What to be careful of when storing cooked chicken in the fridge
According to the Australian Chicken Meat Foundation (ACMF) both Salmonella and Campylobacter are bacteria that occur naturally on a range of foods. In chicken, in particular, they are part of the normal microflora of the chicken gut, where they can live without affecting the chicken. However, some strains of these bacteria can cause illness in humans.
While the ACMF states that significant effort is put into minimising contamination of chicken meat with these bacteria, it’s still very important to be careful when handling raw chicken in the kitchen.
They give two basic rules when handling raw chicken:
- Keep the meat chilled at all times (below 5°C for fresh meat and below -20°C for frozen meat) while storing the meat – below 5°C bacteria slow-down or completely stop multiplying
- Cook chicken meat thoroughly right through, with all parts of the meat to reach at least 75°C during the cooking process – above 75°C, bacteria are destroyed
Is it safe to keep cooked chicken in the fridge?
If stored correctly, it is safe to keep cooked chicken in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Storing chicken in the fridge helps slow bacterial growth, as bacteria tend to grow slower in temperatures below 4°C.
How to store cooked chicken in the fridge
If you’ve cooked too much chicken, or just want to store leftovers for later, here’s the best way to store cooked chicken in the fridge.
After cooking, allow the chicken to cool, and within two hours, wrap it well, then place it on the top shelf of your fridge.
To maximise the shelf life of cooked chicken for safety and quality, refrigerate the chicken in shallow airtight containers or wrap tightly with heavy-duty foil or cling wrap.
Keep cooked chicken away from raw meat.
If you’re not going to use it straight away, you can freeze cooked chicken too. Put the cooked chicken in an airtight container or wrap the food well in freezer bags, freezer wrap or cling film before freezing.
Label it so that you remember what it is and when you froze it, then place in the freezer.
When you’re ready to use it, remove from the freezer and defrost in the microwave using the ‘defrost’ setting, or place in the fridge overnight. Make sure there are no frozen lumps or cold spots in the middle of the chicken. Then reheat it until piping hot.
If properly stored, it will maintain best quality for about 4 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
How can you tell if chicken is off?
Healthline states if you’ve left chicken in the fridge for more than a few days, there’s a chance it has gone bad.
According to the site, below are a few ways to tell if the chicken in your fridge has gone bad:
- It’s past the “best by” date. Chicken — raw and cooked — that has passed its "best if used by/before" date is more likely to have gone bad.
- Changes in colour. Raw and cooked chicken that’s starting to turn a grey-green colour has gone bad. Spots of grey-to-green mould indicate bacterial growth.
- Smell. Both raw and cooked chicken emit an acidic smell that resembles ammonia as it goes bad. However, this scent can be difficult to notice if the chicken has been marinated with sauces, herbs, or spices.
- Texture. Chicken that has a slimy texture has gone bad. Rinsing the chicken will not destroy bacteria. Rather, doing so can spread the bacteria from poultry to other foods, utensils, and surfaces, causing cross-contamination.
If you suspect the chicken in your fridge has gone bad, discard it.
What to do if you have eaten off chicken?
If you've recently eaten chicken and you're suffering from symptoms of diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, fever and fatigue, food poisoning may be the culprit.
Food poisoning may be caused by expired chicken, chicken that is not cooked properly or bacteria from raw chicken that has contaminated other foods.
Consult a doctor if you feel you may have food poisoning from eating chicken.