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How Long Raw Chicken Can Sit Out? Know With Certainty

Quick Answer: How Long Can Raw Chicken Sit Out?

The general rule is that chicken should not be left out on the counter at room temperature for more than two hours whether the chicken is cooked or uncooked.You must be particularly careful not to leave chicken out for any amount of time if the temperature in the room is quite warm, that is 90 F and above.

There are many more details that come into play when considering the safety of leaving chicken sitting out.

In this article we will explore all of those details so that you can feel confident about handling chicken and knowing that the chicken you have prepared is safe and healthy.

Chicken is an affordable source of protein and has become a mainstay in many households, appearing on the dinner table at least once, if not twice or more, a week.

how long can raw chicken sit out

Chicken is easy to prepare, and is very versatile allowing for innumerable delicious recipes and variations.

Chicken may be roasted whole, with or without stuffing, or may be purchased in packages of thighs, legs, drumsticks, breasts, or wings.

Whether you are wanting a quick stir-fry or a fancy roast chicken dinner for company on the weekend, chicken offers the options you need.

Not only is chicken versatile and easy to prepare, but it is well-liked by children, making it an excellent choice for families.

The fact that children like it and it is more affordable than beef or many cuts of pork, makes chicken a natural winner!

Chicken has always been a go-to in my household. When my five children were growing up and with a demanding, full-time job, I needed something that I could prepare quickly before dashing off to whatever activity the kids had that night.

As a parent, you want to know that the food you serve to your family is nutritious and healthy. It is horrifying to think that you might make an unknowing mistake and end up serving something that would make someone ill.

We have all heard the horror stories of somebody being ill from food poisoning that came from food that was prepared incorrectly, not cooked long enough, or was left out of the fridge for too long before being cooked. Chicken is often the presumed culprit.

RELATED: Chicken Tenderloin Vs Breast – Where Do They Come From

The Dangers Of Eating Poultry That Has Gone Bad

First of all, the tips and practices discussed in this article are not just for chicken, but for all kinds of poultry. What is poultry exactly? Poultry by definition includes all fowl that has been domesticated.

This includes: chicken, turkey, geese, ducks and guinea fowl, for example, pheasant, partridge, quail, and grouse.

When poultry is not prepared properly, stored properly or cooked properly it can develop bacteria which can then cause mild to severe illness if eaten. 

The symptoms the unfortunate person might have to deal with are: diarrhea, chills, vomiting, nausea and dehydration. In some cases, the food poisoning can be so bad that a person’s life may be at risk. 

Salmonella is the bacteria we hear about most often. If someone eats poultry that has salmonella they will be sick. Foodborne illness, called food poisoning, is more common than we would like to think.

The effects of food poisoning can last a few days to a week, and longer in some cases. However, following some basic guidelines in how you prepare, store and cook poultry can enable you and your loved ones to avoid food poisoning.

Let’s look at how to prepare, how to cook and how to store first raw chicken and then cooked chicken.

how long can raw chicken sit out

Raw Chicken

How To Store Raw Chicken?

You have done your grocery shop for the week, and brought all the bags in from the car. Now everything must be put away in the cupboards, the fridge or the freezer.

1. Begin with perishable items, one of which will be the chicken you bought. Since chicken can go bad more quickly than other kinds of meat, put it away first.

Resist the temptation to put the ‘easy stuff’ away, that is the canned goods, baking items like flour and baking powder, and things like paper towels, and cleaning products.

All of these items tend to need no preparation before storage, but since they are non-perishable items, they can sit and no damage will come to them. So leave them for last.

2. Determine when you are going to use the chicken. If you won’t be cooking that chicken alfredo until 5 days from now, then it goes in the freezer.

However, if it’s on the menu in a couple of days then it’s a fridge item. The rule is 1-2 days for the fridge, longer than that and it goes in the freezer.  

3. Whether it’s going in the fridge or the freezer, it’s important to package the chicken properly. Safe and effective storage means you will be able to store the chicken for the maximum time.

(a) To store raw chicken in the fridge or the freezer you may leave it in the packaging it was in at the store. Check to make sure there is no tear in the wrapping.

If there is, remove the plastic wrap and wrap the chicken (usually it’s sitting on a tray of some sort) with a sheet of plastic wrap, making sure that it covers the chicken entirely and there is no risk of juice leaking out. 

(b) If you have bought a family-sized tray of chicken legs, drumsticks, breasts or wings (usually more economical in bulk) and you plan to use some right away and some later, then you will need to store some of it in the fridge and some of it in the freezer.

Follow These Steps:

(i) Remove the plastic wrap from the package and place the chicken that you want to freeze in a freezer bag with a zipper closing or put it in an airtight container.

Be sure it has a tight seal. You may either put all of the chicken in one container/bag or put it in separate bags/containers according to your plans for cooking.

(ii) The chicken that you will be using within 1-2 days, you will put in an airtight container.

If you do not have one left from storing the chicken in the freezer, you may use plastic wrap, but be sure to wrap the chicken tightly and securely so there is no risk of any juice leaking out.

RELATED: Szechuan Chicken And Hunan Chicken: Are They Different?

How To Prepare Raw Chicken?

Working with chicken means keeping a few key things in mind in order to ensure that bacteria is not spread. 

The possibility of cross-contamination means you need to be careful about washing your hands after handling the chicken before you touch something else.

It also means that you must clean your equipment, utensils  and work surface thoroughly after you have prepared the chicken.

Hot, soapy water is the way to go. You may also wish to scrub your cutting board with a bleach-based cleaning product.

The chicken itself should not be washed or rinsed. Doing so can contaminate your chicken. Remember that chicken contains bacteria, as do all animals, but this bacteria can be killed by proper cooking.

how long can raw chicken sit out

Follow these simple steps for safe preparation:

1. Remove the chicken from the container and place it on a cutting board if you need to cut it into smaller pieces.

If you need only to season the chicken or pour a sauce on it before putting it into the oven, you may place the chicken straight from the package into the baking dish or sheet pan, thereby eliminating the need to wash/bleach a cutting board.

2. Once you have placed the chicken in the pan for cooking, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.

How To Cook Raw Chicken?

It is extremely important to cook chicken thoroughly. What you know about cooking a steak or even some pork to different levels of doneness does not apply to

All poultry must be cooked completely. The internal temperature of the chicken must reach 165 F to be safe to eat.

The easiest and most sure way to know that the chicken has reached this temperature is by using a meat thermometer.

An instant-read meat thermometer is quick and simple, and takes all the guesswork out of knowing if the bird is adequately done.

If you don’t have one in your cooking arsenal, I highly recommend you purchase one. They are not expensive, and are widely available in hardware and department stores.

RELATED: The 30 Best Crockpot Chicken Recipes

Cooked Chicken

How To Store Cooked Chicken?

You have cooked the chicken to perfection, and everybody loved it. Plus, there’s a bonus – there are leftovers! Leftovers are a great saving grace.

When you take the time to cook something healthy and delicious, what could be better than having enough to repurpose later in the week, or just eat as it is for lunch the next day?

However, your wonderful plans for using the leftovers another day could be spoiled by not properly storing them.

It’s pretty disappointing to open that container of your amazing chicken dish and be greeted by an off-putting smell.

how long can raw chicken sit out

Follow these steps to properly store your leftovers:

1. Place the leftovers in an airtight container as soon as the meal is done. Chicken should not be left to sit out once it has been cooked.

Temperatures between 40 F and 140 F represent the danger zone for bacterial growth, and that growth can happen in a matter of a few hours.

2. If you want to freeze your cooked leftovers, put them in an airtight container. You may also use a zippered freezer bag, and get as much of the air out as possible. This may be achieved by sucking out the air with a straw.

It is always a good idea to write the date on the container or bag so you know how long it has been there and when it must be used by.

3. Cooked chicken may be safely stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It may be safely stored in the freezer for 2-6 months.

Signs That Chicken Is Bad

The best way to tell if chicken is bad is to use your senses.

Use Your Eyes:

  1. What’s the best before date on the package of chicken? Look at it in the grocery store. Knowing the best before date will help you to know how best to store the chicken. Of course, if the best before date has passed, then pass that chicken by.
  2. You want to cook chicken tonight, but you can’t remember exactly when you put it in the fridge. Open the package and take a look. Healthy chicken will be a light pink color and the fat deposits will be white.
  3. If the chicken is green or gray and the fat is yellow, you need to dispose of it. Cooking bad chicken will not make it okay.
  4. Look for signs of mold on the chicken. Are there discolored patches or any fuzz? You can’t just cut out these sections and cook up the rest. It will all be bad.

Use Your Nose:

  1. Whether the chicken is raw or it has been kept as leftovers, your nose can tell you if it’s okay to use. When chicken is raw it should hardly have any smell at all. Any scent will be mild and it won’t in any way be offensive.
  2. Chicken that is bad will smell sour or it may smell like rotten eggs. If this is the case, you need to toss that chicken!

Use Your Touch:

  1. When you touch chicken that is fresh it feels soft. When chicken has gone bad the texture changes to shiny and slimy. This is the same for chicken that has been cooked. 

All of these senses should be used in combination to figure out whether the chicken is good to eat or not. If you are ever in doubt, do not attempt to get away with serving it. It is simply not worth the agony of people getting food poison.

Pro Tip:

When grocery shopping, leave picking up the chicken until the end so that it doesn’t sit in the car any longer than necessary. 

If the weather is hot, be sure you do not leave chicken in the car for long. Do your other errands first, then buy the groceries, go straight home and get it in the fridge or freezer right away.

It is disheartening to spend money on chicken, only to have it go bad because it had to sit too long before going in the fridge.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Frozen Chicken Be Put On The Counter To Thaw?

Frozen chicken should not be left on the counter to thaw, but should always be allowed to thaw in the refrigerator.

If you have forgotten to do this, and do not have time to let the chicken thaw in the fridge, you may set the frozen chicken in cold water, changed frequently, to thaw.

This will still take some time, depending on the size of the chicken, but it will be less time than it would take in the fridge.

Can Chicken Be Safely Used In A Picnic Lunch?

Chicken is a lovely treat in a picnic lunch, you just need to transport it safely. You can do this by packing the cooked chicken in a cooler with ice.

Leave the chicken in the cooler until you are ready to eat it, and do not leave it in the cooler for longer than two hours.

If it is a hot day, you will want to eat the chicken sooner than the two hours, and in very hot weather it is likely better to re-think the menu.

How Long Raw Chicken Can Sit Out In The Fridge?

When it comes to raw chicken, it is important to store it in the refrigerator, not the freezer. The quality of the chicken, fridge temperature can affect how long it can sit out.

Cooked chicken can sit out in the fridge for up to three days, but raw chicken should be consumed or frozen within one day.

Jess Smith