Chicken Left Out Overnight: Should You Throw It Out?

When it comes to food, we can often get confused – is this cooked? Is this safe? Should I throw this out? Chicken is no exception. So, join us as we find out if you should throw out chicken left out overnight!

The basics

The Basics

Chicken is one of the most popular meats and in some areas, the cheapest. It’s incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways and dishes.

With all of its good points though, it’s also one of the most dangerous.

It must be cooked at specific temperatures and stored correctly. The question is, if we’ve left it out overnight – should it be thrown out?

Leaving Chicken Overnight

You may have thrown the greatest barbeque known to man and had a ton of food left over – sometimes we just leave it on the kitchen counter. Sometimes, we leave a chicken out with an intention to cook it later and simply forget about it.

Regardless if chicken is cooked or not, if it’s left out for more than two hours – it’s no longer 100% safe to eat. In certain temperatures outside, it can be less than that. If the room temperature is 90 degrees fahrenheit, one hour is the maximum.

Why Chicken Needs To Be Stored Right

You need to store chicken as soon as possible to reduce the risk of bacterial growth. Refrigeration below 40 degrees Fahrenheit can significantly reduce this growth.

This bacteria can grow on the raw chicken as it is, but also when chicken has been cooked and then begins to cool again. This bacteria is also why it’s important to ensure chicken has been cooked thoroughly.

If you consume contaminated chicken, you could fall seriously ill with things like food poisoning – and in extreme cases, you could die.

Can I Eat Chicken That’s Been Left Out All Night?

I bet you’d really like to! That chicken still looks good, right? Well, fight that urge to eat the chicken. It may look great, it may even smell great – but it could be harboring some very dangerous bacteria.

As we said, you don’t wanna be giving yourself food poisoning now, do you?

Also, while we’re on the subject – if you’ve left chicken out overnight and think you can “cook” the bad bacteria out of it by reheating it in the microwave or over, you’re mistaken.

This myth is very dangerous because some bacteria can create toxins that can be resistant to heat. Obviously, we can’t see bacteria with our eyes, so it’s best just not to eat the chicken.

The Chicken Was Wrapped And Covered Up Though?

This doesn’t matter. The only thing that wrapping food does is prevent airborne bacteria and foreign invaders (such as flies, bugs and dust) from landing directly onto the meat.

This is a good thing if you’re planning to leave the food out for an hour, or you’re going to put it in the fridge/freezer – but it’s useless against the bacteria on the chicken.

What About Thawing Chicken Overnight?

If you wish to thaw a frozen chicken, you’ll want to place it in the refrigerator. Just allocate enough time for it to thaw before you plan on cooking it.

It’s never a good idea to leave it on the kitchen counter overnight to thaw. Apart from the obvious fact you’ll have water everywhere, the chicken’s temperature will alter past the safety and lead to bacterial growth.

If you want to speed up the thawing process, you could try putting the chicken in cold water in a bath or large, clean bucket. It should thaw in around an hour or two.

If you’re going to do this method though, ensure you cook the thawed chicken as soon as possible.

Leftover Chicken Storage

Leftover Chicken Storage

Okay, you’ve cooked some amazing chicken and you physically can’t eat any more – no problem! You’ll want to get wrapping that chicken within the 2 hour time frame (1 hour in hotter conditions).

Make sure that, however you choose to wrap or bag the chicken, that it’s completely air tight. Once you’ve done this, you can put the chicken in the lowest shelf in the fridge – away from the fridge door, and you have around 2-3 days where you can enjoy the chicken again!

If you’re not planning on having chicken within this time, consider putting the chicken in the freezer instead.To ensure maximum safety, get a label and write the date/time/other details on it.

That way, you’ll have all the information you need for next time. It has to be cooked within a maximum of around 6 months.

Is My Chicken Bad?

Any chicken left out for longer than the time frame of 2 hours is not safe – however, if you’re looking for tell tale signs, then you could look out for these:

  • Patches of strange colors like green and gray
  • An awful smell, could be described as sour
  • It looks furry or fuzzy
  • Sticky or slimy to touch

Noticed any of these? Throw the chicken out and don’t take the risk. Remember, when you’re discarding this bad chicken – you’ll want to securely wrap it and bag it and dispose of it correctly.

Depending on where you live, you could have food disposal bins or compost. Other than that, put it directly in the trash.

Don’t give contaminated food to pets. If the chicken is bad for you, it’s likely bad for them.

If the bad chicken has come into contact with other food, you’d be best throwing that food away too.

What To Remember

Chicken can be a tasty treat and one of our favorites, but poor storage and etiquette can lead you down a bad way! Always follow the advice that: “if in doubt, throw it out”.

If you’re going to throw an amazing barbecue and you’re unsure of your meat – it’s wise to purchase a handheld thermometer and maybe opt for less dangerous meats.

In reality though, chicken’s so good – who would have leftovers?!