How Long Can Chicken Nuggets Sit Out?

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Many people are under the misconception that chicken nuggets don’t follow the same storage rules and techniques as regular chicken does. All because they are (usually) precooked before being frozen.

But today, we are here to clear all that up and reveal the shocking consequences of taking shortcuts or skipping steps.

So, how long can chicken nuggets sit out? Just like regular raw and cooked chicken products, chicken nuggets can only sit at room temperature for 2 hours at the most. Anything more than this and bacteria can begin to multiply quickly and increase the chances of foodborne illnesses.

Today, we will dive deep into exactly how long different kinds of chicken nuggets can sit out, how to properly store them, and the risks involved with eating bad chicken.

You can check out our website for loads more educational and potentially life-saving, topics like this! Let’s get started!

How Long Can Cooked Chicken Nuggets Sit Out At Room Temperature?

As everybody knows by now, fresh (raw) meat, especially raw chicken, is highly perishable. It is an ingredient that could potentially carry a lot of bacteria that is extremely dangerous if consumed in high amounts. 

In fact, chicken causes around 1 million cases of food poisoning in the United States EVERY YEAR!

That’s why it is extremely important to always buy fresh chicken from a reputable supplier, make sure you cook it until it has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165⁰F (74⁰C), and that you always store it under ideal conditions (including temperatures).

Now, for some reason, many people seem to believe that the same rules don’t apply to chicken nuggets.

This is likely because most chicken nugget products have been precooked.

But sorry to say, even chicken nuggets (cooked or uncooked) have to follow the same rules to remain safe to eat.

So, how long can chicken nuggets sit at room temperature?

If you are talking about cooked chicken nuggets, they should only be kept at room temperature for 2 hours, no more than that.

Furthermore, that’s only if the temperature of the room is between 68-72⁰F (20-22ºC).

And to get even more technical, ideally, the humidity should only be between 30-50% – never exceeding 60%.

Why Do Temperature And Humidity Affect It?

Now, you may be wondering why we are pulling out these very specific temperature and humidity ranges.

That’s because they affect the ultimate amount of time you can leave chicken nuggets out for.

If the humidity is higher than 60%, that time decreases significantly. If the temperature falls above 72⁰F (22⁰C), the time is decreased as well.

However, if you live in a snowy region with no internal heating (anywhere where”room temperature” is very cold), you may be able to leave the chicken nuggets outside for a little longer.

For safety’s sake, and as a general rule of thumb, never exceed 2 hours. Any potentially harmful bacteria could produce dangerous numbers, which WILL cause food poisoning.

How Long Can Frozen Chicken Nuggets Sit Out?

Frozen chicken nuggets can sit out at room temperature for slightly longer than cooked ones can. This applies to both uncooked frozen, pre-cooked, and cooked frozen nuggets.

While the USDA and FDA still recommend 2 hours, we usually feel safe with 2 1/2 hours. 

That’s because the chicken nuggets first need to thaw at room temperature. Once thawed, they are still pretty cold and will take more time to come to room temperature first. Only when they have thawed does the 2-hour timer start.

If you are worried about the risks, it’s best to keep that time at 2 hours.

And again, if the temperature and humidity of the room are high, you shouldn’t leave the nuggets out for as long.

How Long Can Raw (Uncooked) Chicken Nuggets Sit Out?

Now, while traditionally chicken nuggets are bought frozen before being cooked (from frozen), there are some exceptions.

If you are making chicken nuggets from scratch, they will likely not be frozen. In that case, we don’t recommend leaving them out for very long. 

The main reason is that you kept them outside while preparing them and then before cooking them.

The overall time the raw chicken spent outside the fridge will ultimately be close to 2 hours.

So, at the most, it’s safe to leave for 30 minutes. 

That being said, if you’ve made crumbed or battered chicken nuggets, it’s best to cook them immediately. This is the only way to ensure they retain their crispy texture and become beautifully golden brown.

Risks Of Eating Chicken Nuggets That Sat Out

Now, we’ve talked non-stop about how long you can leave different types of chicken nuggets at room temperature, but what’s the big deal?

What could happen that is SO bad? To put it bluntly, you could get quite sick.

Chicken is HIGHLY susceptible to bacterial growth. This includes Campylobacter bacteria, Salmonella, and Clostridium Pefringens bacteria (amongst many others). These are all extremely dangerous when consumed in even small quantities.

The longer chicken stays out, the more bacteria can reproduce and grow to dangerous numbers.

At some point when leaving the chicken in the temperature danger zone, usually starting around the 2-hour mark, their numbers will cause food poisoning.

This can include mild to severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and a fever. In turn, these symptoms lead to other conditions, like dehydration, damage to your nervous system, kidney damage, and as we’ve mentioned, potentially even death.

Every year, about 3000 people die from food poisoning in the United States alone, and roughly 128 000 people are hospitalized.

So, as you can see, something as innocent as leaving nuggets out for longer than 2 hours can cost you dearly. It’s always better to take the safe route than suffer the consequences.

How To Tell If Your Chicken Nuggets Have Gone Bad

If you left your chicken nuggets at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, it’s best to let them go. It is simply not worth the risk.

And without a microscope and vast knowledge of bacteria, you will never truly know if they are safe to eat.

Now, if you have cooked or thawed some chicken nuggets and don’t know whether they are fine or not, here are some spoilage signs you can look out for:

Slimy Or Sticky Film

This is one of the first signs of spoilage for crumbed or battered chicken nuggets. The bacteria produce slimy which immediately reacts with the coating. This causes it to become slimy.

It’s a dead giveaway. And no, there is nothing you can do about it. And wiping it off isn’t a good idea at all and neither is re-cooking it to 165⁰F. The damage has been done.


The older the nuggets become, the paler their color will be. But bacteria can also be a cause of discoloration.

If you notice any spots, mold growth, or obvious color differences in a batch of nuggets, they have likely gone bad.

Funky Smell

Spoiling food smells bad, especially meat. Chicken nuggets specifically will likely have a sour, rancid, and acidic smell.

Even if it is a tiny whiff, it’s better to toss the batch.

Mushy Texture

Even nuggets that have been in the fridge for a while shouldn’t have a mushy texture. This can be caused by freezer burn, but it really depends on son the degree of “mush.”

If you have cooked the nuggets and they are squishy, look out for any other signs of spoilage. 

How To Properly Store Cooked Chicken Nuggets

So, if you aren’t sure about the proper steps for storing chicken nuggets, this guide will come in handy.

If you’ve already cooked the nuggets, keep in mind that any crispy batter or crumbly coating won’t keep well in the fridge. You will need to re-crisp them again when you reheat them in the air-fryer, oven, or deep-fryer.

To store these cooked nuggets, simply place them in a resealable airtight bag or container. You can now place the nuggets inside the fridge, preferably at the top and back.

Keep the cooked nuggets away from raw meat, fresh produce (fruits and vegetables), dairy products, and eggs. Always store your cooked foods together.

Stored cooked nuggets will last about 2 days in the fridge. But it’s always best to eat them as soon as possible.

How To Properly Store Uncooked Chicken Nuggets

If you’ve freshly made nuggets at home, you should freeze them if you won’t be cooking them within the hour. This is the only way to prevent the breading from becoming super soggy.

To freeze fresh uncooked nuggets, place them on a lined baking sheet. Leave them in the freezer for at least 1 hour. Once they’ve hardened on the outside, you can place them in an airtight container or bag.

We like to place the chicken nuggets in layers separated from wax paper. This way, they don’t get stuck together, and you can more easily remove the exact number of nuggets you need.

Once frozen, store your nuggets in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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