Last Updated on 21st April 2023 by Ainsley Harriott
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Are you worried about that leftover chicken casserole in the fridge? Well, you should be!
Cooked chicken can only stay good for a limited time in the fridge. After that, it’ll taste as good as car tires. There’s also the fact that it may get spoiled, which serves as an unnecessary health risk.
So, how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge? Let’s look at how long different cuts of chicken will last, the health risks of eating cooked chicken, and some recipes with leftover cooked chicken!
How Long Do Different Cuts Of Cooked Chicken Last In The Fridge?
Cooked chicken isn’t all the same. Grilled chicken will last for longer than fried chicken, while ground chicken lasts longer than both. Let’s take a look at each type.
A cooked chicken breast will last for 3–4 days in the fridge, a raw breast will only last for 1–2 days. In both cases, it’s better to put the breast in the freezer.
Meanwhile, a raw breast will only last for 1–2 days. In both cases, it’s better to put the breast in the freezer.
While a whole cooked chicken may be different than breasts or ground chicken, it’ll last for nearly the same time period in the fridge. It may even last a bit longer since the larger mass will take more time to cool. Therefore, it’ll keep its taste for longer.
That being, a whole chicken is more prone to getting spoiled than smaller pieces. So, you may want to cut it into smaller portions before storing it.
Vacuum Sealed Cooked Chicken
Some vacuum-sealed foods can last up to three months if they’re placed in a freezer. The sealing prevents any bacteria or pathogens from getting in, which naturally extends the food’s lifespan. Meanwhile, they’ll only last for two weeks if they’re in the fridge.
The same goes for cooked chicken. Vacuum sealing it in the fridge will keep it edible for 1–2 weeks.
If you properly wrap it before storing, the ground chicken will stay good for 3–4 days in the fridge. Meanwhile, if you place it in the freezer, it’ll keep its taste for 2–3 months, and it’ll stay edible beyond that.
If you want to ensure your ground chicken lasts for as long as possible, you can store it in airtight containers. Alternatively, you can wrap it in aluminium foil or plastic wrap. Both methods will let it keep its best quality for longer.
Cooked chicken liver stays good in the fridge for 1–2 days maximum. It loses its taste much faster than regular chicken meat. Despite that, you’ll find that chicken liver at stores is labeled for three weeks of usage.
It’ll stay edible after that time, but it won’t taste good. Plus, if you haven’t stored it properly, there’s a risk it’ll get worse before that time. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
How Do You Know When Your Chicken Is No Longer Suitable to Eat?
There are a couple of signs that’ll tell you the cooked chicken in the fridge has gone bad. You don’t need to taste it to realize. The chicken will look more slimy than usual, and its color will lean towards grey.
The chicken’s smell also gives it away. The rotten chicken will smell a bit sour, contrary to the typical delicious aroma of cooked chicken.
If you’re still not sure if the chicken is spoiled, it’s better to stay on the safe side and throw it out. If it’s already been in the fridge long enough, there’s no need to risk it.
Tips for Keeping Your Cooked Chicken from Going Bad
If you want to keep your cooked chicken from getting spoiled, there are a couple of things to do. These tips will also make sure your chicken stays safe to eat.
Keep It In The Fridge
You shouldn’t leave cooked chicken at room temperature for long. After a maximum of two hours, you should place it in the refrigerator. That’s enough time to prevent the bacteria from breeding. Longer than that, it’ll be too late.
Seal Your Food Storage Containers
The most vital thing you should do when storing food is to make sure the containers are clean. Refrigerating chicken in contaminated containers is the fastest way to get it spoiled.
Furthermore, you should make sure the containers are sealed well, so unwanted pathogens wouldn’t have a way to get in.
Cut the Chicken Into Small Pieces
Cutting the chicken into small pieces will let it cool more quicker than in large amounts. That way, it’ll freeze well and keep from spoiling. On the contrary, large chicken pieces will be harder to cool, which can cause them to get spoiled faster.
You can also store the chicken in shallow containers instead of extra-large ones. This will aid in faster cooling, which will preserve the food for longer.
Keep Raw Chicken Away
If you’re storing raw chicken in the fridge with the cooked chicken, don’t let them touch. Any raw meat contains a lot of living bacteria that can quickly transfer to your cooked food. It’s a primary cause of food poisoning, so i recommend against it.
Is Freezing the Cooked Chicken Better Than Refrigerating It?
If the cooked chicken gets spoiled that quickly when refrigerated, you can try placing it in the freezer. Let’s see how long it’ll last in each place.
Compared to freezers, refrigerators get cooked chicken spoiled much faster. Any roasted or grilled chicken leftovers will stay good in a fridge for a maximum of 3–4 days. Meanwhile, fried chicken, such as nuggets, will only be good for 1–2 days.
Freezing Cooked Chicken
If you put your cooked chicken in the freezer, it’ll last for much longer than in fridges. The grilled and roasted chicken will stay edible for 4–6 months if you place it in the freezer. Fried chicken and patties will remain good for 1–3 months.
If your chicken is in gravy or broth, it can stay in the freezer for six months. So, needless to say, the freezer is the better option. However, it’ll take longer to heat and eat, which may be a hassle to deal with for some people.
The Best Way to Freeze Cooked Chicken
Suppose you have enough room in your freezer for cooked chicken, no need to waste the fridge. Additionally, if you won’t be eating the chicken for 3–4 days, leaving it in the refrigerator would be unnecessary when the freezer will keep it good for four months.
Here are detailed steps for correctly freezing cooked chicken.
Step 1: Leave the Meat to Cool Down
If the cooked chicken is still warm, don’t wrap it and immediately put it in the freezer. It’ll get spoiled fast, which we’re trying to avoid in the first place.
Alternatively, you should place it in the freezer without wrapping only for an hour. That way, it’ll cool down, and you can take it out again to cover it appropriately.
You should cut it into small pieces before doing this.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle, you can place the chicken in the fridge for two days before wrapping it up and freezing it.
Step 2: Wrap the Cooked Chicken Properly
To avoid getting the chicken dry, you should wrap it correctly before freezing it. Otherwise, it’ll get tasteless. You can shrink-wrap it tightly with any plastic wrap. Just make sure it’s spotless before letting it touch the chicken.
Step 3: Place the Wrapped Chicken in a Bag
After you have the chicken wrapped, you should now put it in an airtight container or in sealed freezer bags. Either of them will serve as an extra protective layer to keep the food from catching any smell or bacteria.
If you tend to forget when you placed your food in the freezer, you can write the date on the container.
We recommend that you keep the chicken at the back of the freezer, so it won’t suffer temperature fluctuations under the vents.
Recipes For Leftover Cooked Chicken
If you don’t want to put your cooked chicken in the fridge, there are a couple of recipes that’ll put your leftovers to good use.
There’s no better way to recycle ground or shredded chicken than a delicious casserole. You’ll only need four ingredients, and you’ll have your day’s lunch. The recipe is pretty easy, too; anyone can cook it.
Quick Chicken Pot Pie
If you don’t have enough time to cook a full meal, you’ll love this 15-minute pot pie. It’s delicious, easy to make, and fast. Plus, it’ll be a good way to eat those leftover chickens while they’re still good! Here’s the recipe.
Italian Pasta Salad
You can never lose with a pasta salad. It’s one of the easiest recipes, and it’ll put your leftovers to good use. Not to mention that it takes less than 30 minutes to cook.
If you’re in the mood for some taco salad, it’s a lovely recipe for your leftover chicken. You’ll only need some cherry tomatoes, avocados, cheese, fresh corn, and green onions. You can also throw in some cilantro for a spicy taste.
Chicken Bagel Melt
If you’re craving some bagels, you can stuff some of them with leftover chicken and have a tasty meal for your lunch. To give your sandwiches an edge, you can throw in some spicy cream cheese to the recipe.
The good thing about this recipe is that it’s flexible. You can add more ingredients to your liking, and you can ditch the others that you don’t want.
Risks of Leaving Cooked Chicken In The Fridge For Too Long
When cooked chicken is left in the fridge for too long, the taste may not change much. However, bacteria will grow over it, which serves as a health risk for many reasons. Here’s a brief about each bacteria and what it can do to your body.
Salmonella is an infamous bacteria that hits the body; you’ve probably heard about it before. It mostly develops in meat and chicken, and it causes gastric symptoms after 2–3 days of consumption.
Salmonella causes severe diarrhea and headaches, and it may cause a high fever. It mostly goes away after 4–7 days of taking medications. However, it may stay longer with people who have weak immune systems.
Campylobacter jejuni is a primary cause of food poisoning. It may breed on top of the cooked chicken when it’s left in the fridge for too long. Once it occupies the body, the bacteria multiply and release an enterotoxin.
The symptoms will appear after about 3–5 days of consuming the contaminated chicken. They include high fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
Staphylococcus, which is called Staph for short, is a well-known infectious agent that hits human bodies. It breeds on top of the chicken when it’s left at room temperature for long. If you leave the cooked chicken in the fridge long enough, it may develop.
Staph releases toxins that wreak havoc in the body’s insides. They cause nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. It may also result in some vomiting. The symptoms may not be significant, but they’re all a nuisance to deal with. The pathogen is also fast-acting; the symptoms will appear after 2–6 hours after eating.
Staph also goes away quickly. It’ll leave the body after a couple of days. Nevertheless, it’ll need a lot of rest and fluids to get rid of.
So, What Should You Do With Leftover Cooked Chicken?
The best thing to do with leftover cooked chicken is to use it in a new recipe. Alternatively, you can freeze it. The fridge should be your last resort because it gets the food bad much faster than other methods.
If you don’t have another choice, you can at least wrap the food tightly before storing it. Better yet, you can keep it in a shallow airtight container. That way, you can rest assured it’ll stay safe for 3–4 days.
I'm Pauline, a retired patisserie chef, mother of four and now a full time food blogger! When i'm not cooking i love long walks, reading thriller novels and spending time with my grandkids. Head to my about me page to learn more about the woman behind the food! You can find my Facebook here