Can You Leave Cooked Chicken Out Overnight?

Whole roast chicken

Chicken is such a versatile ingredient, and it’s ideal to use in sandwiches or salads the next day. A whole chicken is also very cost-effective way to cook, whether you’re making food for one or the whole family.

You might have cooked chicken left over from dinner, or you may even have cooked a chicken a day in advance.

But what happens when you forget to put it in the fridge? If a cooked chicken is left on the side overnight, can you still eat it the next day?

These are important questions, but we’ve got the answers you need below.


Can You Eat Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight?

There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling of walking into the kitchen and spotting the chicken that you forgot to refrigerate. If it looks OK and smells fine, is it safe to eat?

Sadly not.

Cooked meat shouldn’t be left without being refrigerated for longer than two hours. If it’s at room temperature for more than two hours bacteria can start to build up to unsafe levels.

These bacteria can’t be detected by smell or taste so if you eat the chicken, you’ll only find out when you become unwell.

You may have heard suggestions that heating the chicken up again will kill off any bacteria but that’s unfortunately not the case.

While some bacteria will be destroyed by heating the chicken, other types of bacteria are able to produce toxins which are heat-resistant.

This means that once the chicken has been left unrefrigerated for two hours or more, there’s simply no way of knowing whether it has been contaminated.

Chicken steak on plate

Can You Get Salmonella from Cooked Chicken Left Out?

Salmonella can cause very unpleasant physical effects indulging stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.

It is most associated with eating undercooked or raw foods, but it can also be caught from cooked food which hasn’t been handled correctly such as chicken left out overnight.

Bacteria in chicken is eliminated when it is cooked, but as the chicken cools, bacteria can rapidly multiply.

The biggest risk for this is between 8°C and 60°C; chilling the chicken as quickly as possible reduces the opportunity for bacteria to grow.

If a chicken has been left out overnight and salmonella bacteria have developed, refrigerating the chicken will not get rid of the toxins. You will still be unwell if you eat the chicken. This is why it’s important to only eat chicken when you can be sure that it’s been handled correctly.


Can I Put Warm Chicken in the Fridge?

It’s easy to forget about a cooked chicken if you leave it on the side to cool before placing it in the fridge.

The good news is that there is no reason you can’t place warm chicken in the fridge. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t become ill by moving your chicken to the fridge while it’s warm. In fact, by moving it to the fridge while it’s still warm, you actually reduce the risk of contamination.

However, there is a difference between warm chicken and hot chicken. While it’s fine to put warm chicken in the fridge you should never place very hot chicken in the fridge. This is because hot chicken can warm the air inside the fridge and cause food to spoil.

Warm food is above room temperature but not scalding to the touch. If you need to move your hand away quickly to prevent it being burnt, the chicken is still too warm for the fridge.