you reheat your cooked chicken that has been left out for 24 hours, it is still not safe for consumption as the reheating temperature may not be enough to kill the bacteria already present in the chicken.
Besides, the bacteria might have produced toxins in the chicken, and many bacteria toxins are heat-resistant; they are not destroyed by cooking or heating. So, eating cooked chicken left out for 24 hours is a big health risk that is not worth taking.
How Long Can Cooked Chicken Be Left Out?
Cooked chicken can be left out safely for 2 hours. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that you can only leave the cooked chicken out at room temperature for 2 hours. Still, if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, you can only leave your cooked chicken out for 1 hour.
In essence, the higher the temperature within the danger zone (40oF- 140oF), the faster the rate at which bacteria multiply and contaminate the food. Hence, you should discard cooked chicken that has been left out for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour at a temperature above 90° F).
Is Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight Safe for Dogs?
Cooked chicken left out overnight may or may not be safe for dogs. Though dogs have stomachs that can handle a lot more than ours, they can still fall victim to food poisoning, especially if the chicken is already showing visible signs of spoilage like greenish or yellowish color, foul odor, or sliminess. So, you have to examine any leftovers properly before feeding them to your dog(s).
Though it might be painful to discard the cooked chicken left out overnight, it is better to err on the side of caution.
Suppose the time limits or guidelines given by food regulatory bodies such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are not adhered to. In that case, you stand to lose a lot through food poisoning, especially if you are an immunocompromised person. Young children, as well as the elderly, are also at risk.
So, to avoid unnecessary food wastage, always keep your leftover chicken in the refrigerator as soon as it is cool enough. Refrigeration or freezing (for long-term storage) are the best bets for keeping your chicken safe to consume.
Cooked chicken can stay out at 70o Fahrenheit for 2 hours. However, at temperatures above 90o Fahrenheit, cooked chicken can only stay out for not more than 1 hour.
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I write about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. I also talk about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things