When it comes to popular foods, chicken is definitely top of the list.
There are so many ways to prepare it and use it in the kitchen that it’s basically limited only by your imagination. Chicken is especially great to batch cook so that you can cook once and eat all week.
You can easily roast up a whole chicken and use the leftovers to make a soup or sandwiches for the week.
If you prefer one cut of meat, then you can cook up chicken breasts, thighs, or drumsticks to have a quick and easy protein to throw on any meal.
As you can see, there’s no end to the way you can use chicken in the kitchen, but what if you want to eat it cold?
So, can you eat cold chicken? Yes, you can eat cold chicken. Just make sure that it has been fully cooked, properly cooled, and you eat it within 4 days of it being in the fridge to prevent any illness from bacterial growth.
Read on to discover how to tell if your chicken is still safe to eat, how to properly store your cooked or uncooked chicken in the fridge or freezer, and some recipes for preparing delicious chicken for any occasion.
Can You Eat Cooked Chicken Cold?
One of our favorite things to do to make sure we have fresh and healthy meals for the week is to batch cook a few items so that they are on hand and ready to be eaten at a moment’s notice.
One of the staples in our batch cooking repertoire is chicken- breasts, thighs, drums, or whole.
Chicken is such a versatile food because you can cook a batch of breast meat for example and use it in a soup, throw it in a salad, add it to a wrap, pop it in a stir-fry, or any other number of ways. But you might be wondering whether you can eat cold chicken once it has been cooked.
The answer is yes, you can absolutely eat cold cooked chicken. When chicken has been cooked and chilled, it actually has a great texture and flavor. The meat is a little more firm when it’s cold, which gives it a nice texture to add to your salads or sandwiches.
It also has a slightly milder flavor when it is cold, so it won’t overwhelm any of the other flavors in the dish you add it to.
Precautions To Consider Before Eating Cooked Chicken Cold
Before you eat your cold cooked chicken, there are a few precautions you will want to consider to make sure you don’t get sick from any bacterial growth on your meat.
Here’s what to do when eating cooked chicken cold:
- Make sure you have fully cooked your chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill off any bacteria such as salmonella. You cannot eat cold uncooked chicken.
- Let the meat cool to room temperature before storing it in the fridge.
- When storing your cooked chicken, make sure it is in an airtight container or zipper bag. You will want to write the date that you made the chicken on a piece of masking tape and stick it to the container so that you don’t eat old meat.
- Use your cooked chicken within 4 days. The longer the chicken sits in the fridge, the more bacteria can start to grow, which could make you sick if you eat old chicken. That’s why we recommend writing the date you cooked it on the container to prevent illness.
- Store your cooked chicken away from any raw meat in the fridge. A good rule of thumb to follow is that raw meat goes on the bottom shelf of the fridge and cooked meat goes on the shelf above it to prevent any cross contamination.
How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last In The Fridge?
If you are batch cooking your chicken to have some easy sources of protein for the week, then you will want to make sure you don’t cook more than you can eat in 4 days. Cooked chicken will stay fresh and healthy in the fridge for up to 4 days.
If you leave your chicken in the fridge for longer than that, it can start to grow harmful bacteria.
These bacteria can make you sick if they are consumed at high levels, so to stay safe and healthy make sure you eat your cooked chicken within 4 days.
To safely refrigerate your chicken follow these steps:
- Cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Let your chicken cool to room temperature. This should be done within 2 hours. If you get to the 2-hour mark and it’s not completely cooled, put it in the fridge anyway to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Once your chicken is cooled, place it in an airtight container or freezer bag and tightly seal it.
- Take a piece of masking tape and write the date and contents on it, then stick it to your container or bag of chicken.
- Place your cooked chicken in the fridge away from any raw meats to prevent cross contamination.
- Eat your cooked chicken within 4 days.
How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last In The Freezer?
If you want to cook a really big batch of chicken to last you the week, then we recommend that you portion and freeze so that you can take out your daily serving size as needed.
This process will prevent your chicken from growing any harmful bacteria.
Once you have cooked your chicken, it will last in the freezer for about 6 months. After this point, it is still typically safe to eat, but the flavor is likely not going to be very good and it could be freezer burnt.
That’s why using containers with an airtight seal is crucial for long-lasting freshness.
To properly prepare cooked chicken for the freezer, follow these steps:
- Make sure that you fully cook your chicken to an internal temperature of at least 165°F. We recommend investing in a meat thermometer for best results.
- Fully cool your chicken to room temperature, making sure that you don’t leave it out for more than 2 hours to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Once your chicken is cooled, portion it out into individual or family serving sizes.
- Place the portioned chicken in airtight containers or freezer bags.
- If using containers, you might want to gently press a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the chicken to protect it from the cold air and freezer burn. Then seal the container as usual.
- If you’re using a freezer bag, press all the air out of the bag and then seal completely.
- Take a piece of masking tape and write the date and contents on it. Place the tape on your container or freezer bag. This step will help ensure you remember what you cooked and when so you don’t eat food that has passed it’s best-by date.
- Place your portioned chicken into the freeze and use within 6 months for best results.
How Long Does Raw Chicken Last In The Fridge?
When you buy raw chicken from the grocery store to prepare, make sure that you cook it within 2 days of purchasing it. Typically, there will be a best-before date on the package that you purchase, so always stick to that date for safest results.
If there is no date on your package, make sure you cook your raw chicken within 2 days to prevent it from spoiling.
Raw chicken naturally contains bacteria that grow and multiply the longer they are left in the fridge. Some of these bacteria, such as salmonella, can make you incredibly sick if you eat them.
To prevent any illness or food poisoning, the best guidelines to follow is to cook your raw chicken within 2 days of purchasing it from the store.
After it is cooked, you can keep it in the fridge for another 4 days. If you don’t eat it within that time, it can last in the freezer for up to 6 months.
How Can I Tell If My Raw Chicken Is Spoiled?
When it comes to figuring out if your chicken is spoiled there are a few telltale signs that you can look for.
- Raw chicken should be a light pink color with yellowish-white bits of fat (breast meat will have less fat thighs and drumsticks).
- Uncooked chicken should not have any noticeable smell.
- Your uncooked chicken should be soft and moist to the touch.
- Spoiled chicken will be slimy to the touch.
- Chicken that is unsafe to eat will have a strong or unpleasant smell.
- Instead of looking light pink, chicken that has spoiled may turn a grey, yellowish, or green color.
If your chicken has any of the above characteristics, immediately throw it away.
The risk of getting ill is quite high and washing your chicken (please never do this- it just spreads bacteria all over your kitchen) or cooking it will not get rid of all the harmful bacteria.
How Long Does Raw Chicken Last In The Freezer?
Sometimes we go to the grocery store with the best of intentions. We buy a big package of chicken to batch cook for the week, but then life happens and our good intentions fly out the window.
The 2 day mark creeps closer and you know you’re not going to be able to cook your chicken before then.
Well, never fear! Freezing raw chicken is a great way to preserve it until you’re ready to get cooking.
Raw chicken that is cut into pieces (breasts, thighs, wings, drumsticks) can last in the freezer for up to 9 months. Whole chickens can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.
How To Store Raw Chicken In The Freezer
To store your raw chicken in the freezer you have a couple of choices.
If you are planning on freezing a whole chicken, then you don’t need to do anything special. Just freeze it in the sealed bag it came in.
If you have already removed it from that bag, pop it back into a freezer bag, press out all the air, and seal it up. Write the date on it before popping it in the freezer.
To freeze pieces of chicken, follow these steps:
- Portion your chicken into the amounts you will use at one time. If you have bought a bulk pack, that means separating it into smaller amounts. You don’t want to have to thaw the whole package only to use 1-2 pieces since you shouldn’t refreeze it once it has thawed.
- Once you have portioned out your chicken, place it in appropriately sized freezer bags.
- Gently press all the air out of the bag to prevent freezer burn and then seal it up.
- Take a piece of masking tape and write the date on it so that you know when you froze your chicken.
- Use the chicken within 9 months.
How To Cook The Perfect Chicken Breast
Sometimes it can be challenging to cook chicken and prevent it from going rubbery. So here are our tips for cooking the perfect chicken breast every time.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp thyme
- Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- In a bowl, toss together chicken breasts, olive oil, sea salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, and pepper until fully coated.
- Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Roast for 10 minutes, flip, and cook for another 10 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F or the juices run clear. Test at the thickest part of the breast.
- Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- Slice into strips and serve over quinoa salad, in noodle bowls, in rice wraps, etc. Can be sealed in sandwich bags and frozen for a quick thaw-and-eat protein!
How To Cook The Best Lemon Herb Roasted Whole Chicken
- 1 whole chicken
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- A combination of your favorite fresh herbs, approximately 1-2 tsp each.
- Try: sage, rosemary, basil, garlic, shallot/onion, and thyme as a delicious combination.
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp poultry seasoning
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Cut small slices in the skin of the chicken at the back of the breast meat and at the bottom of either thigh.
- Mix herbs, salt, onion, and garlic with the butter.
- Stuff butter and herb mixture under the slits in the chicken breast skin, massaging up towards the front of the chicken to ensure even spread. Repeat on thighs/drumsticks. You may need to work your fingers under the skin to separate it from the meat.
- Rub olive oil over the chicken skin and sprinkle with a little more salt and the poultry seasoning.
- Roast uncovered at 375 for 45 minutes, then pour the lemon juice over the top of the chicken and baste with the juices.
- Continue roasting until the internal temperature reaches 165°F in the breast meat and thighs. You might want to baste every 15 minutes or so.
- Remove from oven and let the chicken rest for 15 minutes so that the juices won’t escape when you cut into the meat.
- Carve your chicken and enjoy! You can use the pan juices to make a delicious gravy to complement the meat.
- Can be carved, chilled, and used in salads, wraps, sandwiches, or soups.
Up Next: Can You Freeze Chicken Salad?