You shouldn’t store chicken in the fridge for a whole week. Yes, even if you’ve cooked it first. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture recommends keeping cooked chicken refrigerated for no more than three to four days.
Chicken is one of the most widely eaten meats in the world and such a versatile ingredient — there are so many ways to cook it and so many recipes that it can be incorporated into.
The most popular ways to cook chicken are stir or pan frying, barbequing, baking or roasting. You find it in casseroles, curries, salads, pies and soups from cultures and cuisines all around the globe.
Despite its widespread consumption, chicken can be a cause of food poisoning if not stored properly. The growth of bacteria, more specifically, can make you sick when you eat chicken that has been improperly stored.
Read on to find out the best way to store chicken to keep yourself and your family safe and healthy.
How to Store Chicken in the Fridge
It’s important to keep in mind that the cold temperatures of a fridge slow down, but do not completely stop the growth of bacteria on food. Refrigeration will prolong the safe amount of time you can eat your chicken. This does not mean you can leave it untouched for weeks on end, and expect to be able to consume it later down the line.
To effectively store it in the fridge, place your chicken in a sealed, air-tight container or bag as oxygen accelerates bacteria growth.
Did you recently buy a new fridge? Read: How Long to Wait Before Putting Food in a New Refrigerator?
How Long can Cooked Chicken Last in the Fridge?
According to the US Department of Agriculture, you can safely store cooked chicken in the fridge for three to four days before it is unsafe to eat. (As long as you use proper storage practices.)
Is There a Different Recommended Time for Raw Chicken?
Raw chicken has a shorter life in the refrigerator before it either needs to be cooked or frozen. The US Department of Agriculture has specific recommendations for raw chicken. Raw poultry has a shorter “safe period'' than cooked meats as it is a more ideal environment for bacteria growth and often already contains Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Clostridium perfringens bacteria which are reduced with cooking.
To know more about storing raw chicken in the fridge and for how many days, read our detailed guide on the topic. What about storing frozen raw chicken in the fridge? The “safe window” for this starts when you begin the thawing process.
You’ll also find answers to your questions on freezing raw chicken including the one on how long it will remain fresh in the freezer.
Does How You Cook Chicken Impact How Long it can be Stored?
In short, the way you cook your chicken does not affect how long the chicken can remain in the fridge and still be safe to eat.
So long as your chicken is fully cooked through, it should keep (at most) for three to four days.
Related: Can You Eat Chicken Left Out Overnight?
Are There Other Ways to Safely Store Chicken?
The “temperature danger zone” is a window between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees and 60 degrees celsius), and this is the optimum range for bacteria growth.
Storing poultry (or meat) for longer periods of time should be done outside of these conditions, which is why storing chicken in the fridge (at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) is a safe method.
A good alternative to refrigeration is freezing your chicken, which is effective for both cooked and raw products. Ensure your freezer is at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit, and freezing should be done within the recommended safe window — meaning that you should not wait until the fifth day before moving your cooked chicken from the fridge to the freezer.
Freezing does not kill bacteria, but it does make them dormant which means they are not able to multiply in cold conditions. Because of this, cooked chicken can be stored in the freezer for months at a time — up to four months — and still taste great when thawed out.
Once it thaws, you need to consume or dispose of the chicken, do not refreeze it.
It’s not possible to leave cooked chicken out at room temperature for more than two hours and still be able to safely eat it. This is due to most rooms being at a temperature within the danger zone, allowing growth of bacteria that can be harmful when consumed.
Check out: Can You Freeze Chicken Salad? [Full How To Guide + FAQs]
Taking a few conscious steps to keep your food safe will have a major impact on the health of you and your family.
Cooked chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days and still be healthy to eat.
If you plan on keeping your poultry beyond four days it is best to freeze it, which allows it to last much longer without risking a lot of bacteria growth.
Keeping your poultry (and food in general!) out of the temperature danger zone is the best way to ensure that every bite is enjoyable, and you won’t have to worry about feeling ill as a result!