Fact: Chicken has superstar status in the culinary world.
Its mild taste and soft texture makes it quite easy to use in recipes.
The best part?
Chicken has a refrigerator life of 3 to 4 days after cooking, and can be eaten without reheating.
So, how safe is it to eat cold chicken, and what is the best way to keep cold chicken safely refrigerated?
Learn more about how chicken meat is so cool you can eat it cold.
Can you eat cold chicken?
Let’s make a clear distinction among three words: cold, frozen, and raw.
Chicken can be eaten cold but not frozen or, even worse, raw!
Let’s explain the difference between each of these terms.
Raw chicken is chicken meat that is fresh and has never been cooked.
Any raw chicken meat would be considered dangerous to consume due to the quick bacteria buildup that occurs naturally in raw meats in general.
Therefore, the only way chicken should be consumed is after it is cooked!
Frozen chicken is chicken that has been preserved for a time in temperatures below zero.
All chicken, whether fresh (raw) or cooked, can be frozen for up to 6 months.
However, the only way to eat chicken is after the meat has been thoroughly cooked.
Once cooked, it is up to you how you want to serve and eat your chicken, whether warm or cold.
One of the most famous recipes for cold chicken is the traditional chicken salad used in sandwiches and dips, but, some people enjoy their traditional chicken pieces straight out of the refrigerator.
It is your choice!
Is there a difference between a cooked and fried cold chicken?
The key differences between cooked and fried cold chicken are the temperature of the meat and the texture of the meat.
Cooked chicken is tender, soft to the bite, quite easy to chew, and quick to swallow.
Fried, cold chicken preserves its consistency, but loses its some of its texture.
The meat is still tender and easy to eat, but it will lose a small percentage of its original tenderness.
Interestingly, the inside of your mouth is warm enough to “cook” the chicken back to warm state, which is the reason why you don’t feel any difference in the temperature of the meat when you swallow it.
Keep in mind, that if the fried cold chicken is breaded, the consistency of such breading may also be slightly affected by the cold temperature inside the refrigerator.
Some of the crunch of chicken skin, whether breaded or non-breaded, may remain intact after being refrigerated.
The best way to maximize the flavor of chicken skin, which is the fattiest part of the chicken, is by eating it warm.
In terms of flavor, however, it typically remains the same.
Does eating cold chicken cause food poisoning?
There are ways that eating cold meat could cause food poisoning:
- if the meat is out date for purchase and consumption
- when the meat is not cooked properly and is partly raw (bacteria build up)
- when the medium via which the meat is cooked is not properly cleaned or is prone to bacteria
If your chicken has been cooked in a clean surface, handled by clean hands, and cooked to an inner temperature of 165 degrees there is no reason to fear food contamination.
As with every meat, refrigerator life is about 3-4 days in a properly sealed container.
Too much exposure to elements such as air, kitchen surfaces, and other environments make the meat more prone to become contaminated.
Does microwaving cold chicken make it less healthy?
Microwaving chicken does not make it less or more healthy.
It simply makes the chicken warmer.
Here is one tip: after cooking, be sure to refrigerate any meat at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit and not let the food out of refrigeration for more than 6 hours.
If you are going to reheat your chicken, be sure that it is heated at a temperature higher than 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
These are the key temperature that may keep the meat protected from bacterial growth until it is completely used.
How to consume cold chicken?
Cold chicken can be consumed in several delicious dishes.
The way to prepare cold chicken goes as follows:
- Cook raw chicken thoroughly, until the meat reaches the internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Once cooked, allow the chicken to reach room temperature. A simple taste test, or even a touch test, should indicate whether the meat has reached room temperature. After it reaches room temperature, store the chicken in a sealed container, and place in the refrigerator until it reaches the level of coldness that you desire.
- After the chicken has reached the cold temperature that you wish, go ahead and chop it, pull its meat, or cut into cubes.
These pieces of cold chicken can go in:
- Chicken salad
- Cold chicken sandwiches
- Chicken pasta salad
- Cool chicken wraps
The list goes on and on- and there are many more!
How to safely store chicken
There are some guidelines to live by when choosing to store and refrigerate your chicken leftovers.
Here are the most important ones:
Use a sealed container to store the chicken. This can be a plastic container with lid, a freezer/storage bag with a seal, or wrapped in aluminum foil.
Refrigerator life for chicken is less than 4 days, so be mindful on when you will be consuming the chicken.
For a slightly longer refrigerator life, you may want to consider marinating the chicken in sauce.
This works as an additional layer of protection from the elements in the refrigerator, and the container.
Marinades consist on just about any sauce used to coat meat over a period of time. They include: BBQ sauce, soy sauce, yogurt-based sauces, and other homemade marinades.
If you prefer to freeze your leftover chicken, you can keep it frozen for up to 4 months. This is true for most chicken leftovers including whole, rotisserie chicken, chicken pieces, or any other previously-cooked chicken that is plain, and not covered with breading, gravy, or sauces.
As you can see, chicken can be safely enjoyed both cold or warm.
Cold chicken, when properly stored and refrigerated, can be eaten for up to 4 days.
You can use it in several different meals, including chicken salads, pasta salads, sandwiches, and wraps.
It is crucial to properly cook the chicken, and make sure that it reaches the internal temperature of 165 degrees.
After the chicken reaches that temperature, it is safe to eat it cold or warm.
For a longer refrigerator life, generally an extra day, you may want to cover your chicken in sauce, or a homemade marinade.
However you decide to eat it, the fun of eating chicken comes from the versatility of the meat, which can be included in just about every dish.
What is your favorite way to eat cold chicken?
Fact check: Is it safe to eat raw leeks?