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Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight – Safe to Eat?

Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight?

If you have ever hosted a huge gathering, there is a high chance there were some leftovers. But with all the exhaustion that comes after, you may have left food overnight, especially chicken.

If that’s the case, in the morning, you will be wondering whether it is safe to eat that chicken or if you will get sick.

Is It Safe to Eat Chicken Left Out Overnight?

You should not eat chicken left out overnight. In fact, the amount of time that chicken should be left out at room temperature is about 2 hours. The two-hour rule does not apply in all situations. If the room temperature is more than 90°F (32°C), the amount of time the chicken is left out should be less than one hour.

Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight - Safe to Eat?
Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight – Safe to Eat?

How Long Can One Leave Chicken Sitting Out?

The amount of time chicken can be left out should not be more than 2 hours. After that, you will need to either throw it away or refrigerate it.

Even if the chicken was covered the entire night, it is still not safe. Covering your food does not stop the bacteria from multiplying at room temperature.

Chicken can only be safely left out for 2 hours at room temperature, 1 hour if the room is over 90 degrees fahrenheit.
Chicken can only be safely left out for 2 hours at room temperature, 1 hour if the room is over 90°F.

What Happens to Chicken When You Leave It Out Overnight?

Once your chicken stays out for more than 2 hours, it becomes unsafe to eat. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises consumers to never leave food out for more than 2 hours.

When food is left at room temperature for a long time, it enters the danger zone. The ‘danger zone’ for chicken is about 40°F to 140°F (4°C to 60°C). This is where bacteria start growing rapidly, increasing the risk of foodborne diseases.

After two hours, the bacteria will start multiplying and cause food poisoning. If this happens, you will experience symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. If the symptoms are too severe, one may be hospitalized.

Can You Eat Cooked Chicken Left Out for 12 Hours?

You should throw away cooked chicken that has been left for more than 12 hours. Twelve hours is a long time, and bacteria have already multiplied and contaminated that food.

Will Reheating Left Out Chicken Make It Safe to Eat?

Even though reheating may kill some bacteria, it will likely not destroy everything. Keep in mind that this is chicken you have left overnight. And the longer it has stayed out, the more the bacteria have multiplied.

And even if you kill all the bacteria, it has probably released toxic chemicals into your food, making it unsafe to eat. At the end of the day, that food is already contaminated, meaning you should throw it out.

Reheating left-out chicken will not make it safe to eat.
Reheating left-out chicken will not make it safe to eat.

Are There Risks Associated With Leaving Cooked Chicken Overnight?

There are many risks associated with leaving cooked chicken out, starting with the growth of bacteria. Aside from that, the quality of the chicken will also decline, making it unsafe.

The other risk associated with this is cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is likely to occur if there are other food items close to the chicken.

This is likely to happen if the chicken has not been sealed properly. Unfortunately, cross-contamination is also likely to cause food poisoning.

What Factors Affect How Long Cooked Chicken Can Sit Out?

There are a few things that will contribute to how long your cooked chicken can sit out. These factors will affect the chicken’s safety. Take them into account when deciding how long your chicken can stay out. Take a look at these factors.

The Cooking Method

The way you prepare that chicken will affect how long it can sit out. If you use high heat such as roasting, grilling, or frying, then that chicken is likely to spoil faster.

However, chicken that has been cooked at low heat, such as boiling or baking, might last longer when left out. High heat methods tend to kill bacteria but, at the same time, create conducive conditions for the same bacteria to grow.

Chicken that was cooked with high heat cooking methods like grilling or frying tends to spoil faster than those using lower heat cooking methods like baking.
Chicken that was cooked with high heat cooking methods like grilling or frying tends to spoil faster than those using lower heat cooking methods like baking.

The Type of Chicken

The type of chicken you are preparing will also affect the amount of time it can sit out. Cuts like legs and thighs spoil faster compared to cuts like breasts.

Also, chicken that has been cut into smaller pieces or ground chicken is likely to spoil faster than a whole chicken. In ground chicken, more surface area is exposed, and this allows for quick bacteria growth.

If the Chicken Was Covered or Not

Another factor that will contribute is whether the chicken was covered. Uncovered chicken dries out faster and spoils more quickly than wrapped chicken.

The Room Temperature

Lastly, as already mentioned, room temperature affects how long the chicken should be allowed to sit out before being refrigerated or eaten.

The chicken will spoil quickly in a warm room in contrast to a cold room. High temperatures create a conducive temperature for bacteria to grow quickly.

Will I Get Sick if I Eat Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight?

If the chicken is contaminated, then there is a high chance you will get sick from food poisoning. The symptoms can start showing about 3 to 24 hours after consumption.

How Can I Tell That My Cooked Chicken Has Gone Bad?

There are certain signs you will notice in the chicken that will tell you the chicken is not safe to eat. They are as mentioned below.

Check for Discoloration

If the chicken has gone bad, you may notice some foreign colors that were not there before. Most likely, the chicken will start turning green, gray, or blue.

If you see these colors on your cooked chicken, it is best to throw away the chicken. It is also possible that mold may have started growing. If you see any, that chicken has to go to the bin.

Check the Texture

Another way to tell that your cooked chicken has spoilt is by touching it to check the texture. Does it feel slimy or sticky? Then it has probably spoilt. Also, if it is rubbery or hard to touch, throw it out.

Check the Smell

You can also tell that the chicken has gone bad by smelling it. Spoilt chicken will give out this ammonia-like or sour smell. Even if it is mild, it is best to throw away the chicken.

Taste the Chicken

If the texture, smell, and appearance do not give anything away, you can taste a small piece of the chicken. If the chicken has gone bad, it will have an unpleasant sour taste. And if that’s the case, it is best to get rid of that chicken.

Check your chicken for discoloration, mold, an off smell and slimy texture. If it has any of these things, your cooked chicken has gone bad.
Check your chicken for discoloration, mold, an off smell and slimy texture. If it has any of these things, your cooked chicken has gone bad.

Frequently Asked Questions To Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight

Can I Eat Cooked Chicken Left Out for Four Hours?

It is not safe to eat it as long as it has been out for more than two hours. The risk of food poisoning is high.

How Long Will Rotisserie Chicken Sit Out?

Any cooked chicken, including a rotisserie, should only be allowed to sit out for not more than 2 hours. After that, the chicken’s quality decreases, making it unsafe to eat.

Does Barbecue Sauce Help Preserve Chicken?

Marinade and sauces do not prevent the chicken from going bad. After two hours, if the chicken is at room temperature, it will start spoiling.

Conclusion to Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight

Left-over cooked chicken should always be stored in the refrigerator. If you forget to do that and it sits out for more than two hours, throw it away to avoid the risk of food poisoning.

Author Bio

Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)

Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.