How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last in the Fridge?

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So you cooked up a whole chicken and have leftovers—but how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge? Most cuts of chicken won't last as long as you'd think.

Chicken is one of my favorite proteins. It’s simple to cook, but it can be spiced up in various 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 pick up a rotisserie 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 might think.

How Long Does Cooked Chicken Last?

In the Fridge

Most people consider a week a reasonable amount of time to keep leftovers, but most food doesn’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 putting it in the refrigerator. Here are specific details on the different types of cooked chicken.

Whole chicken, chicken breasts or ground chicken

Refrigerate within two hours after cooking and use within three to four days.

Leftover rotisserie chicken

Refrigerate any rotisserie chicken you’re not using and use within three to four days.

Chicken Salad

Refrigerate immediately after making and use within three to five days. Keep in mind that you’ll want to start the timer from the day the chicken was cooked, not the day the chicken salad was made. Mayonnaise doesn’t freeze well, so don’t plan on freezing chicken salad.

Deli-sliced chicken lunch meat

Store in the refrigerator after getting home from the grocery store. Use within three to five days.

Chicken lunch meat, sealed in the package

Store in the refrigerator and use within two weeks of purchase (or within one week of the best-by date). Once opened, use within three to five days.

Canned chicken

Store unopened canned chicken in the pantry and use within two to five years. Once opened, refrigerate and use within three to four days.

In the Freezer

All cuts of chicken last the same amount of time in the freezer: about a year. According to the USDA, frozen chicken is technically good indefinitely. However, it does reach a point where the quality starts to decline. For cooked chicken, that’s around the four-month mark. If the chicken is cooked into a casserole, or the pieces are covered with broth or gravy before freezing, it will maintain its quality for a little longer (up to six months). After those times, the chicken will lose its flavor and texture when it’s reheated.

How to Properly Store Cooked Chicken

In the Fridge

Cooked chicken should be stored in an airtight container. We like using glass storage containers, as they don’t absorb odors like plastic containers. It’s okay to leave the chicken uncovered as it cools down, but covering it will ensure the leftover meat stays juicy.

In the Freezer

The USDA recommends freezing chicken in its original package and overwrapping it with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper, or placing the package inside a freezer bag. You can also open chicken and repackage it in smaller amounts in a freezer-safe bag or any of these other freezer storage options.

To defrost chicken, remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator. Smaller cuts of chicken will thaw overnight, whereas 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’re in a time crunch, you can thaw chicken in the microwave or in cold water. Place the frozen chicken in a leak-proof bag and submerge it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. A whole chicken should thaw in about three hours. Chicken cannot be refrozen if you’re using either of these methods.

How to Tell If Chicken Has Spoiled

Our recommendation is always “when in doubt, throw it out,” but here are some common signs that chicken has spoiled. We like to start by giving it the sniff test. The spices used in cooking the chicken can often mask subtle smells, but if it smells sour or sulfury (like rotten eggs), it’s definitely past its prime. Bad chicken also has a greyish appearance, and you definitely don’t want to eat it if it’s greenish or bluish in color. Any visible signs of mold or slimy texture are also indications that chicken has spoiled.

Need to use up leftover chicken quickly? Try these rotisserie chicken recipes.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.