How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out – (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 2 hours

Chicken is a favorite food for many individuals and families. It is high in protein and other nutrients, and it tastes good.

However, there may be times you cannot eat the chicken as soon as it has finished cooking.

Perhaps you are waiting for a family member or guest to arrive, or you are thinking of having some leftover chicken as a late-night snack.

If you want to avoid refrigerating the chicken and reheating it later, you may be wondering if it is safe to leave it out on the stove, table, or countertop until you are ready to eat.

How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out

How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out?

In general, cooked chicken should not be left out more than 2 hours. This is only an estimate, as there are other factors to consider.

The most important factor is the temperature in the room. If the kitchen or dining room where the chicken is placed is very hot or humid, it should be eaten within less than one hour.

The same guideline applies if you take cooked chicken on a picnic, or include it in your lunch for work or school.

How long can cooked chicken sit out in a container

Second, there are some popular myths about food safety. The most common is covering chicken will keep it fresh and safe. For the sake of your health, you need to know this is untrue.

cooked chicken

While covering the chicken will stop airborne contaminants from reaching and affecting the food, the real issue is the meat itself. Bacteria will grow in the meat, whether it is covered or not.

Another myth is chicken can be safe for an extended period of time if it has barbecue sauce or other sauces. This, too, is untrue.

The chicken will not last any longer simply because it was covered with sauce before it was cooked.

Why Does It Matter How Long Chicken Is Left Out?

There are reasons to keep these health and safety precautions in mind.

  1. Bacteria starts to grow in cooked chicken after it starts to cool down. If it is left at room temperature for too long, there will be toxins in the meat.
  2. Cooked chicken that sits out can cause food poisoning. The two most common examples are e. coli and salmonella. The effects can range from moderate to severe gastrointestinal problems, to death.

Bacteria and toxins

Bacteria and toxins can be present in cooked chicken without your knowledge. If the chicken has only been sitting out throughout the day, it will not affect the smell or taste of the meat.

This does not mean the chicken is safe. Even if the chicken tastes fine and has no unusual odor, it still contains these dangerous contaminants.

spoiled cooked chicken

Conclusion on Leaving Cooked Chicken Left Overnight

To keep your family, guests, and yourself healthy and safe, it is always better to eat chicken immediately after it is cooked.

If you do not plan to eat it within the guidelines, it should be placed in the refrigerator.

overnight chicken

Reheating the chicken when you are ready to eat will not affect the taste, and you will know it is safe. It is the sensible, easy way to avoid food poisoning and all of the complications that can accompany it.

You can enjoy one of your favorite foods without any health risks.


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