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How Long Can Fried Chicken Sit Out?

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Let’s be honest, we are all guilty of leaving meat out for longer than it probably should! But why are people always freaking out about properly storing cooked chicken if you haven’t gotten sick yet? 

How long can fried chicken sit out for? Well, a good rule of thumb is that fried chicken can only sit out for 1 hour if the temperature is between 90-140ºF. If the temperature is around 40-89ºF it can sit out for 2 hours, but no more than that!

Today we will look at exactly what the risks are in leaving food out and why you sometimes don’t get sick. We will also look at more precise time frames and the shelf life of fried chicken when stored in various ways.

Finally, we will look at exactly how to store chicken in the fridge and freezer! So, are you ready to jump into this packed article?

How Fried Chicken Is Made

Fried chicken is a fast food staple! While all being categorized in the same manner, there is a ton of different ways in which fried chicken is made.

They can use different coatings and different flavoring ingredients, all of which create a unique fried crispy coating.

Now, before you question why this section is relevant, in short, it will help you better determine what makes it go bad, how quickly it can go bad, and how to properly store them.

All of this will also help answer whether or not you can leave the chicken out and for how long. So, let’s get started!

All fried chicken should have a crispy coating. However, there are 3 main ways this is achieved, all producing very different textures.

1. Panko-Crumbed (Coarse-crumbed)

The first is the classic Panko-crumbed chicken. Panko is essentially a special coarse crumb that produces uber crispy coatings.

Often other types of coarse products (like potato crisps) are used too. This coating is made using the pané technique.

First, you coat the chicken in flour, then egg, then Panko crumbs. The process can be repeated to get a smooth uniform layer. Once deep-fried, your chicken is super crunchy!

The downside to Panko-crumbed chicken is that it isn’t easy to flavor with other ingredients and spices. However, it does stay crispy for a while.

2. Fine-Crumbed Chicken

Fine-crumbed fried chicken is exactly what the name suggests. It is essentially fried chicken that has been coated in a much finer crumb than Panko. This still makes the chicken crispy, however, it won’t stay crisp for as long.

Now, the upside to using a finer crumb like this is that you can much more easily season it. That makes the chicken more flavorful!

3. Tempura Coating

Tempura fried chicken is still crispy but made in an entirely different way. It is made using a tempura batter.

The basic ingredients of this batter are flour and water. Many people also add a ton of dried herbs and spices to make it more delicious.

The biggest downside to this type of crisp fried chicken is that it doesn’t stay crisp for very long. This is because the coating itself contains a lot of moisture, even after it has been fried.

How Long Can Fried Chicken Sit Out?

We’ll skip a few details, but bottom line is that you can only leave fried chicken at room temperature for a maximum of one to two hours. Now, let’s get into the more of the dirty details as to why and what happens if you leave it out for longer.

There is a temperature range in which bacteria thrive; this is known as the temperature danger zone and ranges between 40-140ºF. Within this range, bacteria rapidly multiply.

After about 2 hours, they would have reached extremely high numbers, which instantly makes the food much riskier to consume. 

If the temperature of the room is above 90ºF, the USDA only recommends leaving it out for 1 hour.  

Now, you may be asking why is it then that many people leave food out overnight without them getting sick?

Well, the simplest explanation is that the environment didn’t contain any harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning.

It is the same as only some chicken containing the salmonella strain of bacteria while others don’t. It is simply a matter of luck.

Not leaving food out is a simple way to entirely prevent getting sick. So, let’s have a look at what the potential side effects may be of eating fried chicken that has been sitting out for longer than 2 hours.

Storage SpaceStorage TemperatureShelf Life
Room Temperature90-140ºF1 hour
Room Temperature40-89ºF2 hours
Fridge32-40ºF3-4 days
Freezer0ºF2-3 months

Fried Chicken Left Out Overnight – Risks Involved

As we have mentioned, the chicken shouldn’t be left out for longer than 2 hours. Leaving it out overnight is a complete no-go! The risks involved are simply too high.

The main types of bacteria that can potentially grow on fried chicken include salmonella, e-Coli, and Campylobacter.

All of these cause severe food poisoning. This is worsened if your fried chicken has been undercooked, then left out.

The most common symptoms of food poisoning from chicken include an upset stomach and stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and a very high fever.

These symptoms can appear as quickly as 1 hour after consuming the bacteria!

And unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all cure for it. Very mild food poisoning symptoms do disappear on their own or when using over-the-counter medicine.

However, with more severe symptoms, a trip to the hospital is very common.

How To Tell If Fried Chicken Has Gone Bad

If you have left the fried chicken out for longer than 1-2 hours, then we recommend safely disposing of it, no matter if it shows any visible signs of deterioration.

But, if you have properly stored your fried chicken inside of the fridge, here is how you can tell when it has gone bad.

Physical Changes

There are a couple of physical changes that immediately say “this chicken is bad”. Naturally, when storing chicken inside of the fridge, the crispy coating will absorb moisture and no longer be crunchy.

However, some changes accompanying this will be a dead give-away of bad chicken.

If a slimy film starts appearing on the surface of the chicken (on top or underneath the coating) the chicken should immediately be discarded.

Furthermore, if you see any coloration changes on the skin, you should look for other signs of bad chicken.

A slight change in the shade doesn’t necessarily mean the chicken is bad. However, it could be a sign of the start of deterioration. But any big color change or the appearance of darker or lighter spots is!

And, if the physical texture or consistency of the chicken changes in any way, you should rather discard it.

Visible Signs Of Mold

Naturally, once mold starts becoming visible, you shouldn’t eat the chicken. And trust us when we say, with meat, there is no such thing as good mold and bad mold!

Protein is highly perishable. While it is sometimes okay to wipe away some white mold on a peach or blueberry, it is not recommended with meat!

Once any type of mold starts appearing on the surface of your fried chicken, it means that it is overrun with bacteria.


Odors are another tell-tale sign that meat has gone bad. And if you have never experienced rotting meat before, once you do, you will never forget the smell!

First, the chicken will only show a slight change in smell. It will have a slightly acidic or tart odor to it. However, this will soon change to pure decaying meat

Judging the potential risks involved by only a smell can be difficult. So, if you ever notice a change in odors but aren’t sure whether it is bad or not, still discard the meat. Rather be safe than sorry later! 

Flavor Changes

If you still accidentally consume bad fried chicken, then you will immediately notice a sour flavor.

Do not swallow! Immediately spit out the chicken and throw away the rest.

General Shelf Life

And finally, you can also take into account the general shelf life of fried chicken. The crispy skin going soft isn’t an indication of chicken going bad.

Once it starts absorbing moisture inside the fridge, as it naturally will, it gets soft and has to be re-crisped for the same texture.

Fried chicken, if properly stored, can last up to 4 days inside the fridge. However, we always recommend using it within a day or two at most. This will ensure that it is safe to eat and that it still has a nice flavor and texture.

If you have bought chicken that was on the verge of expiring, rather try and eat or use the chicken immediately. Because it is already not as fresh anymore, you cannot store it for the same amount of time you would fresh chicken.

How To Properly Store Fried Chicken In The Fridge

First, allow the chicken to cool at room temperature for roughly 30 minutes to 1 hour. It will be cool enough after 30 minutes to store.

Remember, do not keep chicken at room temperature for longer than 1 hour if stored at 90-140ºF.

Then, place your fried chicken on a piece of kitchen towel inside of an airtight container.

We prefer using glass containers (such as these ones) as they are completely free of bacteria. Plastic containers may still contain bacteria between scratched areas and grooves.

Once inside the container, seal it with a lid or wrap it tightly with plastic or saran wrap. It should be completely airtight. You can also place your cooked cooled fried chicken inside a resealable plastic bag.

Then, place it inside the fridge away from any raw meats, fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, or eggs. Your fridge should also have a stable temperature at or below 40ºF.

How To Reheat Fried Chicken

The best way to reheat fried chicken is to deep-fry it again in hot oil. This will help remove the excess moisture absorbed in the fridge.

Ultimately, it will give you the same (or close to the same) crispy texture that the chicken originally had.

You can also reheat the crispy fried chicken inside of an air fryer. This option is much healthier than deep-frying as it doesn’t use any oil. Ultimately, this reduces the calorie count while still giving you crisp chicken.

Another method you could use is reheating fried chicken in the oven. You have to use a very high temperature and preferably a convection oven setting (fan over setting).

This technique can work, but it doesn’t always give you crispy chicken.

And, if you aren’t looking for a crispy texture at all, you can of course reheat the fried chicken inside of the microwave. It is the quickest method to use.

Can You Freeze Fried Chicken?

You can freeze fried chicken, but we don’t recommend it. It is nearly impossible to get the same crispy texture and flavor once thawed. Not to mention, the chicken will lose its juiciness too!

However, if you are fine with this, you can place the cooled chicken into an airtight container (without any paper towels).

Then, ensure the container is tightly sealed. We also recommend covering the entire container with a layer of foil. This will help protect it against freezer burn.

Label your container with what is inside, when it was made, when it was frozen, and what the estimated use-by date is.

You can store the chicken inside the freezer for a couple of months. But, we recommend using it within one or two months of being frozen.

How To Thaw Fried Chicken

When thawing fried chicken, the best way to do so is slowly inside the fridge. Remove the layer of foil and place the entire container in the fridge. The chicken will slowly thaw overnight.

Then, once ready to reheat, look at some of the best techniques we have mentioned above.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gone over how long fried chicken can sit out, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

Can you eat fried chicken that was left out overnight during winter?

Even during the cold winter months, the fried chicken should still be placed inside the fridge.

While the room temperature may be cooler than in the summer, bacteria isn’t completely dead and will still reproduce.

So, when left out for hours (overnight), you are giving them a warmer temperature than 40ºF in which they can reproduce rapidly.

Do these rules apply to fast-food fried chicken?

These rules apply to all types of fried chicken (even cooked chicken).

It doesn’t matter whether or not it has been homemade, store-bought, or bought from a restaurant. Chicken is chicken and the rules stay the same.

How long can raw chicken sit out?

Raw chicken follows the same timeline and rules that cooked fried chicken does. It can also only sit out for 1-2 hours depending on the room’s temperature.

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