We all have our favorite ways to prepare chicken. From grilling, frying, baking, sauteing, or even oven roasting, there are endless ways to enjoy it warm.
What if you have leftovers though? Is it possible to eat chicken cold and not be one of the million people who get sick from eating contaminated poultry each year?
Staying safe when eating cold chicken is all in the preparation, cooking, and storage. Generally, it is safe to eat nuggets, tenders, wings, breasts, and chicken salad cold when guidelines have been followed correctly. If you prepare, cook, and store the chicken following the Food Safety guidelines, it will be safe to eat cold.
However, when pregnant you can not eat pre-made chicken salad and should take extra precautions with deli meats.
Read on to learn the important details of preparing, cooking, and storing your favorite chicken meal to be able to safely eat it cold.
DISCLAIMER: While this information was prepared by a certified dietitian, it is NOT a medical advice. Please consult your own medical professional before altering your diet. The information is strictly for educational purposes.
Can You Eat Cold Chicken When Pregnant?
Pregnancy comes with an infinite amount of unknowns. One of the biggest being what food is safe for the mother and baby.
“Pregnant women are at high risk of developing food poisoning because pregnancy affects their immune system’s ability to fight foodborne infections”, states the Food and Drug Administration.
Following the guidelines below and these additional ones will help protect both against foodborne illnesses.
When Is It Safe To Eat Cold Chicken While Pregnant?
While you can eat cold chicken while pregnant, it is safest to know the original source of the food. Confirm that it has been prepared, stored, and cooked properly.
If the chicken was prepared, stored, and cooked following the guidelines stated by the Food and Drug Administration, then you can eat any chicken without reheating it.
This includes chicken nuggets, wings, tenders, chicken breast, and chicken noodle soup.
When Is It Not Safe To Eat Cold Chicken While Pregnant?
Be aware of chicken salad and deli meat. Those both have higher risks of containing harmful bacteria or viruses. Follow the best practices below to lower the risks of those foods.
Raw meat is obviously a high risk. When eating meat, confirm that it has been cooked thoroughly.
Chicken needs to reach the internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the only definite way to know if your chicken is safe to eat.
Another identified high risk food is onsite deli or restaurant prepared chicken salad without preservatives.
These types of chicken salads may contain listeria which is a very harmful germ. It is a much lower risk to prepare your own chicken salad at home.
Similarly, chicken deli meat is also considered high risk. To lower the risk, reheat the deli meat to steaming hot or 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
By following the mentioned guidelines below and lowering your risk with the identified chicken salad and deli meats, it will be safe to eat cold chicken.
Enjoy the variety of ways that chicken can be prepared and know that it is a great source of protein.
How to Safely Prepare Raw Chicken?
To safely eat fresh and cold chicken, it needs to be properly prepared for cooking first.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in every twenty five packages of chicken at the grocery store are contaminated with Salmonella.
To help prevent the spread they suggest placing raw chicken in a disposable bag before putting it in your shopping cart and refrigerator.
This will help prevent the spread of raw juices from getting to other food.
Make sure to wash your hands, but not the chicken. Washing your hands, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops can help prevent the spread of raw juices. Not washing the chicken helps reduce the spread as well.
If you are marinating, make sure to store the chicken in the refrigerator. Also have it in a container that will keep the raw chicken juices sealed. The spread of the juices could contaminate other raw foods.
Methods of Thawing Chicken
When preparing frozen raw chicken, make sure to plan ahead. While it is at least a day long process, the three safe methods of thawing chicken include using the refrigerator, cold water, and microwave.
According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, using the refrigerator to thaw chicken can take a whole day.
The good news to the patience used when thawing by the refrigerator is that the chicken will be safe for at least an extra day prior to cooking.
If you do not have a whole day to spend thawing, using cold water is quicker. It does require you to be more cautious though. First confirm that the packaging is waterproof.
Cover the whole container of meat in cold water from the tap. It will take a three to four pound container approximately two to three hours.
As it thaws, the weather will need to be changed every thirty minutes and immediately cooked to ensure safety.
To quickly enjoy the frozen chicken, thaw using the microwave. The microwave will begin cooking the chicken, so you do need to finish cooking it using your favorite method after thawing.
Any food product should never be thawed in hot water or on a countertop. This causes uneven thawing and can cause any present bacteria to grow.
How to Safely Cook Raw Chicken?
No matter what your favorite cooking method is, cooking chicken to the correct temperature is imperative.
The Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of fooodborne illness annually. That is one in six Americans each year.
To confirm your chicken is safe, use a food-grade thermometer to confirm that the chicken is to an internal temperature of 165 degrees fahrenheit.
The internal temperature is the only way to confirm the chicken is safely cooked and harmful bacteria is destroyed. Using color, texture, or time are not reliable.
When cooking a microwaveable meal that has raw frozen chicken, follow the cooking directions fully.
Make sure to treat the microwaveable meal just like you would any raw meat. If cooking with the microwave a few tips can keep the meal safe.
If the microwave does not have a turntable, rotate the meal.
Covering and stirring the food will help evenly cook. By allowing standing time, it will complete the cooking process fully. Lastly, check the internal temperature.
Chicken needs to reach a temperature of 165 degrees fahrenheit. Following these steps exactly will help to prevent the spread of bacteria.
How To Safely Store Chicken?
After preparing and cooking chicken, storage is the next safety concern. From knowing how long chicken can safely sit out to how long it can be stored in the refrigerator are all important factors to consider to keep foodborne illnesses out of your kitchen.
When Should You Not Eat Refrigerated Chicken?
The Food Safety guidelines state that chicken salad should be stored in the refrigerator up to three to four days before becoming dangerous to eat.
Fresh chicken, whole or pieces, are only safe for a day or two after being purchased. Ground chicken has the same lead time prior to going bad.
If you have already prepared and cooked the chicken, never leave the prepared food out of the refrigerator for longer than two hours or one hour if the temperature is above ninety degrees Fahrenheit.
Even if the meal is still hot, it needs to be placed into the freezer or refrigerator. It will not damage the appliance by not being cooled first.
If you would like, you can split up the leftovers into smaller, shallow containers to allow it to cool more quickly.
Leftovers like these will last three to four days. They are not considered safe after this time.
Frozen Chicken Storage
If you are storing frozen chicken, confirm the temperature is zero or below. Just like when refrigerating, freeze the chicken two hours after purchasing or cooking. One hour if the temperature is above ninety degrees Fahrenheit.
Chicken salad does not freeze well. There is no recommended time for it to be frozen safely due to it not being compatible. Ground chicken should not be stored longer than three to four months.
Fresh whole chicken can be stored for up to one year. Pieces of chicken can be stored for up to nine months.
If you are freezing the chicken in the packing that you purchased it in, overwrap the packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper. A plastic bag will also be safe.
When freezing leftovers, soups with chicken can be frozen for two to three months. Cooked chicken will remain safe from two to six months. If it is chicken nuggets or patties, they last one to three months.
When preparing and thawing your leftovers, make sure to follow the same precautions as outlined above to keep your food safe.
Can You Eat Cold Chicken Nuggets, Wings, Or Tenders?
Yes, you can eat cold chicken nuggets, wings, or tenders. However to be safe, and not run a risk of contracting a foodborne illness confirm that the guidelines listed above have been followed. That includes the chicken being stored properly and cooked thoroughly.
Also confirm that they have not been in the refrigerator for over three to four days. This also includes chicken nuggets, wings, or tenders from a restaurant.
Chicken taken from the restaurant should be stored into a refrigerator in less than two hours or one hour if about ninety degrees Fahrenheit.
Then enjoy the chicken in less than three to four days.
It is safe to eat cold chicken. Remember to be smart in the preparations and cooking guidelines to kill bacteria and viruses. Don’t let your groceries sit out longer than two hours.
Cook your chicken if it has been in your refrigerator longer than four days or in the freezer for nine months.
When cooking your chicken make sure it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. When enjoying leftovers, no matter if you eat them warm or cold, eat them within four days.
Also make sure you know how long the food has been in the refrigerator. If you can’t remember when the chicken was cooked, then it most likely isn’t safe.
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My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.