How Long Can Raw Chicken Sit Out

How Long Can Raw Chicken Sit Out And Stay Safe To Eat

Have you tried going home from a grocery store and realized hours later that you forgot about your ground chicken meat and left it out on the kitchen counter? It definitely gives a little panic attack!

Following the safe and correct methods in handling food is a must in every kitchen, whether at home or in a restaurant. We used to have a food manufacturing business and we had a very detailed food safety plan that was audited regularly by the government and raw chicken meat was one of the most dangerous foods to handle. – so I encourage you to read this article and learn how to handle raw chicken meat, frozen raw chicken, and even leftover chicken.

How to store raw chicken after opening?

People nowadays are being conscious of what they take into their bodies. Hence, any type of food, especially raw chicken, should not sit out for a long period of time and get bacterial contamination as eating salmonella bacteria is not good.

In this article, we will give you the details on how long can raw chicken stay out in the fridge as well as the proper storage and health risks that come with it.  

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How Long Can Raw Chicken Sit Out

An uncooked or raw chicken can only sit out unrefrigerated for a maximum of two hours (the two-hour rule) within a normal room temperature which is 70° Fahrenheit (21°Celsius). If you left your raw chicken breast out at a warmer temperature, then the time to become contaminated chicken will be less as harmful bacteria will grow faster in a warmer environment.

Raw meat, including chicken, is considered highly perishable food, thus it is suggested to keep it refrigerated or frozen at all times.

Is Raw Chicken Safe When I Go Grocery Shopping?

Remember that it may often take more than an hour to go grocery shopping. That is why placing your raw meat in your refrigerator immediately is a must thing do. I will often take a cooler with some ice packs if it is an extremely hot day, especially if I am going to be buying raw chicken, pork, or fish. Get it into your refrigerator as soon as possible.

1. How long can raw chicken sit out at room temperature before it goes bad?

How long can chicken sit out before being refrigerated?

The temperature has significant impact on longevity and the freshness of chicken meat. Specifically, there’s a temperature range in which dangerous bacteria and other food contaminants can multiply four to five times faster than normal. So pay close attention to the room temperature to prevent from spoiling.  The hotter the temperature – the shorter time you will get spoiled chicken.

It’s important to keep food items refrigerated, as bacteria grow most quickly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Storing food in that range is more likely to lead to spoilage. In addition, there’s always the 2-hour rule in cooking so make sure you remember this before removing the chicken from the fridge (bacteria can breed within 2 hours). In the meantime, these bacteria can produce toxins that can even make it deadly to eat. It is important to know the risks associated with a poorly handled raw chicken, as it could lead to food poisoning. Cooking poorly handled chicken can be dangerous if it is not cooked right. So in my mind, it is better to master your food handling technique.

2. How long can raw chicken sit out at prolonged air exposure?

Air (oxygen) is one of the biggest factors that boost bacteria growth (bacteria typically need oxygen to multiply). According to scientists and medical professionals, a portion of raw chicken that is exposed to air can contain a bacteria density that is double the amount of properly stored meat. So whether you keep it in a fridge or not, the air the flows within will make the chicken spoil unless it is covered.

3. How long can raw chicken be left in the fridge and freezer?

Raw chicken can be left in the fridge for around two days. You can keep it longer but for me two days is optimum.

Once it shows signs of spoilage it should be discarded.

The more it stays out, the more it has more room for dangerous bacteria to grow. 

On the other hand, a frozen chicken is safe for several months inside the freezer. Frozen products kept in an airtight sealed container bag will stay safe for up to 9 months.  Drain off the chicken juice before freezing.

How Long Can Thawed Chicken Sit Out

Most people would recommend not letting the thawed chicken sit out longer than one hour. The reason behind the safety concerns about thawed chicken is because when frozen, the meat has been preserved with a low level of nitrates. When the chicken is thawed and then refreezes, these nitrates can convert into nitrites. Nitrites then react with amines to form carcinogenic nitrosamines. 

When thawing meat, including frozen chicken, it is best to put it in the refrigerator, let it sit, and not out in the kitchen.

The reason being – if you thaw chicken in the ambient air – then the inside of the chicken will still be frozen when the outside is already thawed and susceptible to bacterial contamination. (e.g salmonella bacteria)

Frozen Food – it is always best to plan ahead and thaw the perishable food like frozen boneless chicken in the fridge – not in the air, not running it under warm water, and not microwave thawing. Try to plan ahead and take your frozen roast chicken out 2 days ahead and defrost it in the fridge. Place it on a big plate to act as a drip tray and always defrost and store meat on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator, so that if there is a spill of chicken juice – it does not spill onto other food and cross containment that food.

Handling thawed chicken or other meat products that have been out of the safe temperature range for more than 2 hours or more can lead to bacterial food poisoning. Bacteria grows as time passes and it’s able to break down nutrients in the product more effectively, leading to a higher risk of foodborne illness.

How Long Can Fried Chicken Sit Out

Fried Chicken can sit out for no more than 2 hours.

The same with any cooked leftovers containing meat.

What happens if raw chicken is left out? – well this is what the USDA say’s

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) gives the “Danger Zone” label for cooked food, including fried chicken, that is left out between 40 degrees fahrenheit and 140°F for two hours. That range of room temperature allows the harmful bacteria to rapidly grow, making them unsafe to consume. 

However, those food sitting at a temperature of more than 90°F should only be left out for one hour. Otherwise, food served within a hot environment is more likely to give the risk of food poisoning.

Cook Raw Chicken To 165F - Inside Temperature
Cook Raw Chicken To 165F – Inside Temperature

How Can You Tell If Raw Chicken is Already Spoiled

if you have left your fresh, raw chicken out in the kitchen (or wherever it is) for several hours, it has a higher chance of getting spoiled.

Here are the signs that you should watch out for bad chicken

1. Bad Chicken has a grayish color

A fresh chicken will definitely have pinkish flesh. However, some will have a faded pink but it is still considered as good as long as it is not gray. A gray flesh on a chicken means it is totally spoiled. Others would show some dark spots, so you have to check the entire chicken for quality.

A woody white patch on the uncooked chicken is also an indicator of freezer burn. Meaning, it has been frozen and thawed, which is totally safe to eat. You can also discard the white patches if you want.

2. It smells bad

Actually, raw meat does not smell good at all but a spoiled or rotten chicken smells extremely bad. A sharp smell of ammonia, sour odor, or a strong rotten egg odor are indicators of spoiled meat. This usually happens when a chicken is left out at a hot room temperature. 

3. Bad Chicken has a slimy texture

A rotten chicken gives a moist, sticky, and slimy texture along with a stinky smell. You know that it is not good for cooking when it still stays the same even when washed properly. 

A fresh chicken is naturally soft and glossy and texture, while safe to eat cooked chicken or cooked meat is firm and not slimy. 

4. It is past the expiration date

The expiration date and best-by date is the perfect indicator if you are unsure of the quality of your meat. Note that the expiration date and best-by date are two different dates to look out for, they are never the same. 

First, an expiration date is the one that you should follow since manufacturers use this as a basis for the food’s safety. Meaning, it is the deadline for you to follow.

With chicken If you plan to cook later than 2 to 3 days after purchase, then make sure to freeze it to maintain the quality. 

On the other hand, a best-by date is not a deadline by which the food will go bad. Most of the time, meat can still be great after the best-by date if stored properly at home and in the store. 

Is Cooking Chicken Enough to Kill All the Bacteria

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that thorough cooking of meat and poultry can kill bacteria, only if it is done at a safe internal temperature. All types of poultry ( chicken breasts, whole chicken, chicken drums or legs, wings, thighs, mince or ground poultry, even giblets, and also stuffing) should be cooked at an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Using a cooking thermometer is best to ensure the temperature since uncooked or raw poultry usually contains Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter that are all harmful to everyone’s health.

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