HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Shelf life of a cooked chicken?

My wife and I had an umm disagreement the other day. I had a 6 day old roasted chicken in the fridge that I was going to eat. She said that she thought it too old to be safe. I said, basically it is cooked, as long as it smells ok, it should be ok. When I pointed out that we eat lunch meat that is that old all the time, she said that is because it is full of preservatives (which i don't think is always the case).
Nevertheless, I ate the chicken, the wife and kids stayed away and no ones mind was changed.
So, is there a rule of thumb for leftover poultry? Anyone?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well, I would have thought it was too old, but after my husband ate 10 day old chicken pot pie, with no ill effects, I'm not sure any more!

    3 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      your husband sounds like a man after my own heart.

      1. re: TroyTempest

        I always buy packaged chicken called "Perdue: Short Cuts" which is chicken breasts processed and packaged for convenience in the kitchen. It's great stuff. They package it in three plastic wrapped portions per container and the package makes the claim of "No Preservatives". The portions aren't even shrink wrapped so there's nothing special about the packaging. The container of it that I bought the other day is dated to expire Sep 29. I bought it on August 16. Now this is only refrigerated stuff, not frozen. So even though I wouldn't eat any chicken that I cooked and have had kicking around in my 'fridge for a month and then some, I feel pretty okay about using the chicken that I'm currently making chicken soup out of which I cooked up a week ago. That's why I looked up this site, to see what other people said about keeping cooked chicken around for a week and then using it. I was going to use it anyway because of what is stamped on my Perdue package, but I figured I'd check. Growing up as poor as I did my mother would have killed any of us for throwing out a chicken that was ONLY a week old, but those were extreme circumstances. Good luck though I sure you know by now whether your chicken was still good or not.

        1. re: PalOfTheWorld

          I'm still kicking. I suffered no ill effect from the chicken, that i know of

    2. If it didn't sit out cooling for too long, was adequately wrapped in the fridge, wasn't exposed to a lot of bacteria, it would probably be OK. Wouldn't go too much further though.

      1. Aside from how long it sat out without refrigeration, the amount of salt makes a LOT of difference. If I cook chicken from scratch, I don't use much, and leftovers start to smell sour in a few days. Home-brined chicken leftovers last a couple of days longer. Last summer I brought home a Costco rotisserie chicken but since I overbought, it sat unused in the fridge, in its original container, for a week. By the time I opened it I was expecting I'd be boiling it up and feeding it to the dogs, but to my surprise it smelled and tasted fine. I took it apart and removed the bones and skin, which went into the freezer for future stock-making, then froze what remained after dinner in individual portions. The Costco birds taste saltier than ones I cook myself.

        1. They say to refrigerate chicken for 3 days max. I too have eaten chicken a week old- and had no ill effects. They tell you 3 days because you can be pretty sure if handled correctly it will have no problem lasting AT LEAST that long. But you wanna be safe rather than sorry. I have thrown stuff away when I thought it was ok - smelled ok and all- but knew I was chancing it. But bad items DO NOT ALWAYS SMELL BAD.
          Bottom line- If you do get sick it surely isnt worth it in the end. You can break the rules a bit and do ok. Just because someone eats chicken 6-10 days later and they dont get sick - DOES NOT MEAN IT WILL WORK THE SAME WAY NEXT TIME. All it means is they got away with it that one time. Bigtime rule of thumb with food - It is always way better to be safe than sorry. ( original posts from 2009- but I just saw it tonite first time.)

          1 Reply
          1. re: TexasBBQer

            Yes, I follow the 3 day rule for ALL refrigerated leftovers. If I want to keep it for longer I put it in the freezer as soon as it is cooled down.

          2. Someone else mentioned this also, but the amount of salt is very important in determining the shelf life. A well seasoned cooked chicken will last a week in the fridge easily. If it wasn't seasoned, it might not make it.

            But yeah, give it a whiff and your brain will tell you whether it's good or not.

            1. I bet several factors apply. If you boil (simmer) a lot of chicken, de-bone it and and put it away piping hot, it is nearly sterile & not exposed to much oxygen or pathogens. The first day in the fridge hardly counts for the 'isolated' layer in the bottom of the container protected from air.

              So I'm going into the last of my 'prepared' chicken at day four - yes I consulted this thread for safety! It will be properly heated, and shows no sign of rancidity (the OTHER tummy-ache causing problem besides infection, and despite wives tales you can't high-temperature boil semi-rotten food to be edible. It just KILLS your gut and damages your cellular health with free radicals.)
              Another thing I avoid doing is freezing raw meat of any kind! The crystallized expansion of water in the flesh has a disastrous effect on the food, advancing the tendency to rot by a number of days. (My 'boiled chicken' is only frozen after cooking, concealed in a little chicken stock to protect from freezer burn.)

              1. If it's a store-bought rotisserie chicken, I only keep it for three days because it could have been sitting in the warming rack for hours before you bought it, and then you have to carry it home... home-cooked chickens are good for four or five - chicken tends to start to smell and taste a little funny fairly quickly, and I don't like to eat it then.

                1. An ancient thread, but as long as it has received a 'bump' here's my take:
                  If the fridge is cold and the leftover chicken is wrapped well, I would have no problem whatsoever eating it after 6 days. Cooked chicken doesn't sit around that long here, but more times than I can count (since childhood) I've eaten leftover roasted turkey a week after it was cooked and never, ever suffered any ill effects from it.
                  Food safety is one thing, and unfortunately scaremongering in the media causes confusion sometimes, not to mention downright waste. Paranoia is another thing altogether. A little care and a lot of common sense provide a buffer between the two.
                  Don't even get me started on the so called "expiration dates" on packaged foods that some people treat like some sort of time-bomb. LOL

                  1. Perhaps an old wives tale, but I've always heard that boned poultry keeps longer. Don't know why that is.

                    Can say that I've kept BBQ'd chicken on the bone for a week in the fridge and eaten it after warming with no ill effects. I wouldn't necessarily keep any home-cooked meats longer than that.

                    People eat pizza for breakfast that's been sitting out all night, so I'm not a real big stickler for getting things into the fridge right away. I think storing food that's too warm in the fridge damages the other food in there by raising the temperature too high anyway, so I think it's safer to wait a bit before packing it away. It takes these energy-efficient fridges some time to bring the temp of the fridge and the food back down to safe levels once it's out of the safe range, especially when people don't clean the coils frequently.

                    1. Don't keep chickens on the shelf. Put them in the fridge.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        LOL! And my smart ass retort is that it depends on whether the shelf is in the refrigerator or the freezer! Shame on both of us. '-)

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          Many years ago my wife's brother was given the task of buying the Thanksgiving turkey. He was in his first apartment. Anyway, the day before we went to his house and the turkey was sitting on the counter at room temperature. He just bought it frozen and left it there to thaw out. I really don't know how long it had been unfrozen, but there wasn't even the slightest chill to it. Needless to say, we decided not to cook it.

                      2. The site I go to for such advice, StillTasty.com, recommends 3 - 4 days max in the fridge. That doesn't mean 5 or 6 will necessarily make it inedible, but the risk factor does go up.


                        1. and the usual caveat that not all foodborne illnesses cause bad smells...even if that chicken is now 3 years old...

                          1. Counter meats have nitrates and salts in them. I agree with you wife on that one. I prepare a barbeque chicken each week using the Barefoot Contessa's recipe. I have a 3 day rule and usually by this time not much is left to the chicken. After the 3 days I use the carcus for soup.

                            1. I have a 5 day rule for all cooked meats (cooked well, with salt).
                              If rare, then next day only.
                              I wouldn't think I would die of poisoning *after* 5 days, but I think the quality diminishes and the risk goes up. Cost / benefit ratio is not there after 5 days.

                              1. Do you suffer from AIDS or another immune system deficiency? If not, safety is not an issue. The issue is do you enjoy the taste and texture. If you like it, eat it.

                                1. If I have cooked the chicken myself, & it was treated properly re: being stored after the original meal, then I consider it safe to use/consume again within a week's time. After that, it goes into the trash or gets added to the dogs' dinners. While I know that everyone who skirts government safety rules says this, I'll repeat that I've been using this rule since the 1970's have never had any problems.

                                  1. I disjoint the main pieces into a sterile sealed container while chicken's hot.
                                    Leaving the fatty skin on the breasts (facing up) keeps the white meat perfect for days. Then legs in similar fashion.
                                    The wings, oysters etc. eaten right away, perhaps with some dark meat.
                                    The carcass is flattened, frozen in a bag with a little water - all saved bones and trimmings (not much skin) go in the stock pot when I have 3-4 chickens' worth.

                                    ** bonus idea ** sliced chicken breast freeze well in a little chicken stock for a quick meal.

                                    1. You obviously are still alive after eating the six day old chicken and if you didn't get sick... the proof is in the Pudding (chicken). My personal feeling is that cooked meat is general good for 6 days if kept in Refrigerator. Also must not be mixed with vegetable that only last 2-3 days cooked, it spoils the meat quicker!