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I put chicken in a crock pot and thought it was on low. It was off. It's been two hours. Do I need to throw out the chicken? It was fairly cold because it was mixed with a cold teriyaki sauce among other things. Thanks!

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possible duplicate of How long can I store a food in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer? –  Mien Jun 13 '13 at 22:43
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I don't think this is the right duplicate, Mien. It is more addressing what is in the food-safety wiki. We are creating a new cannonical answer for this, but this question was actually first. I don't know that closing it as a duplicate to something that came later would be fair. –  SAJ14SAJ Jun 14 '13 at 3:45
    
For reference, the new question is How do I know if food left at room temperature is still safe to eat? –  Jefromi Jun 14 '13 at 4:01
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2 Answers

The official guideline (in the US, at least) is no more than 2 hours, total, between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C). So, if your room is fairly cool, and all the ingredients were cold, at two hours in the off crock pot, you're just inside the guideline.

But the problem is, if you just turn the crock pot on, it will take at least another hour to get up to 140°F. That puts you firmly outside the guideline.

Instead, assuming this is chicken pieces (in a stew, soup, or similar) and not a whole chicken, I'd suggest you bring it up to at least 160°F (70°C) stove top over fairly high heat (this should only take a few minutes), then transfer that to the crock pot. You can then cook it in the crock pot on low.

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See the Food Safety tag FAQ.

This is well on the borderline. You will have to make a judgement call based on your own assessment of your risks and vulnerability.

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