When preparing a meal there may be a lot going on. Between chopping vegetables, prepping other ingredients, preheating ovens, and more, you may lose track of time. Before you know it you have had your package of chicken on the counter for a while.
We have all been there, myself included. Now you are wondering how long can you leave the raw chicken out. Will it be safe to cook and eat? This article covers all the safe food handling tips you need.
How many hours can uncooked chicken be left out of the refrigerator and on the counter? What temperature should chicken be stored in?
All of these questions are common when storing, prepping, and cooking chicken. To make sure safe food handling is taken into account at all times, check out these pointers below. As always, follow the best practices for storing food in the refrigerator or freezer as suggested by the FDA.
So once the chicken comes out of the refrigerator get cooking and stay safe. One of my top tips for safe chicken handling is about should you wash raw chicken or not. This is a top 3 kitchen cleanliness tip. So make sure you know how to safely handle raw chicken to ensure cross-contamination does not occur.
What Temperature is Safe for Raw Chicken?
When storing raw chicken, the best temperature for preserving freshness is under 40°. The danger zone for uncooked chicken is between 40-140°. This is when the spoilage of chicken will begin as bacteria grows exponentially. As the minutes and hours tick by, the chance for spoilage climbs.
The danger zone for chicken can be reached when it is left out too long or if your refrigerator is not holding the ideal temperature. To ensure your refrigerator or freezer temperature is correct, I recommend a thermometer.
How Many Hours Can Chicken Be Left Out?
In most cases, raw chicken can be left out at room temperature for a maximum of two hours. This is if the chicken was stored at the proper temperature in the refrigerator and the indoor room temperature is not too hot. At room temperature at about 72-75° chicken can sit out for 2 hours. For a warm home at 85° or above, 1-hour maximum.
Chicken should not be left out for longer than 1-2 hours. If your chicken has been left out for 3, 4, 5, or even 8 hours, it is not safe to eat. At 8 hours, it definitely is not safe to eat. So if you forget about it for that long, it is time to toss it and run to the store for fresh chicken.
When marinating chicken, keep it in the refrigerator. I recommend a marinade dish or tray so that none of the juices or marinade spills (both need an immediate wipe up!)
What About Chicken Left Out Overnight?
Also, never thaw chicken out on the counter when defrosting frozen meat. Raw meat that has been left out overnight, is not safe to eat. It is time to throw it out as the bacteria amount is now too high to safely eat it.
How to Store Raw Chicken After Opening?
Once a package of chicken has been opened, it is important to store it properly. Whether you have a bulk package with way more than you can eat, or you only need one piece of chicken for a recipe, leftover chicken can be stored for later. A few simple steps to freezing or refrigerating and there is no food waste.
How to Freeze
I recommend freezing any leftovers. This is the best way to ensure you can use it before it spoils. For freezing, wrap the chicken tightly in plastic wrap. Then seal in a freezer air-tight Ziploc bag. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
These reusable freezer bags are great for storing meat, poultry, vegetables, & any leftovers. They are large gallon-size, inexpensive, dishwasher safe, & eco-friendly.
When to Refrigerate
To refrigerator leftover uncooked chicken, store it in a Ziploc bag that all the air pressed out of it and sealed tightly. Place the Ziploc on a rimmed dish to ensure if any juices leak they are contained.
Store for a total of up to 3 days in the refrigerator. So if the chicken was already in the refrigerator for 2 days before opening the package, it has only 1 day left for the leftovers.
How to Tell if Chicken Has Gone Bad?
Chicken can spoil easily if not stored properly. Check the appearance and color first. If there are signs of gray, green, or orange coloring of the flesh or yellowing of the fatty areas, the chicken has gone bad. Also if there is a slimy, sticky, gooey, or gummy feel to the flesh, the chicken is not safe to cook and eat.
Also, smell the chicken even if it "looks good". Chicken should have a mild smell so if it is pungent or sulfur-like, it has gone bad. If your sense of smell is not strong (mine is not) do not rely on just the smell.
When in doubt, throw it out!
Simple Chicken Recipes
Now that your chicken is safe to eat, time to get cooking. Here are some simple recipes for cooking chicken. Make sure you are cooking enough and the right amount of chicken per person. Then cook chicken in one of these different ways for the best family dinners.
All of these recipes are easy which is perfect for new cooks or those with little time. These quick & tasty chicken recipes are kid-approved too. And don't forget, the chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°. Enjoy.
To ensure safe food handling, try these products. They will ensure the temperatures and storage of chicken is optimal.
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