how long can chicken sit out

How Long Can Chicken Sit Out? Learn More About Food Safety and Tips to Keep Your Meat Fresh!

Have you ever accidentally forgotten about a whole chicken sitting out of the fridge? Ever became unsure whether or not it’s still safe to cook or eat? Well, you are not alone. And now, in this article, we’ll answer these questions so that you won’t have to wonder, ever again.


How Long Can Chicken Sit Out?

As a general rule, cooked or raw chicken should not set out for more than two hours. You should always follow this rule: discard of any chicken, cooked or not, that has been left for 2 hours or longer at room temperature.

If the room temperature is even hotter, then you can only set out chicken for one hour.

Factors that Affect Food Safety

There are key things that can affect how food becomes safe or unsafe.


This plays an important role in the spoiling of food. That’s why refrigerators were invented! If you want to keep food for a certain number of days, the best way to keep food - particularly meat - is to store it in temperatures below 40°F.

Any temperature higher than 40°F can expose chicken to various bacteria. Meat left on the kitchen counter will invite a breeding ground for bacteria.

As a rule, food in general can become susceptible to spoiling when stored in temperatures greater than 90°F.

Storing Chicken

Meats, particularly chicken, can remain fresh for 1-2 days inside the fridge. Any longer than that can be unsafe, and you should discard the meat right away.

Cooked chicken can stay safe for a longer time. You can keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days. Any longer than that can be unsafe for eating.

Make sure that you consume chicken sooner than later. However, if you need to purchase it at an earlier time and prepare or cook it at a much later time, then you must absolutely freeze it. You can freeze uncooked whole chickens safely for up to a whole year. Chicken cutlets can be frozen for 9 months.

The case is not the same for cooked chicken, though. You can freeze them, too, sure, but they must be consumed within 2-6 months. Plus, there’s the fact that frozen leftovers would definitely have a different taste compared to freshly cooked chicken. So only do this storage option if completely necessary.

What About Chicken That’s Left to Sit Out Overnight?

As mentioned earlier, you can only let chicken sit out for a couple of hours before it goes bad. Imagine letting it sit out all through the night - it would only be worse. Please do not attempt to cook or reheat this chicken.

The bacteria that has accumulated in the meat cannot be rid of simply by heating. These will release harmful toxins and can cause food poisoning. This is a fact, and is often overlooked by a lot of people. The common thinking is that reheating food, even if left out overnight, is enough to make it suitable for eating again.

Even if it’s frustrating and seems like a waste, intentionally or accidentally leaving food out overnight should be seen as it is. Do not try to reheat it. Throw it out right away.

How Many Hours Does It Take for Frozen Chicken to Sit Out Before Spoiling?

Now, we talked about freezing fresh, raw chicken earlier. What happens when it’s time to take it out and prepare it for cooking? The common practice is to thaw the chicken out first. This is done at room temperature.

The question is: how long will it take before frozen chicken thawing at room temperature spoils?

Professional cooks recommend not thawing it out at room temperature for over 2 hours. To avoid mistakes, you can use a meat thermometer. The chicken’s temperature must still be less than 45°F. This means it’s still safe to cook.

If you kept your chicken in a closed container while thawing it out, then it might last a bit longer after a couple of hours. This is still the risk, though. It’s better to be on the safe side. If the room temperature is warmer, make sure you get done with thawing in an hour or so.

What about thawing overnight? The answer is a big NO. We strongly do not recommend doing this. Since spoilage starts after 2 hours, or shorter for higher temperatures, then doing it overnight will only pose greater risks. To avoid such risks, take your meat from the freezer and transfer it to the fridge. You can thaw it there, while maintaining a temperature low enough to keep it safe. It should take 30 to 60 minutes to get it ready before cooking.


The human body isn’t as resilient as other animals. This is why we cannot eat rotten food. While each person’s ability to handle such spoilage varies greatly, there is nothing good that can come from taking any sort of risk. Food poisoning is painful, and can cause severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Take great care when choosing meat, buying them, washing and preparing them, and cooking them. Whenever you are in doubt, just toss the questionable meat into the trash and rest in the fact that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Do you have any experiences with sitting chicken out, food spoiling, or other methods of storing your meat? Please share them with us in the comments section! We’re looking forward to them!

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