How Long Can Raw Chicken Be Left Out Of The Fridge?

You have put the raw chicken you just bought out in the open by mistake, and now you are wondering whether it is still good for cooking or not.

Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered. It’s true that raw foods are highly sensitive to the environment and chicken is no exception too. You cannot leave it outside the fridge for a long time. But how long?

It is recommended not to leave out the raw chicken for more than one to two hours in the open. If the room temperature is below 90 Fahrenheit (32℃), you can sit out the raw chicken for two hours, and the quality won’t go bad. But if the temperature is above 90 degrees (32℃), then the maximum time limit is one hour.

If you want to know what to do when you leave the chicken for too long and whether you can still eat it, then stay with me till the end.

Key Takeaways

  • If the room temperature is less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32℃), then you can leave the chicken for two hours.
  • If the room temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32℃), you can put the chicken out in the open for less than one hour.
  • If you sit the raw chicken out for more than two hours, its smell, appearance, and texture will change.
  • Bad chicken can cause food poisoning, diarrhea, stomach pain, and many other health problems.

Let’s now see the details!

Guidelines About Leaving The Raw Chicken Out Of The Fridge

The United States Department of Agriculture(USDA)has issued detailed food safety guidelines. According to the USDA, you can leave the raw chicken out in the open for almost two hours if the temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit 32℃). If the temperature is above, then don’t leave the chicken for more than an hour.

There is a two-hour timeline for less than 90 degrees F 32℃) because bacterial growth is slow when the temperature is low.

Bacteria are the main reason why foods go bad, and it does not tolerate a cool environment. That is why experts suggest you put your food in the fridge. The temperature is low in it, and the food doesn’t get spoiled.

So, note down the two timelines and make sure you don’t leave the raw chicken out for a longer period in the future.

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But what if you put the raw chicken on the kitchen counter, forget about it, and then remember it after three or four hours (or longer)? What should be done then?

What To Do If You Leave The Chicken Out For More Than Two Hours?

USDA suggests you don’t cook or store such raw meat that is left out in the open for more than two hours. The reason is that the bacteria would have already spread in all parts after two hours, so this meat is now a health hazard. Thus, throwing the whole meat away is probably the best option.

Some say that heating kills the bacteria, so you should just heat the meat and eat it without worry.

Well, it’s true that heating does kill bacteria, but it is not enough to get rid of all of them. After heating, some bacteria will still be left, which would be enough to cause health problems.

Now, it’s time to know why you should never leave raw chicken out of the fridge.

Why Can’t Raw Chicken Be Left Out Of The Fridge For Too Long?

You already read that bacterial growth occurs when you leave the raw chicken at room temperature. It is indeed the biggest reason why experts suggest refrigerating raw chicken.

But there are many other reasons why sitting out raw chicken in the open is bad, and you should know about them too.

These are:

  • Dust- Since there is dust in the surroundings, the raw chicken can get polluted and eventually spoil. There are also bacteria and other microorganisms in the dust.
  • Air Exposure- Air can take away the raw chicken’s moisture, leading to a downgrade in the quality and tenderness.
  • Sunlight- You may leave the raw chicken in the area where there is sunlight. This can also cause a loss of moisture in raw chicken, and wrinkles will start appearing on the meat.

These three factors can cause problems whether you leave the chicken for a few minutes or a few hours. Luckily, there is a way you can safely leave the meat in the open.

How Can You Safely Leave Raw Chicken Out Of The Fridge?

You should do two things if you want to leave the chicken meat at room temperature without affecting its quality.

1.   Package/ Cover It

If you want to leave the chicken, you should cover or package it. You can use aluminum foil, zip bags, butcher’s paper, or a clean cloth.

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2.   Adjust Room Temperature

Adjust the thermostat of your room to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit so that you can put the raw chicken in for almost two hours. When you lower the temperature, bacterial growth will be super slow.

Now, let’s see what will happen if you eat chicken that was left out for more than two hours outside the fridge.

What Happens If You Eat Raw Chicken That Is Out Of The Fridge For Too Long?

When you eat raw chicken that is left out of the fridge for more than two hours, you will face food poisoning, stomach ache, diarrhea, and food-borne diseases (due to bacteria).

The bacteria that cause health complications are:

  • Pseudomonas (chills and fever).
  • Salmonella (diarrhea and abdominal pain).
  • E. Coli (kidney problems).
  • Putrefaciens (Nausea and vomiting).

So, you must refrigerate or freeze the raw chicken. But people don’t know how to do this properly and end up with bad-quality meat anyway. Don’t worry; I’m now discussing how you can properly freeze raw chicken.

How To Properly Freeze Raw Chicken?

The key to properly freezing raw chicken meat is the packaging.

For a shorter period: Zip lock bags are preferred if you are storing the raw chicken for a shorter period (say four weeks tops).

For a longer period: If you want to store chicken meat for a longer period, then you will need a sealed container or food saver.  

It is better if you wrap the chicken parts in foil or paper first before you put them in the container or saver. This will save the moisture in them and does not allow any outside pathogen to penetrate.

After carefully packing the chicken, you should put a label on it. If there are multiple packages, then you should label each of them individually.

On the label, write what kind of meat it is, which meat part it is, when you are storing it, when you should take it out, or any information that might help you in keeping the chicken in top quality.

How Can You Know That The Raw Chicken Has Gone Bad?

Raw chicken gives off a lot of signs when it goes bad. They are clearly visible when you leave them in the room for more than two hours.

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The signs or symptoms of bad chicken are:

1.   Foul Smell

Bad quality chicken gives off a bad odor, very similar to rotten eggs or sulfur. It is the first and most obvious sign that the meat’s quality has deteriorated.

2.   Change in Appearance

When the raw chicken goes bad, it becomes Slimy. But that’s not it. The color changes too. It gives a pinkish hue and not red.

3.   Texture

When raw chicken goes bad, it becomes extra Stiff in some parts and too soft in others. To check this, press the meaty part, and observe whether it returns to its original shape. If it doesn’t, you should throw away the raw chicken.

4.   You May See Mold Growth

Sometimes, you can clearly see molds on the raw chicken when you leave for hours without attending to it. When you see them, don’t even hesitate for a second and throw away the meat.

So, these are the clear signs that the raw chicken has gone bad when you leave it out of the fridge for too long.

But that’s about raw chicken. Let me now give you an overview of cooked chicken meat.

How Long Can Cooked Chicken be Left Out Of the Fridge?

USDA has issued the same guidelines for cooked chicken as it did for raw chicken. You can leave the cooked chicken out of the fridge for about two hours if the temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is above 90 degrees, you can leave the cooked chicken for one hour.

Also, eat the meat within four days of cooking. After that, there are higher chances of bacterial growth.

Final Words

All-inclusive, raw chicken can be left out of the fridge for two hours if the room temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32℃) and one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees (32℃).

If you put it in the open for longer, bacterial growth will occur, and the meat will definitely go bad. You can also clearly observe a change in the meat’s smell, appearance, and texture when you leave it out of the fridge for too long.

The only thing you should do when the raw chicken meat is left out for more than two hours is to throw it out. Don’t compromise your health!