Chicken is delicious, but when you’re cooking and storing it at home, you’ll want to err on the side of caution, unless you find salmonella particularly scrumptious. If you’ve been playing your poultry-based food safety by ear… well, don’t do that. Do these things instead.
As mentioned the first time we investigated this topic, there are a lot of variables at play when it comes to determining how long you can safely refrigerate cooked chicken.
For instance, the NSW Food Authority says you shouldn’t leave cooked meat at room temperature for longer than two hours. That said, you don’t want to stick steaming hot food into the fridge — it’s safe to let it cool for an hour before shoving it in. Just don’t overload it with warm leftovers.
Once it’s in the fridge, make sure the temperature is below 5°C, preferably between 0-3°C and it should be consumed within three days, maximum, according to CSIRO.
Of course, exercise some common sense. If the meat has a bad smell or looks off, just chuck it out.
Something we didn’t cover in detail in the previous post was the treatment of raw or frozen poultry. Contrary to popular belief, it’s best to unwrap or loosely store raw chicken to reduce the growth of bacteria:
When meat is stored unwrapped, the exposed surface dries out. This drying retards microbial growth but over-drying causes undesirable colour changes and loss of flavour. A compromise can be reached by storing your meat in an adequately ventilated container or loosening the wrapping around the meat so air can circulate.
Stainless steel or a plastic rack are your best bets in terms of surfaces to store your chicken.
Even so, if you’re not planning on using raw chicken within 24-48 hours, freeze it. And when you thaw it, make sure it’s in the fridge and not on the bench top.
It requires some extra planning — boneless chicken should be good to go overnight, while a whole bird could take a day — but the peace of mind is worth it. And definitely don’t refreeze thawed chicken.
Finally, you should never keep raw chicken in the fridge longer than two days.
This article has been updated since its original publication.