Can You Leave Cooked Chicken Out Overnight? And How to Thaw It

There seems to be an endless amount of rules when it comes to chicken. What temperature do you cook it to? Can it sit out, and how long? How do you clean the things it touches? And what may not occur to you is can you leave cooked chicken out overnight? What about frozen chicken?

Can You Leave Cooked Chicken Out Overnight?

In short, the answer is no. Once you have cooked your chicken, the risk of getting sick from raw chicken bacteria is gone. However, the cooked chicken should not sit out for more than two hours and less if it is over 90 degrees. After that, the bacteria will multiply, making it safe to consume.

can you leave cooked chicken out overnight

You would think once it has been cooked, that it becomes completely safe to eat. Here’s how to tell if chicken is cooked to the proper temperature.

While it’s true you may not have to worry about the bacteria part of the chicken (if it’s cooked thoroughly, that is), you do still need to worry about how long it sits out for.

We’ll answer all your food preparation questions about leaving cooked chicken out as well as how to store it, why it’s essential, and other questions you may have. 

Why It’s Dangerous to Keep Chicken At Room Temperature? 

If left out longer than this, new bacteria can grow on the chicken and pose a risk to your health. To be the safest, put your cooked chicken into a container and put it in the refrigerator as soon as you can after cooking it.

Frozen chicken cannot stay at room temperature for more than two hours, much less overnight.

How Long Can Raw Chicken Be Left Out of the Fridge?

When you buy raw chicken from the store, it comes already thawed and sealed. This chicken is safe to leave in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it, as long as you cook it before the “best by” date. 

Make sure it stays sealed in its package until then though and doesn’t have any frozen spots. It also needs to remain in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. You can also stick it in the freezer before the best by date until you are ready to use it.

Can Frozen Chicken Be Left Out to be Thawed?

Chicken comes thawed from the store, wrapped in its plastic wrap and sealed. You can leave it in the refrigerator and use it before the best by date or you can put it in the freezer and keep it there until you are ready to use it. This will prolong the raw chicken’s lifespan and you can use it beyond the best by date on the package.

When you are ready to use this frozen chicken, you can pull it out in the morning and let it thaw on the kitchen counter until it is thawed and you are ready to use it. You can also let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. 

Move it from the freezer to the refrigerator before you go to bed. Depending on the size of the package, it will be thawed by morning or midday. 

However, if you choose to go this route, you have to cook it that day. You can not refreeze the raw chicken after it has been thawed.

Cooked Chicken

Raw chicken and frozen-then-thawed chicken both have a few rules to follow, and you would think that cooking it takes care of all safety precautions and would have less rules. So the main question is, can you leave cooked chicken out overnight?

Cooked Chicken Lifespan and How to Store It

You have a couple of options once your chicken has been cooked and is ready to be put away.

The easiest one is to eat it for dinner! Grill just what you know you will need for dinner and eat it up while it’s hot! 

However, this isn’t always possible as many people grill more than they eat, especially since people like to meal prep, so they have enough to eat during the week. 

These options are both perfectly okay. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind. If you are going to refrigerate leftovers or store multiple chicken meals in the refrigerator, they need to be in a sealed container. 

The chicken will be good for three to four days if left in the refrigerator. It will continue to be safe to eat during this time, but the bacteria can start to grow if left any longer, and the chicken will no longer be good. At this point, you should throw it away.

If you decide to cook a whole bunch of chicken ahead of time and wish to freeze it for later, the good news is that you can! Make sure your chicken is cooked thoroughly and when finished, put it into an airtight container. 

These containers can then go into the freezer and remain there for up to six months. (Raw chicken can be stored for up to a year). 

Once you pull out the chicken, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight or pull it out in the morning, and it will be thawed and ready to grill by dinner.

How to Know if The Chicken Has Gone Bad

With all the rules that go with chicken, it is completely possible to have forgotten one of them and left your chicken out too long or thawed it incorrectly. 

So how do you know if the chicken has gone bad? You can do a couple of tests on the chicken to determine if it is safe to eat.

First, you can check the color of the chicken. Chicken is usually a whitish color when cooked correctly and thoroughly. However, if you have left it out too long after cooking it or thawing it, the chicken will turn a greyish green color. 

If this happens, it means mold has begun to grow, and you do not want to eat it. Unfortunately, it will have to be thrown out.

If the color looks okay, but you are still unsure if it is safe to eat, you can check the smell of the chicken. If your chicken smells at all sour, don’t eat it. 

Spoiled chicken that has sat out too long or is past its best by date can acquire a sour smell. If there is even a hint of this smell, it is best just to toss the chicken.

Lastly, you can touch the chicken if you still are not sure. If your chicken has sat out for too long, it will start to feel slimy. It can also become fuzzy if it sits out for too long or sits too long in the refrigerator. 

If either of these things occur, discard your chicken and eat something else!

Your chicken is bad if any of these three things occur. If your whole chicken, thighs, drumsticks, etc, don’t pass any of these tests, don’t eat it. 


Grilling is extremely popular because it’s easy to pull out your pellet grill and have smoked chicken for dinner. However, after cooking it, don’t let it sit out at room temperature for too long. 

Ensure you follow the rules for thawing your chicken, and cook your chicken thoroughly to a safe temperature. 

To keep your chicken the safest for your health, refrigerate or freeze it immediately after grilling and eat it within four days if refrigerating and within six months of freezing. 

There are so many rules for chicken, but all designed to keep you safe and healthy!

Related Articles


Skip to content