It is almost impossible to plan for the exact amount of fried chicken you will need for a meal. In my family, we often make or order too much and end up having leftovers. I used to be afraid of putting away the crispy fried chicken in the fridge or the freezer as I thought it would make the chicken stale or soggy. However, it is not safe to let fried chicken sit on the counter for long. So, how long can fried chicken sit out?
🍗 How Long Can Fried Chicken Sit Out?
Short answer: Fried chicken shouldn’t be left at temperatures over 40°F for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the room temperature is over 90°F.
Aside from going stale or soggy, fried chicken left out at room temperature harbors the growth of harmful bacteria such as salmonella.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that room temperature is the danger zone (40-140°F or 4-60°C) and increases the risk of food poisoning or foodborne illnesses.
If left at room temperature or above 32°F for longer than 2 hours, fried chicken should be discarded and not consumed.
If the room is above 90°F, one hour is the maximum amount of time fried chicken can be left unrefrigerated. Anything that is left out overnight without refrigeration, you should immediately throw away.
🗄️How Long Does Fried Chicken Last In The Fridge?
Fried chicken will stay safe to eat in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, according to the USDA. This recommendation is based on proper storage and continuous refrigeration at temperatures of 40°F and under.
🧊How Long Does Fried Chicken Last In The Freezer?
USDA’s food storage guidelines tell us that fried chicken can be stored in the freezer for up to 4 months. It may last longer than that, but it will have the best taste and texture if consumed within this time.
☠️ Signs Of Spoilage
Many telltale signs of spoilage are common sense, but sometimes they are not so visible. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to have a side of caution.
Here are some visible signs of spoilage:
❌Mold growth – The most visible sign of spoilage is mold growth on any part of the chicken. A white or green mold growing on the skin means that it has likely spread to all parts of the chicken and should be discarded.
❌Smell changes – If you notice a change in smell or a foul odor coming from the chicken, it is starting to rot and should not be consumed.
❌Discoloration – Any part of the chicken that has started changing colors and looks dark brown or grey is a sign of spoilage.
❌Texture and taste changes – Lastly, fried chicken may not have any external differences but can taste different. It may also develop a slimy texture.
🤒 Symptoms Of Food Poisoning
Nothing is worse than finding out that you have food poisoning because you didn’t follow food safety recommendations. Some common signs of food poisoning are:
- Stomach cramps
❄️ How To Store Fried Chicken
Seeing that fried chicken shouldn’t be left at room temperature for longer than two hours, it should be either refrigerated or frozen. We have an article on how to freeze fried chicken.
- Make sure the fried chicken hasn’t been sitting on the counter for longer than 2 hours. Give the chicken around 30 minutes to cool down.
- Wash hands and place cooled-down fried chicken pieces into airtight containers and store them inside the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Make sure it is away from any raw chicken, eggs, or dairy products to avoid cross-contamination.
- If you need to store it for longer, you can freeze fried chicken for up to 4 months with proper storage.
- I recommend flash-freezing each individual piece on a wire rack and then transferring it into a freezer bag or an airtight container.
- Alternatively, you can wrap each piece in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and freeze.
- Make sure to squeeze out as much air as possible in order to prevent freezer burn and label with today’s date and any spices or sauces used.
🔥 How To Reheat Fried Chicken
When it’s time to reheat leftover fried chicken, you have a few options. You can reheat it on a baking sheet in the oven, microwave it, or use the air fryer.
The air fryer is wonderful for crisping up fried chicken that was frozen and thawed or refrigerated but the oven does a good job as well.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- While the oven preheats, let the chicken sit out so it warms up a bit.
- Place the fried chicken on a wire rack over a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Arrange the pieces so they are not touching to allow the hot air to circulate and reheat the meat evenly.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the fried chicken reaches 165°F in the thickest parts.
This is certainly the fastest way to reheat fried chicken although you won’t get back that beautiful crisp.
- Let the chicken sit out for 10 minutes before reheating so it gets a little closer to room temperature.
- Place the chicken in a microwave-safe dish and cover with a paper towel. It will absorb some moisture so your chicken won’t get soggy.
- Microwave on a medium power setting in 30-second intervals.
- Check between intervals and repeat until the chicken is warmed throughout.
I tried all three ways to reheat fried chicken and the air fryer is hands down the best. It is faster than the oven and crisps up the coating even better!
- Let the chicken sit out for at least 10 minutes to warm up slightly before reheating.
- Preheat the air fryer to 375°F.
- Place the chicken pieces in the air fryer basket, leaving some space between them.
- Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F.
Tip: Read our guide on how to reheat chicken in the air fryer for a more comprehensive description of this method.
You can use the reheated fried chicken in salads, or sandwiches, or eat it with a side of vegetables.
❓Frequently Asked Questions
You can’t eat fried chicken that has been left out overnight. There are millions of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses and damage your digestive system.
It is always best to err on caution and throw out any food you suspect is no longer safe to eat, even if you didn’t leave it overnight.
A marinade or sauce can’t prolong the shelf life of fried chicken. All food safety rules apply regardless of any marinade.
The ServSafe guideline has a 2 hour/4 hour rule which says cooked food can be safe from 2 hours to 4 hours from cooking to serving. If food is left out for less than 2 hours, it can be refrigerated.
If it is left out between 2-4 hours, it can be consumed but can’t be put back in the fridge. Longer than that, it should be thrown away.
However, the USDA regulations don’t recommend storing cooked food at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Use the ServSafe 4-hour rule at your own precaution.
Whether it is sealed or unsealed, cooked chicken can only be left out for up to two hours. Sealing it doesn’t prolong the amount of time you can store fried chicken.
Ginny Collins is a passionate foodie and recipe creator of Savor and Savvy and Kitchenlaughter. Indoors she focuses on easy, quick recipes for busy families and kitchen basics. Outdoors, she focuses on backyard grilling and smoking to bring family and friends together. She is a lifelong learner who is always taking cooking classes on her travels overseas and stateside. Her work has been featured on MSN, Parade, Fox News, Yahoo, Cosmopolitan, Elle, and many local news outlets. She lives in Florida where you will find her outside on the water in her kayak, riding her bike on trails, and planning her next overseas adventure.