Food safety with leftover chicken

Updated February 21, 2017

After a big meal of roast or grilled chicken, you're likely to have some leftovers. Saving these for lunches or even other dinners is a sensible way to avoid waste and stretch your food shopping budget, but cooked chicken has strict storage guidelines.

Pathogenic bacteria

Pathogenic bacteria can grow rapidly on food that is at a temperature of 4 to 60 degrees C (40F to 140F). These bacteria have no smell or taste but can cause illness if you eat them, which makes it important to store chicken below 60 degrees C (140F) and to cook chicken properly. Experts recommend cooking it to an internal temperature of 74 degrees C (165F).


Cooked chicken should be eaten hot or kept at above 60 degrees C (140F). After it drops below this temperature, place the chicken in the fridge within two hours. Check to make sure your refrigerator maintains a temperature of 4 degrees C (40F) or lower.

Restaurant leftovers

Leftover chicken brought home from a restaurant should be refrigerated immediately. If more than two hours elapse between the time the chicken was served and the time you return home, discard the leftover chicken.

Spoilage bacteria

Spoilage bacteria can grow even at temperatures below 4 degrees C (40F). They cause foods to develop bad tastes and smells after being refrigerated for long periods of time. This makes spoiled chicken easy to recognise.

Storage time

Most leftover chicken can be stored in the fridge for three to four days. Chicken stock or gravy and small nuggets of cooked chicken should be stored only for one to two days. Chicken salad and lunch meats can be stored for three to five days before spoiling.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author