I Left Cooked Chicken Out Overnight – Is It Still Safe?

cooked chicken left out overnight

Do you have cooked chicken left out overnight?

Don’t worry, whether it’s because you had a tiring day or you just forgot to put the chicken in the fridge when clearing the table, we’ve all left out chicken overnight. But since you put in the effort to cook it and you might be hungry in the morning, you might be wondering if it’s safe to eat.

Food left out in the open air and at room temperature isn’t as safe as food kept in the fridge. However, some foods can stay out in the open for a while without going bad. And in this article, we’ll discover if the chicken is one of them.

If you’re wondering if you can eat that piece of chicken left on the table from last night’s dinner, you’ve come to the right place.

Read on to learn more.

Is Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight Safe?

This depends on your definition of overnight. But in most cases, cooked chicken left out at room temperature overnight is not safe for consumption. In fact, the USDA only recommends that people eat chicken if it has been out in the open for no more than two hours. And if the room temperature is more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then you can only safely leave the cooked chicken out in the open for one hour.

When you cook chicken and leave it out, bacteria can grow rapidly in the meat – much faster than when raw. This is because cooked chicken usually has an internal temperature between 40 degrees and 140 degrees, depending on how long you left it out, and that is the ideal temperature for bacteria to reproduce.

So, if you cooked chicken last night and forgot to refrigerate it, it’s sad to say that you have to throw it out in the morning because it is no longer safe to eat.

Can I Reheat Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight?

Reheat Cooked Chicken Left Out Overnight

While you can’t eat chicken that’s left out overnight, you may be wondering if you can reheat it to kill the bacteria and make it safe for consumption.

While reheating food can kill some bacteria, it doesn’t kill all bacteria. For example, staphylococcus aureus (staph) is a heat-resistant toxin. So, no matter how much you reheat your chicken, you won’t be able to kill the bacteria.

This type of bacteria can make you fairly sick. So, to stay on the safe side, most experts recommend that you don’t leave eat chicken that’s been left out overnight, even if you’ve reheated it.

How Long Will Cooked Chicken Stay Safe In Room Temperature?

This can vary depending on the temperature of your room. However, in most cases, two hours is the absolute maximum you can leave the cooked chicken out at room temperature. Anything longer than that, toss the chicken out. While it may look and smell safe to eat, bacteria had a lot of time to reproduce in prime conditions inside the chicken, so it’s better to stay safe and find something else to eat.

However, keep in mind that this can vary depending on the room. The warmer the temperature of the room, the less time you can leave out the cooked chicken. If the room is warmer than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then you shouldn’t leave out the chicken for any longer than 1 hour.

This goes for most perishable goods. So, aside from cooked chicken, this includes dairy, seafood, tofu, cooked rice, pasta, vegetables, and fresh fruits. To keep your food fresh and safe for longer, we recommend keeping it in the fridge if you aren’t going to eat it.

How Long Can I Leave Raw Chicken At Room Temperature?

Cooked chicken can’t stay out at room temperature that long. And if you’ve defrosted the chicken but haven’t cooked it yet, it’s still best to throw it out if it’s been exposed longer than two hours. If the chicken is out thawing, make sure to wrap it to prevent bacteria from entering. But since the internal temperature is low, you can keep it out a bit longer. However, make sure to cook it right after it thaws to be safe.

If the chicken has already thawed, then the temperature will be below 150 degrees and between 40 to 140 degrees. This is not a safe temperature for chicken, as it allows the bacteria to grow and multiply at a very rapid rate. That means if it’s out at room temperature for any longer than 2 hours, it isn’t safe to eat.

What Temperature Should I Cook My Chicken?

stack of grilled chicken on a skewer in a restaurant

When cooking chicken, the ideal internal temperature to aim for is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, all the bacteria will be eliminated but you will retain the juicy texture and great flavor of the meat. 150 degrees might be fine if you’re in a hurry, but to ensure your chicken is completely safe to eat, most experts recommend waiting until 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

When you cook chicken and other meat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, you eliminate most of the harmful bacteria like salmonella. Remember, you aren’t just cooking food for it to taste good, but you’re also cooking to make it safe for consumption.

How Long Will Chicken Stay Good In the Fridge?

If you have raw chicken, you can leave it in the fridge for 1-2 days without worrying about it going bad. And with cooked chicken, you can leave it in the fridge for up to 3-4 days before it goes bad.

With that said, if you take out the chicken and have any suspicions, it’s best to throw it out. So, if your chicken has a certain odor, sight, or texture that you don’t think is normal, it’s better to stay on the safe side and find something else to eat.


While it can be incredibly annoying to find out that you forgot to put the chicken in the fridge before going to bed, it’s important not to eat the chicken when you wake up. No matter how good it looks or smells, if left out overnight, the bacteria in the chicken had more than enough time to become harmful and dangerous.


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