Please note before proceeding any further that this article is about cooked chicken. It should go without saying that you cannot and must not eat raw chicken ever.
Cooked chicken is a different proposition entirely, and as long as it is stored separately from raw meat then it will be okay to eat for 48 hours.
How To Prepare Your Cooked Chicken For Storage
There are only a couple of steps you need to take in order to prepare the cooked chicken, but they are vital to make sure the meat is safe to consume.
Firstly, you may wish to cool the chicken, but make sure you don’t leave it for more than two hours.
There is a long standing myth that putting hot foods into a refrigerator will heat it up, and this belief causes people to leave their meats for far too long.
Unfortunately, the bacteria that is killed by the cooking process will return when left at room temperature for too long – anything between 41 degrees and 135 degrees Fahrenheit is a danger zone – so leaving the food out for too long could have dire consequences.
Letting it cool for a short time will help to not heat the fridge (although this is becoming less of an issue with newer refrigerators).
Also, if the portion you are trying to preserve is small in comparison to your fridge size, you can put it straight in the fridge with no worries or qualms.
Secondly, make sure you seal the chicken with a plastic wrap. This isn’t for safety reasons, but it is to prevent the chicken from drying out or experiencing moisture loss.
You might be eating leftovers, but there is no reason that these should not still be tasty, and this small preparation step will help you preserve the dish you created in the first place.
And finally, you have to ensure that you do not store cooked chicken by raw chicken. This is due to potential cross contamination between raw chicken and cooked chicken, as raw chicken can contaminate cold cooked foods.
Avoiding this at all costs is a must.
Can All Cooked Chicken Be Eaten Cold?
It is safe to eat any cooked meat without heating it up, as long as you eat it within 48 hours and it has been stored securely.
In relation to chicken (including chicken nuggets, BBQ chicken, buttermilk fried chicken, pulled chicken etc.), the specific type is irrelevant.
You can even eat chicken bought from a restaurant or takeout place the next day if you so wish.
The only things you have to be careful about are if you have cooked the chicken with other products that spoil more easily (mainly dairy), making sure the chicken has not been allowed to get to room temperature, and most obviously that the chicken is still within its use by date.
If the chicken has a use by date of the day you cook it, you should not leave the chicken for two days to eat the rest, you should instead consume it all at once or dispose of it as ethically as possible.
Ideas For How To Eat Your Cooked Cold Chicken
The world is your oyster with cold cooked chicken dishes. Naturally, you may be wondering about heating them up.
You can only reheat cooked chicken once, so if you wish to do so then you can. However, here are some ideas that relate specifically to cold chicken.
The most obvious idea is a cold chicken sandwich – these are great if you are preparing the next day’s lunch for you, your partner or your children.
Adding a little chipotle mayonnaise alongside some fresh crunchy salad can invigorate your lunch order.
A more modern take on something you could create would be a chicken cheese and kimchi toasted sandwich, allowing the great modern flavor of kimchi to splice some Korean culture into your sandwich.
A third option would be a chicken pasta dish, simple to eat and if this is how you had your cooked chicken in the first place, then you could eat straight from the fridge with no additional cooking.
Is Cold Cooked Chicken Less Nutritional Once Treated As A Leftover?
As long as the chicken is kept safe as previously outlined, then the nutritional value would stay the same.
A typical 3.5 ounce chicken breast would have approximately 165 calories, 31 grams of protein and 3.6 grams of fat. 80% of the chicken would therefore be protein and thus would be incredibly healthy for you.
This does not change if the chicken has been cooked and then been refrigerated.
The nutritional value does not diminish over the previously proposed timescale for keeping chicken, so you do not need to worry about it not being as good for your body.
Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken?
Freezing cooked chicken is completely healthy and is a good, economical way to make sure the food does not spoil.
Cooked chicken can last for up to 4 months in the freezer. Just put the chicken in an airtight container and allow it to defrost naturally; then you can re-cook the chicken or just eat once fully thawed.
If you decide to freeze chicken, it is a good idea to write the date of freezing on the airtight container, so that you can accurately track how long the chicken would be safe to eat for.
You may lose moisture from the chicken doing this, but reinvigorating the dish by cooking again would lead to tastier results.
As you can see, it is absolutely safe to eat cooked chicken cold.
Make sure that you refrigerate the meat within two hours of it being cooked, and eat it within 48 hours, or freeze it within two hours of being cooked and eat within 4 months.
Take care to avoid cross-contamination with raw meats where possible.
Your meat should be sealed tightly on both accounts, and you should always aim to eat the chicken within its sell by date.
If you adhere to all those precautions, then you will not have any issues.