Here's How Long You Can Leave Cooked Chicken Unrefrigerated

Sometimes you might grill chicken breasts for a cookout or make a batch of chicken parmigiana for a dinner party then get carried away by the festivities. We've all been there, and you might think it's fine to leave out the chicken until the party ends because it's fully cooked, right? Well, think again, because even fully cooked chicken needs to be refrigerated after two hours to prevent spoiling.

That's right, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, cooked poultry like chicken and turkey must be put in the fridge after no more than two hours. It doesn't seem to matter if it's baked, grilled, or fried. If you're outside at a cookout and the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, the poultry shouldn't stay out of the fridge for more than one hour per the FDA. And in case you are wondering, this also goes for marinating, since bacteria can grow faster at room temperature. So don't leave it on the counter to marinate if the poultry needs to soak for longer than two hours.

Storing cooked chicken properly

Now let's get into how to properly store that chicken within two hours of it being cooked. You should store it in an airtight container in a fridge that's set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. When the chicken is refrigerated in the proper conditions, it can last for three to four days, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That includes fried chicken and those beloved rotisserie chickens from Costco. Meanwhile, raw whole chicken or its parts that are packaged can last up to one to two days in the fridge per the USDA.

If you can't eat the chicken within that time frame, freeze cooked chicken for up to four months, raw chicken parts for up to nine months, and fresh whole chicken for one year. If you don't eat or properly store the cooked chicken within that time frame, there are some telltale signs of spoiled chicken. The most obvious is a pungent smell. If there's not a foul smell, check for poultry that's turned gray or green or has a soft, slimy texture.