Enjoying a chicken dinner is a tasty way to stretch your grocery dollar. It’s also just plain delicious. But, a common question we are asked is how long can you keep fried chicken in the fridge?
Growing up, we’d often eat leftover cold chicken straight out of the fridge. We did this with homemade fried chicken and leftover KFC chicken. Is it okay to eat cold leftover fried chicken? What about warm chicken? Get all the answers below!
Hot food is better food when it comes to leftovers like casseroles. So, if your chicken is in a casserole you want to reheat it.
Keep in mind that if chicken was cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and then refrigerated properly, it is okay to eat the leftovers cold.
The proper cooking time for chicken will depend on the cooking method and temperature you’re cooking at. Once it is cooked and refrigerated, you’re good to go. For a few days.
Cooking time also depends on the piece of chicken you cook. Wings and breasts require different cooking times.
However, we do enjoy leftover chicken salad and other cold chicken recipes.
Guidelines on Eating Cold Chicken
Yes, you can eat cold chicken as long as it was cooked to the correct temperature (165 F) and stored properly.
Some Ideas For Cold Chicken
- Chicken salad sandwiches or chicken salad cups
- Chicken club sandwich
The best rule of thumb is to cook only what you will reasonably consume within a few days. This might mean cooking smaller portions. This is a common scenario for empty nesters who suddenly find themselves cooking for fewer people.
The first time you do this might seem tough, but once you start cooking smaller portions you’ll also notice your grocery bill go down. And, less food waste is always good. Advance preparation helps a lot with this.
Making A Big Batch Of Chicken Or A Whole Chicken?
The shelf life of fried chicken is 3-4 days when properly stored in the refrigerator. FDA food code is an exceptionally good resource and should be followed closely to avoid food borne illness. They even have a breakdown of the ideal cook-to temperatures for a variety of foods for expectant moms.
Perishable food always has a shelf life, so you want to make sure to follow guidelines.
How to Safely Store Leftover Fried Chicken
Refrigerate the chicken within 2 hours of cooking. The reason here is to avoid bacterial growth and to make sure the chicken is in the best condition for storage.
For best quality, use shallow airtight containers like a ziplock storage bag laid flat, with chicken in a single layer. This allows the chicken to cool down quickly and evenly.
If you have a lot of leftover chicken, the best option (for homemade chicken) to avoid food waste and best results is to freeze whatever chicken won’t be consumed within 2-3 days. I don’t recommend this with leftover takeout chicken.
- A good way to avoid freezer burn is to use heavy-duty freezer bags. This will ensure you have the best results when reheating the chicken.
- Plastic wrap, heavy-duty aluminum foil, and freezer wrap are also good ways to wrap up chicken.
- Paper towels can be used to wrap up serving-size pieces of chicken to grab quickly if you only have a larger container or large freezer bag to store the chicken in.
Always follow health guidelines. Make sure to store leftovers within a couple of hours of cooking.
Storing restaurant leftovers follows the same refrigeration guidelines. The important factor here is to err on the safe side of caution and use the leftovers within 2-3 days. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends using the leftovers within 3-4 days, so don’t go over that.
For best results and optimal taste, I recommend using the leftovers the next day. The good news is if you follow these guidelines you’re on your way to enjoying tasty leftovers.
It’s a good idea to regularly check refrigerator temperatures to make sure you’re storing your leftovers at the optimal temperature. Your refrigerator should be set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
It is possible for the temperature in a refrigerator to fluctuate, especially when adding hot items to the refrigerator or holding the door open. It is a good idea to periodically confirm the refrigerator temperature.
Signs of Spoilage
- White color- white spots forming on pieces of chicken is a red flag to toss it out!
- Grey color- again, when leftover food changes colors, TOSS!
- Offensive smell- meat smells is a sign of bacterial growth
- Slimy texture- if old fried chicken becomes slimy…it’s time to say goodbye.
- While not a sign of Spoilage, if the leftover chicken is more than 3-4 days old, it is time to get rid of it. The best way to avoid food poisoning is to always er on the side of caution. If something seems off, it probably is. Common sense is a great tool to have to avoid the danger zone of food poisoning.
Ways to Use Leftover Chicken
- Chicken tacos- use up that leftover fried or rotisserie chicken in some yummy tacos. Just add in seasoning and you’re good to go.
- Remove chicken from the bone and make this Instant Pot BBQ Shredded Chicken recipe– this is perfect for sandwiches. Depending on how much chicken you have leftover, you can add raw chicken pieces and cook it all up together to make this recipe. (If you do this, keep in mind how many days you’ve had those leftovers. If it’s 1-2, you can safely eat leftovers from this recipe for another day).
- There are so many leftover chicken recipes to decide from. If you have leftover chicken, it can be used in delicious recipes.