Whether served in a hearty chicken noodle soup, wings or a rich chicken parmesan dish, chicken is a versatile kitchen staple known for its scrumptiousness and delicious taste.
Raw chicken, however, is a whole different story since it’s infamous for the microbial hazards it poses in the kitchen. Because of this, it’s very important to be aware of the proper storage and handling of raw chicken.
Aside from properly washing your hands and avoiding cross-contamination, one of the most important questions is the length of time chicken is left before cooking. How long can raw chicken sit at room temperature?
Left out for too long, raw chicken can quickly become host to a range of bacteria that cause food poisoning. Quite a scary thought!
You don’t need to worry, though. In this article you’ll learn all you need to know in order to prevent any risks of food poisoning. I’ll explain how long chicken can be left to sit out, as well as how to properly store and handle your raw chicken.
Read on to learn more!
How Long Can Raw Chicken Sit at Room Temperature?
So, you’ve left your raw chicken out on the countertop whilst busy and you completely forgot about it for a few hours. You likely already know that it isn’t safe to leave chicken out for too long.
But exactly how long can raw chicken sit at room temperature before it isn’t safe to eat?
Well, it’s considered to be safe to consume (after cooking of course!) if not left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
I should clarify that by ‘room temperature’ I’m referring to the standard 68°F – 72°F range.
If the temperature in your home is above 90° F, you should leave raw chicken out for no more than an hour before cooking.
Why can you leave it out for such a small amount of time? It’s because room temperature is bang in the middle of the USDA ‘danger zone’. This is a range of 40°F – 140°F where bacteria grows most rapidly.
Is it Safe to Eat Chicken Left Out Overnight?
The simple answer is no, it’s not safe to eat chicken left overnight.
This is the case whether it’s cooked or raw.
An entire night is a very long time, much longer than bacteria needs to grow and produce all kinds of toxins that can ultimately make you very sick.
Foodborne diseases should not be taken lightly and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
You should always discard chicken if you accidentally leave it out overnight.
How Long Can Frozen Raw Chicken Sit Out?
I know, it seems like such a convenience to just let frozen raw chicken sit out on the countertop to thaw overnight or until dinner.
This is something most of us do, unfortunately.
However, it’s a terribly risky way to thaw your frozen raw chicken. This is because it provides harmful bacteria such as salmonella time to flourish.
You should never let frozen raw chicken sit at room temperature. Instead, you should defrost it by following the proper thawing method below.
Proper Thawing Method
Even though it’s more time consuming, I recommend thawing your raw chicken in the fridge as it is much safer.
It will take longer, up to 2 days depending on the cut or size of your chicken. However it’s worth the wait to ensure that you defrost your food in the safest way.
Be sure to plan beforehand and put your raw chicken in the fridge to thaw until it is completely defrosted and enjoy a delightful chicken dinner.
How Long Can Cooked Chicken Be Left Out?
If you’ve got leftovers from your lunch or dinner and you are tempted to just leave them out until your next meal, I would advise you not to do that.
Most foods, including cooked chicken, will perish after 2 hours at room temperature.
As with the raw variety, a temperature of 90° F will see your cooked chicken go bad in just an hour.
So, I recommend immediately refrigerating your cooked chicken once you’re done with your meal. This way, you’ll not only preventing any bacterial growth and potential health risks, but also preserve the quality of your dish as well.
How Long Can Raw Chicken Be Left in the Fridge?
So, you wanted chicken for dinner and you thawed it in the fridge to keep until dinner time. But for whatever reason, you didn’t eat it and now it’s been sitting in your fridge for a day or so.
This is completely natural and happens to all of us. How long can you leave it in the fridge before it goes bad?
Raw chicken can be left in the fridge for about 1 to 2 days. Any raw chicken left in the fridge for more than 2 days should be carefully discarded, because this is more than enough time for harmful bacteria to grow and make you sick.
I recommend refrigerating raw chicken for a day at most, but 2 days won’t be a problem for the most part.
The best way to store your raw chicken in the fridge is by using a tightly sealable container, such as leak-proof bags or containers. By doing this, you’ll prevent any of the raw chicken liquid from contaminating other foods in your fridge and thus, minimizing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
How to Tell if Raw Chicken Has Already Gone Bad
It’s pretty important with raw chicken to be able to tell whether it’s spoiled or not.
This is because, as I have mentioned above, it’s one of the best hosts for harmful bacteria. The hazards of raw chicken that has gone bad is not only Salmonella, but many other toxins produced by other types of bacteria as well.
So, when I say this is a serious topic, it really is a serious topic!
Proper food hygiene and knowledge is vital when dealing with raw chicken.
Here’s what you need to know to spot whether raw chicken has gone bad:
With some foods, you may not always go by the expiry date and skip it for a while, and it would be fine. In most cases, the expiry date is actually a best-before date.
However, this is not the case with chicken.
If your raw chicken is past its expiration date, then it has highly likely gone bad.
I would advise you to throw it away immediately and be sure to not let any of its juices come in contact with other foods and utensils.
Luckily for us, the smell of a raw chicken that has gone bad is pretty noticeable. If it has gone bad, it will have an ammonia-like rancid smell.
This will be even more pronounced if you are cooking it.
Even if it doesn’t have a very obvious ammonia smell, but just doesn’t smell like fresh chicken, it’s better to throw it away. Risking food poisoning is not worth trying to salvage it.
Another really noticeable sign of spoilage in raw chicken is discoloration.
If it’s gone bad, it won’t look as fresh and pink. Instead, it will be more of a greyish or greenish color.
This is a good indicator that it has mold or some other type of organic growth on it. If this is the case with your raw chicken, you should immediately but carefully discard it.
The last telltale sign of spoilage in raw chicken is its texture.
If it’s gone bad, it won’t be firm to the touch. Instead, it will be soft, squishy, and may even be slimy.
If you think it is fine other than the texture and that you can salvage it, I advise you otherwise. Because this means that it has enough harmful bacteria in it which won’t be killed by simply cooking it.
Under any circumstances, if your chicken has any of these signs, just be on the safe side and discard it rather than putting your health at risk.