Ask LH: How Long Can I Keep Cooked Chicken in the Fridge?

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‘How long can I keep cooked chicken in the fridge’ is a popular question we’ve been asked time and time again. This is why we’re resurfacing this article once again in case you’re still unsure.

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve been wondering about the appropriate cold storage instructions for cooked poultry. If refrigerated right after cooking, how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge? All the U.S. government sites suggest 3 to 4 days, but I can’t find any reference points for Australia. Can you help? Thanks, Aspiring Colonel.

Dear AC,

Good question. The first point is that the basic rules of refrigerating food aren’t going to vary dramatically between the U.S. and Australia. The second point is that guidelines are just that: guidelines. The effectiveness of your refrigerator and the way you have cooked the chicken can both make a difference.

With that said, the CSIRO has a handy set of guidelines on how to store food. This recommends no more than 3 days for poultry, and 3-5 days for leftovers, presuming your fridge is running at between 0 and 3 degrees Celsius.

If you want to reduce the risk of food poisoning, our previous advice — wait until the cooked food has stopped steaming, and then freeze it immediately — remains the best option. You won’t have the convenience of being able to eat it straight from the fridge, but you should be safe from any unexpected bacteria.

Cheers
Lifehacker

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This article has been updated since its original publication.

Comments

  • 3 days is a good indication once cooked at less than 5 degrees
    How ever it also matters how long it has been raw and out of the fridge during prep and cooling down.

  • I’m a vegetarian, I cook once a fortnight for lunch and dinner everyday o er that period. On the bench overnight to cool. In the fridge for the full fortnight, been doing that 6 months without a hitch.

  • Response from the VIC Dept of Health: “You would be surprised how often this query is received. I am not aware of any particular guidance advice about the period of time cooked poultry can be safely refrigerated. The problem with specifying a certain number of days (be it 1,2 3 or more) is that people tend to rely on the number to the exclusion of all other factors. The most reliable test is sight and smell. In normal circumstances, cooked poultry will probably remain safe and suitable in the refrigerator for about 2 days, After this time, the chances are that some deterioration in quality will start to commence. The chicken may be safe to eat *(ie-no microbiological contamination) but suitability factors (loss of texture,or taste or colour or freshness) start to become apparent.”

    Response from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ): “The code does not cover specifically how long a cooked chicken can last in a fridge. Food has a wide range of parameters, particularly pH value (the degree of acidity), water activity (the amount of moisture available), presence and extent of present of micro-organisms, etc. Testing for shelf life and storage of food can therefore be a complex process. This is why the onus is upon the manufacturer to determine the appropriate storage for their products. In this instance, I would suggest you seek the guidance of a food technologist. Ultimately it is up to the manufacturer to determine what type of storage best suits their product and they can conduct their own testing or approach laboratories if they choose. The Code is available on the FSANZ website at http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/

  • Used to work for a chicken franchise.
    Our BBQ chickens had a 5 day life cycle.
    Day 1 BBQ chicken
    Day 2 cold BBQ chicken
    Day 3 cold BBQ chicken reduced price.
    Day 4 chicken stripped down to be chicken and gravy roll.
    Day 5 end of day goes into bin

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