So you’ve cooked a whole chicken and have leftovers, but how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge? Most pieces of chicken won’t last as long as you think.
Chicken is one of my favorite proteins. It’s easy to cook but can be spiced up in different ways to make it new and exciting every night. Not only that, but it goes with everything: salads, sandwiches, tacos, soups, appetizers, and more. You name it and you can probably make it with chicken.
I’ll often roast a whole chicken—or get a grilled chicken if I don’t feel like cooking—and let the meat serve me for several meals. But how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge? Not as long as you think.
How long does boiled chicken last?
In the fridge
Most people think of a week as a reasonable amount of time to store leftovers, but most foods don’t actually last that long in the fridge. It also depends on how you store it. The USDA recommends using most cooked chicken within three to four days of placing it in the refrigerator. Here are specific details on the different types of cooked chicken.
Whole chicken, chicken breast or ground chicken
Refrigerate within two hours of cooking and use within three to four days.
Leftover grilled chicken
Refrigerate any unused chicken and use within three to four days.
Refrigerate immediately after making and use within three to five days. Note that you’ll want to start the timer from the day the chicken is cooked, not the day the chicken salad is made. Mayonnaise doesn’t freeze well, so don’t plan on freezing chicken salad.
Delicacy sliced chicken for lunch
Refrigerate after you get home from the grocery store. Use within three to five days.
Chicken for lunch, sealed in a package
Store in the refrigerator and use within two weeks of purchase (or within one week of the best before date). After opening, use within three to five days.
Store unopened canned chicken in the pantry and use within two to five years. After opening, refrigerate and use within three to four days.
In the freezer
All chicken pieces last the same amount of time in the freezer: about a year. According to the USDA, frozen chicken is technically good indefinitely. However, it reaches a point where the quality begins to decline. For cooked chicken, this is around the four-month mark. If the chicken is cooked in a casserole or the pieces are covered with stock or sauce before freezing, it will retain its quality a little longer (up to six months). After these times, the chicken will lose its flavor and texture when reheated.
How to properly store cooked chicken
In the fridge
Cooked chicken should be stored in an airtight container. We like to use glass storage containers because they don’t absorb odors like plastic containers. It’s fine to leave the chicken uncovered while it cools, but covering it will ensure that the rest of the meat stays juicy.
In the freezer
The USDA recommends freezing chicken in its original package and wrapping in airtight plastic wrap, plastic wrap, or freezer paper, or placing the package in a freezer bag. You can also open the chicken and repackage it in smaller quantities in a freezer-safe bag or one of these other freezer storage options.
To thaw the chicken, remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator. Smaller pieces of chicken will thaw overnight, while larger packages (or whole chickens) may take one to two days to thaw. Chicken thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen if not used.
If you are short on time, you can thaw the chicken in the microwave or in cold water. Place the frozen chicken in an airtight bag and submerge it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. The whole chicken should be thawed in about three hours. Chicken cannot be refrozen if you use either of these methods.
How to tell if the chicken has gone bad
Our recommendation is always “when in doubt, throw it out,” but here are some common signs that chicken has gone bad. We like to start by giving it a sniff test. The spices used in cooking the chicken can often mask subtle odors, but if it smells sour or sulfurous (like rotten eggs), it’s definitely past its time. Bad chicken also has a grayish appearance, and you definitely don’t want to eat it if it’s greenish or bluish in color. Any visible signs of mold or a greasy consistency are also indications that the chicken is spoiled.
Need to use up leftover chicken fast? Try these roast chicken recipes.