It’s hard to beat a good piece of fried chicken. The unique blend of juicy chicken and a crispy, crunchy coating makes it appealing to people from all walks of life. But if you made excess fried chicken, how long can you safely store it in the fridge?
You can keep fried chicken in the fridge for 3-4 days. If you need to store it longer, consider freezing the cooked chicken for up to 3-4 months. Because bacteria can grow at fridge or freezer temperatures, eating cooked chicken after these timelines can cause serious foodborne illness.
Fried chicken is unquestionably delicious and a favorite food among meat lovers. However, this tasty protein source has a high risk of bacterial contamination, so let’s take a closer look at how to properly store and reheat fried chicken.
Can You Freeze Fried Chicken?
Fried chicken isn’t only safe to freeze, but you also lock in the flavor and preserve the nutrients by doing so. However, the texture of the chicken may change when you defrost it. You must follow the correct thawing and reheating process to maintain the crispiness of the fried chicken.
Fried chicken can stay in the freezer for up to four months. Ensure that chicken pieces don’t overlap when freezing to maintain the shape of the fried chicken.
The best way to thaw fried chicken is in the refrigerator overnight or in cold water. Avoid thawing the chicken at room temperature because it takes a long time, and bacteria may grow in the meantime.
If you’re pressed for time, quickly thaw fried chicken in the microwave, but don’t defrost it fully.
How Long Can Cooked Chicken Stay in the Fridge?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), raw poultry can stay in the fridge for up to two days, while cooked chicken can last for three to four days.
Storing your leftover fried chicken in the fridge helps slow down the growth of bacteria. This is because bacteria grow slower in temperatures below 40°F (or 4°C).
Eating cooked chicken that’s been stored for longer than four days in the refrigerator is a recipe for disaster. It can lead to foodborne illness or food poisoning because bacteria can still grow at refrigerated temperatures.
How to Store Cooked Chicken for Maximum Freshness
Proper packing and storage temperatures increase the time your cooked chicken stays fresh.
Always store your chicken in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag. Make sure to use a container that’s the ideal size for your leftovers. A container that’s too big allows air to circulate and can increase moisture, encouraging bacterial growth.
Wrap fried chicken or chicken patties tightly in foil after cooling; otherwise, the steam from these breaded items, when warm, can make the crust soggy.
Store the cooked chicken within two hours after cooking to ensure maximum freshness.
Leaving the cooked chicken at room temperature for more than two hours allows the chicken to enter the temperature danger zone. Bacteria thrive and grow most rapidly in the temperature danger zone range between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C).
Consider cooling the chicken quickly in the fridge to avoid bacterial growth before storing it. You can also cool the chicken by putting it in a bowl and allowing it to rest in an ice bath.
When refrigerating a whole cooked chicken, cut it into small chunks and slice the breasts.
What’s the Best Way to Reheat Leftover Fried Chicken?
Whether reheating leftover takeout or homemade fried chicken, you’ll need to use the correct procedure to maintain the crispiness and crunchiness of this fried favorite.
Resist the urge to use the microwave for reheating the chicken because your fried chicken will become a hot, soggy mess. Reheating leftover fried chicken in the oven or air fryer offers the best results.
Heating fried chicken in the oven crisps up the skin and heats the meat, leaving it as juicy as fresh fried chicken.
Follow the steps below to ensure your reheated fried chicken stays flavorful and crispy:
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Get the fried chicken out of the fridge.
- Put a wire rack into a baking sheet and spread the chicken in a single layer.
- Allow the chicken to come up to room temperature while the oven preheats. The chicken will cook more evenly if you let it come to room temperature before reheating.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the skin is hot to the touch and very crispy.
Rather than just placing the chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet, we prefer to use a rack so that the hot air from the oven can circulate under the chicken and crisp up the skin evenly.
How to Tell If Your Cooked Chicken Is Still Safe to Eat
If you’ve left your cooked chicken in the fridge for more than four days, there’s a high probability the chicken has gone bad.
Some of the signs of spoiled cooked chicken include:
- The chicken has changed color to gray or green.
- It’s past the “best by” date.
- There’s an acidic smell that resembles ammonia.
- The chicken has a slimy texture.
Discard any chicken that you suspect has gone bad to avoid cross-contamination and food poisoning.