How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last In The Fridge? 5 Tips To Save Your Health

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Chicken provides a rich source of protein which brings benefits to your body. Yet, this rich source of nutrients can bring dangers if you store it incorrectly.

That is why preserving leftover meat is always a difficult task. Nowadays, using the refrigerator for storage is a method chosen by many housewives.

But, how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge? According to nutritionists, cooked chicken can last for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. If you want to extend the shelf life of a cooked chicken, you need to freeze it.

The article will give you detailed answers along with related content on this topic. Let’s get right into the details!

How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge
How long does it last in the fridge? ( image: Pexels)

How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last In The Fridge?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported and released that cooked chicken can last from 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

So, you can wonder: why can store cooked chicken in the fridge last so long?

The cold temperature in the refrigerator (40°F~4°C) plays a big part in preventing the growth of bacteria. The lower the temperature, the less active bacteria are. Therefore, the freezer will be an ideal choice if you want to preserve this dish for a longer time.

However, keep in mind that the 3 to 4 day “safe time” mentioned above is ideal for the cooked chicken. The parts of the food, or the physical condition of the food, also determine how long this dish will last.

Next, we will introduce you to the difference in lasting time among the five types of cooked chicken below.


Chicken breast is a popular dish widely chosen because of its extremely fresh meat quality. If you want this flavor to be kept intact, you should wrap it well and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Raw chicken breast only keeps its freshness for a maximum of one to two days. So cooking it and keeping it in the fridge is the best thing you can do right now.

It only lasts for one or two days ( Image: Freepik)

Whole Chicken

There is an interesting fact that you probably didn’t know before. Compared to a whole chicken, dishes that include only one chicken ingredient will last longer.

At this point, you must be wondering whether the area where cooked chicken is kept in the refrigerator affects their safe time.

Yes, that is correct! A whole chicken will take a lot of time to cool down its entire body. This time creates favorable conditions for the growth of bacteria.

Meanwhile, the chopped parts have a very large area exposed to cold air. That means their cooling time is faster, making it difficult for bacteria to penetrate and spoil.

Now, do you know what to do before you turn a whole cooked chicken in your refrigerator? Shred the chicken and divided it into two small bags before storing it.

How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge
Follow our tips to save your next meal ( Image: iStock)

Vacuum Sealed

Vacuum sealed chicken will be an ideal choice for preservation if you do not want to prepare this dish in the next few days.

Food vacuuming has always received a response because of the ideal time they can reach. When you have sucked all the air out, you have completely prevented the bacteria germs present around the dish.

Once using this method, your food can last in about one to two weeks. But everything has two sides. This method is difficult to implement despite ideal long-lasting and creates a small mess when you need your food.


If stored properly, the ground chicken will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days at most. It would be best to use plastic wrap, plastic wrap, or alumni foil to achieve this ideal time.


Chicken liver (whether cooked or not) tends to go bad faster than meat. There’s no need to be surprised when this dish is better when kept in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days at most.

You can still use this dish after the above time (of course, if it hasn’t shown any signs of spoiling). However, the taste of the liver will not be as delicious and fragrant as before.

How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge
The taste will change after you store it in the fridge. (Image: iStock)

How To Store The Dish In The Refrigerator Properly?

Food preservation plays a huge role in determining how long it can last in the refrigerator. Preserved cooked poultry tends to reach the ideal time (3 to 4 days), while others are unlikely to reach this time.

So, how to properly store cooked chick?

It is best to put this dish in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking. If the chicken is left at room temperature for more than two hours, this dish will create the ideal conditions for bacteria growth (temperatures between 40 degrees F- 140 degrees F).

In addition, there is an important step you need to take before putting this dish in the refrigerator. Use an airtight container or sealed plastic bag to wrap the food, then store it neatly in your fridge. That contributes to slowing down the growth of bacteria and preventing other dangers from the outside.

How To Tell If The Chicken In Your Fridge Has Gone Bad?

Are you wondering what signs will be when the food in your refrigerator shows signs of spoilage?

Well, there’s a lot of evidence for this. Scroll down to check your food for hazards. If something bad happens, you should get rid of it immediately.

The first sign you suspect is that this dish has exceeded the “safe period” mentioned above. 3 to 4 days is ideal for storing this dish in the refrigerator. Once this period is exceeded, it will inevitably begin to harbor spoilage.

A change in the color of cooked food is probably the most common and recognizable sign with the naked eye.

When it goes bad, the chicken tends to fade in color. Also, It shows signs of greenish-gray or green moldy spots.  They represent that the bacteria has grown immensely, and there is no way you can save it.

The concentration of smell that the food gives off is directly proportional to the spoilage of this dish. At the beginning of rancidity, it will emit a faint odor (you have to close your nose to smell it to detect it). It has a sour smell similar to ammonia, making your kitchen more stuffy than ever.

However, this distinctive smell can be very difficult to discern if you season the food with other aromatic seasonings (such as sauces, herbs, garlic). For clarity, carefully bring the dish up to your nose.

The bad texture of the cooked chicken is also a sign that you can identify with just a glance. Spoiled food is no longer as tough and supple as it used to be.

Instead, you will find it more discrete and surrounded by a slimy layer. Think that just rinsing off the slime will make the food normal?

Well, you’d better get this idea out of your mind. Washing this mucus will not clean the food but make it easier for bacteria to cross-contaminate.

These are the signs that we have collected through thousands of spoiled dish cases that we have encountered in the refrigerator.

Open the fridge and check your dish now. If it has one of the signs we mentioned above, eliminate this hazard immediately to save your health.

Risk Of Eating The Spoiled Chicken In Your Fridge

Sometimes, the obvious change in the appearance of cooked chicken makes you think it’s still edible. Or you have realized but stubbornly use it because you think it will not affect your health too much. But the dangers that we are about to analyze below will startle you.

After the safe time has passed, this dish will produce dozens of harmful bacteria to human health. Here we will talk about the five most notorious bacteria in spoiled food.

Salmonella Enteritidis

You did not hear wrong! In every fiber of spoiled chicken is hidden countless bacteria called Salmonella. This bacteria grows mainly in poultry and pork and causes health problems for anyone who eats it.

After 2 to 3 days of consumption, users will experience headaches and diarrhea. Not only that, but they also have intestinal problems and easily get high fevers.

After 4 to 7 days of taking the drug, this bacteria completely disappears. However, do not rush to rejoice! Salmonella can stay in their bodies longer for those with weakened immune systems.

Campylobacter Jejuni

Everyone wants to avoid the risk of food poisoning, but this can easily happen to those who use spoiled cooked chicken!

Once entering the human body through the digestive tract, Campylobacter Jejuni will rapidly grow exponentially and release toxins into the intestinal tract.

If you want to eliminate the risk of going to the hospital, it’s best to stay away from spoiled cooked food.


After 3 to 5 days of eating the spoiled dish, you will experience some symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, and high fever. That means you’re dealing with the ExxonMobil bacteria roaming around in your body!

Staphylococcus Aureus

Staphylococcus (or Staph for short) is no longer a strange name for well-known infectious disease-causing bacteria. They grow from the top of the dish, then quickly spread to the rest.

So, how does Staph wreak havoc on your body once it contains it?

After the first 2 to 6 hours, this bacteria will secrete a toxin that causes great damage to the digestive tract of the consumer. They will quickly experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some people see them as minor hazards, but the truth is that they affect your daily life more than you think!

Staph disappears as quickly as it enters your body. After only a few days of infusion and rest (as directed by your doctor), you can knock this danger out of your body.

Some Tips To Keep Your Cooked Chicken Last Longer On The Refrigerator

Life is always easier with tips and preserving cooked food in the refrigerator. If you don’t want to waste this delicious dish, follow the tips that we will share below.

Set The Ideal Time For Cooked Chicken

You should only keep your food for a maximum of two hours at room temperature. If you procrastinate, it will be too late to keep the dish up to the ideal time (three and even four days).

Seal Your Food Storage Containers

You don’t want your fridge to become a mess after storing the dish, right! Let’s start cleaning from the biggest container – the refrigerator!

Keep the refrigerator in the cleanest possible condition. Once contaminated, it will create conditions for other bacteria to multiply.

At the same time, you need to make sure all foods stored in the refrigerator have containers. It would help if you wrapped them or put them in sealed containers. That ensures hygiene and prevents the cross-contamination of bacteria from one food to another.

Cut It Into Small Pieces

As we mentioned above, food cut into pieces will cool faster. That way, it eliminates the risk of bacterial growth. While large pieces of this poultry (or a whole) will make refrigeration difficult, which helps these hazards thrive.

How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge
Cut it into small pieces (Image: iStock)

Keep Raw Food Away

Never allow any raw food to touch your dish! Even if they’re all chicken, this shouldn’t be allowed in your fridge.

The body of raw poultries cuts through dozens of live bacteria capable of spreading with unexpected speed. They can quickly spread to your cooked chicken through physical contact, leading to its spoilage.

We talked about wrapping above, which is the ideal solution for this case. Cover each type of food before placing it next to each other.


Is It Still Ok If I Cook Chicken That Smells A Little?

There is a slight odor in the beginning, which means that the amount of bacteria in the dish is still low and not enough to cause serious symptoms. You can, of course, still use your dish, but it won’t taste as good as before.

What To Do With My Cooked Chicken In The Refrigerator?

If you don’t appreciate putting food in the fridge, there are plenty of methods to deal with these leftovers. Discover what they are through the list of dishes we offer below.

  • Chicken Enchiladas

A little bit of ground or shredded chicken left you with a headache about how to cook? In this case, there would be no better choice than Chicken Enchiladas. With just four simple ingredients, you’ll have a delicious stew for your next meal.

  • Quick Chicken Pot Pie

If time is not enough for you to cook a complete meal, the quick chicken pot pie will be a great help! With 15 minutes of making, you’ll have a wonderfully delicious dish ready to serve.

  • Italian Pasta Salad

Italian pasta salad- why not? No one will be able to resist the seductive taste of this special noodle dish.

The noodle recipe is very simple and easy to make. In addition, you only need less than 30 minutes to complete this dish.

  • Taco Salad

Are you a salad fanatic? Then it’s time to use cooked chicken for the famous Taco salad.

You need to prepare fresh corn, green onions, cherry tomatoes, and some butter and cheese in terms of ingredients. Please add some cilantro if you are looking for something a little spicy.

  • Chicken Bagel Melt

A filling baguette will also be an ideal choice for a quick snack if you’re not at home. You can add a little spicy cream cheese and greens to increase the aroma and drown out the dish’s taste for more variety.

The above are our recommendations if you’re looking to process cooked chicken instead of putting it in the fridge. Please choose an option that you think is most suitable according to your taste.

Is It Better To Keep The Cooked Chicken In The Freezer Than In The Fridge?

Freezers have a much more ideal cooling temperature than refrigerators. That’s why it’s better if you want to preserve your dish for a long time.

Chicken nuggets and fried ones can still retain their ideal flavor if kept in the freezer for one to three months. Meanwhile, the grilled one can reach a safe period of four to six months. It’s even better if you marinate the chicken with broth or gravy, as they will make the food last up to six months.

Freezers are ideal for the long-term storage of food. However, after taking it out, the food will have to go through a defrosting process, which is very time-consuming and will make your kitchen a little messy.

How To Store The Cooked Chicken In The Freezer In The Best Way?

If you have enough space in your freezer for cooked chicken, don’t be afraid to take advantage of it. We’ll give you a quick guide on properly storing this dish in the freezer.

The first step is to wait for your meat to cool down. If time doesn’t allow that, put the meat (without wrapping) in the freezer for about an hour to speed up the cooling process, then take it out.

If your piece of food seems big, cut it up into smaller portions.

Cover the dish carefully with your wrap. Make sure that as little air comes into contact with this dish as possible. After everything is complete, you need to check to ensure the bag is not burst.

Place the food in a sealed bag or container, then place it in the freezer. You should write the date on the top of the container to make it easier to estimate the time. That’s how you store this dish in the right way in the freezer.

Final Thoughts

Storing foods like cooked chicken in the refrigerator will help you save ingredients for the next meal.

But before you do that, you should almost find out how long it can stay safe. So, you can enjoy delicious food without worrying about potential health hazards.

We hope you have all the answers to “How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge.” Now, it’s time to step into the kitchen and treat your food!