Frozen Chicken Left Out Overnight – Is It Still Cookable?

Frozen chicken left out overnight at room temperature is prone to many harmful bacteria surrounding it. So, how long is okay to leave it and how to recognize when it’s time to throw it out?

This is the topic we’re going to solve in this comprehensive article.

Is it OK to Leave Frozen Chicken Out Overnight?

Chicken is a perishable food and requires to be stored properly to avoid contamination. If you cook or bake chicken often, you want to make sure that you aren’t introducing bacteria when chicken is raw, uncooked or not cooked properly.

The longer the frozen chicken stays at room temperature, the worse the contamination gets and within no time you’ll be tossing it off to the dustbin as it will be unfit for consumption.

chicken oovernight

Can Cooking Destroy Bacteria?

Although cooking can destroy the harmful bacteria in food, overexposed food can cause food poisoning EVEN after cooking.

What If The Chicken Was Covered Up All Night?

Wrapping meat can save it from any airborne germs, hair, dust, etc. However, covering the chicken can’t keep the bacteria from multiplying. So shortly – the covered chicken isn’t safe to eat.

How Long Can Frozen Chicken Sit Out At Room Temperature?

So, the frozen chicken gets contaminated if left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Once frozen, chicken can also easily contaminate other foods surrounding it.

The rise in temperature is what makes frozen chicken prone to contamination. It is important to ensure that the chicken doesn’t get to temperatures above 40 °F (4°C) while thawing.

As USDA says, the chicken can’t be thawed safely on the counter. Harmful bacteria can grow between 40°F and 140°F. Also, freezing does not kill bacteria, it just stops them from growing. Meaning, the bacteria will continue to multiply if you are thawing chicken on the countertop.

chicken with seasoning

How Long Can Raw Chicken Sit Out?

When it comes to raw chicken you should be very careful, it is an even worse idea than leaving cooked chicken out overnight.

According to the USDA, you can safely leave the raw chicken out at room temperature for up to two hours or up to 60 minutes if the temperature is above 90 °F.

How Long Can Cooked Chicken Sit Out?

Similar to raw chicken, cooked chicken is also prone to bacteria if left in the wrong condition. The answer to this question is the same as the previous one – you can leave it at room temperature for up to two hours or 60 minutes if the temperature is above 90 °F.

How Can You Tell If The Chicken Has Gone Bad?

As I pointed out, chicken that has been sitting out for any longer than 2 hours should be discarded. Whether it shows any warning signs or not. But cooked chicken can go bad when’s kept for too long.

Here is what you need to watch out for – green or grey patches, a sour smell, slimy or sticky texture and a fuzzy appearance.

Unfortunately, spoiled chicken, especially when cooked, may not give clear cues that it has turned bad. They don’t always have a bad smell or visual signs.

eating chicken

What Happens When You Eat Rotten Poultry?

Nothing good. Rotten chicken can cause health issues such as stomach pain, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other related issues. Salmonella and E.Coli are some of the most common causes of these issues.

Best Ways to Thaw Frozen Chicken

There are three safe ways to thaw frozen chicken without exposing it to harmful bacteria.

The safest way to thaw the frozen chicken, especially if you want to do it overnight. Although it’s time-consuming, the chicken maintains safe temperatures. Simply put the frozen chicken in the fridge. It’s good to place it in a bowl or a tray to catch the juices as it thaws. That prevents contaminating other food.


Cold Water Bath
If you want to thaw chicken at room temperature, then this is the method you should go for. The cold water will keep your chicken out of the danger zone of below 40 °F. It is a faster method than refrigeration but requires your presence in order to change the water.

Put your frozen chicken in a waterproof bag and place the chicken in a bowl. Put cold water into the bowl until the chicken is fully covered. You should change the water after every 30 minutes until the chicken is completely thawed.

The Microwave
Compared to the previous two methods, this is the fastest one. If you choose this method, be ready to cook your chicken immediately to prevent bacteria growth. As it cooks partially on the outside before the inside is fully thawed puts it at risk of contamination if you left it on the counter.


Remove the chicken from the freezer bag, place it on a microwave plate and set the microwave to defrost. Turn the chicken after every 5 minutes to thaw evenly.

Can You Refreeze Thawed Chicken?

Let’s check USDA guidelines again, they said that you can safely refreeze raw and cooked chicken within their respective shelf lives. Only refreeze raw chicken that has been thawed in the refrigerator or chicken that hasn’t reached more than 40°F.

However, if you thawed the chicken in the microwave, then it must be cooked before it is returned to the freezer.

thawed chicken

How Long Can You Leave The Frozen Chicken in The Freezer?

Individually wrapped and sealed chicken is safe to leave in the freezer for up to 9 months and the whole chicken stays good for up to a year.

How To Store Leftover Chicken?

Well, the best way to deal with leftover chicken is to wrap it up as soon as possible (that should happen in a 2-hour window). Place the leftovers in a zip-top plastic bag or a sealed container and make sure to squeeze any excess air out of the package.

When stored in this manner, leftover chicken can keep for 3-4 days.

serving chicken

Our digestive system is in no shape to handle bacteria from rotten food. This is why extra care should be given to purchasing, storing and cooking the food that we eat. It is better to throw away food than to suffer the consequences.

To Wrap It Up

Regardless of whether it’s raw or cooked, frozen or fresh, the chicken should never be left out at room temperature overnight. Also, remember to refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours, so you can safely enjoy them the next day.

Ivana is always desirable for adventures so she was working in restaurants on the Croatian coast, participated in Caffe barista tournaments, led a gardening business, and more. She is a healthy food enthusiast, prefers vegetarianism, and practices yoga. In her free time, she likes to study ancient Buddhist scriptures as well as psychology.