How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge? How to tell whether to bin it or binge

Experts on how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge, plus our must-read guide to safely storing leftover poultry

Roast whole turkey or chicken on yellow background. Top view. Food pattern. Festive family dinner. Thanksgiving day concept. (Roast whole turkey or chicken on yellow background. Top view. Food pattern. Festive family dinner. Thanksgiving day concept.,
(Image credit: Getty)

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering how long does cooked chicken last in the fridge, our guide is here to help.

Chicken is a staple ingredient of many of our favorite meals, ranging from pasta dishes and stews to salads and soups. Odds are that even if you have used a chicken or turkey size guide before buying your poultry, you will have spare meat by the time you’ve finished serving up.

Storing leftover cooked chicken or even a rotisserie chicken is a good idea because as well as tasting delicious, the white meat is also packed with goodness. 

“Chicken is a good source of protein and lower in fat compared to other meats,” explains Registered Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert. “It’s also a source of iron, zinc, selenium and vitamin B12. Opt for skinless chicken wherever possible to cut down on saturated fat.”

There isn’t just a dietary benefit: using up all the meat from this roast can also have a range of other positive impacts, too. 

“Using up every part of what you buy is a more budget-friendly way to cook,” explains Jane Cook, founder of food and sustainability blog, Hungry City Hippy. “Paying more for the meat we eat but using it all up also respects the time and effort which goes into raising an animal fairly.”

With all that in mind, read on to discover how long can you keep cooked chicken in the fridge and how to store it safely.

How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge?

Once your cooked chicken has been popped in the fridge, experts advice it should be consumed within three to four days.

“Provided your fridge is working efficiently, you should be fine to keep cooked chicken (which has been cooled quickly and covered properly) in the fridge for this amount of time,” recommends Jane. “My fridge is always set to three degrees which keeps things properly chilled.” 

Can you eat cooked chicken after 5 days?

Experts would not recommend you eat chicken after five days. Anecdotally you will hear from many people that they do this and are fine. We recommend airing on the side of caution because food poisoning is not fun, but if you're tempted then read our warning signs below that indicate your chicken is no longer safe to eat.

Can you eat cooked chicken after 10 days?

Whilst eating cooked chicken that has been stored in a fridge for ten days is absolutely not recommended, you can consume it down the line if it’s been stored in the freezer. 

“You can freeze cooked chicken for a long time,” explains Jane. “But it will taste best if eaten within three to six months. If it's frozen for longer it will still be safe to eat, but the texture may have changed slightly—I prefer to add it to a soup or curry in that scenario, so it stays moist.”

If you do freeze cooked chicken, simply let it thaw in your refrigerator before reheating it as you would normally for a safe and delicious meal. 

How can I tell if cooked chicken is no longer safe to eat?

Timelines aside, there are a few other tell-tale signs that cooked chicken is no longer suitable for eating. Things to look out for include:

  • Changes in color: A grey or green tinge can be indicative of bacterial presence. 
  • Changes in texture: If your chicken has a slimy texture, it’s no longer safe to consume. 
  • Changes in smell: A sour or ammonia-like aroma is a sign that your chicken has gone off. 

If you suspect the chicken of any of the above, dispose of it appropriately. It’s worth noting that factors such as color and smell can be masked by sauces and marinades.

How to store cooked chicken safely

If you’re wondering which parts of a cooked chicken can be preserved, the answer is all of it. From the skin and bones to the meat within, there’s not a single part of your cooked chicken that has to be thrown away, reveals Jane.

“Leftover meat can go into pies, soups, and curries,” she says. “Cooking juices can be used to make a flavourful gravy. The skin can be saved to make crispy crackling, while the bones can be chucked into the freezer and saved to make a delicious stock for another day.”

As with anything, storing your cooked chicken will take a quick bit of preparation to ensure you’re doing it in the safest possible way.

Tip 1: Allow to cool—but not for too long!

Once the chicken has been cooked, allow it to cool at room temperature for no longer than two hours in order to slow bacteria growth; if it’s been left out longer than this, it’s advisable to throw the food away. Wait until the steam has stopped rising from the meat and then place it into a sturdy, air-tight container to minimize the chances of contamination. 

Tip 2: Label your leftovers

Make sure you keep a note—whether on the container itself or on a calendar - of when the chicken went in the refrigerator or freezer and when it should be eaten in order to minimize the potential for confusion down the line.

Tip 3: Store it away from raw meat

When storing your leftover meat in your fridge or freezer, keep your cooked meat away from raw meat. This will also reduce the risk of contamination.

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How to use leftover chicken

Looking for inspiration for incorporating that leftover chicken into a delicious and nutritious meal? Rhiannon has some ideas for you. “If you don’t want chicken as the hero ingredient, you could always consider adding it to a salad, traybake or pasta dish,” she recommends. “This will increase the protein in your meal, which may help with supporting a balanced diet.”

Jane also agrees that there’s a wide realm of possibility when it comes to incorporating cooked chicken into dishes. “I always try to buy the biggest chicken I can find and use the leftovers for a range of things. I love to make shredded roasted chicken sandwiches (with lots of mayo, salt and black pepper), whilst my husband makes a great chicken, cider and tarragon pie, with a simple store-bought puff pastry lid.”

Katie Byrne is a contributor to woman&home and a writer whose interests span everything from homes and interiors, to pop-culture, travel, business and self-development. A former digital editor, her freelance journalism has featured across a wide range of print and online titles, including Raconteur, Digital Spy and more. When she's not writing, she loves reading (and has the groaning bookshelves to prove it...), dreaming up new décor ideas for her flat and devouring Netflix's latest true-crime series with her husband. You can find her on Twitter: @katie_b123.