I cooked up some fresh chicken two days (Saturday) ago and stored it in my fridge sealed in some Tupperware. I made a delicious wrap for work this morning with the same chicken from the fridge, got to work, but forgot to put it back on the fridge about an hour and a half after I initially took it out.

I see that the FDA states two hours is the safe threshold for freshly cooked chicken (straight from the oven), but does this change if the chicken wasn’t immediately cooked? That is, keeping cooked chicken that was refrigerated out at room temp?

Thank you, from a constant worrier

  • In short, the recommendations are a) no more than 2h in the danger zone between 40F and 140F, b) just one hour if room temperature is over 90F. There’s no difference between hot food cooling and cold food warming up. Which makes this a duplicate. You may also want to read up about the difference between safe and spoiled food. – Stephie Jul 9 '19 at 16:52

It's very different if food starts out hot, as in fresh out of the oven, or cold, as in came out of the fridge. There is much more differential between oven temperature and room temperature than between fridge and room temperatures. That means that hot chicken will cool considerably faster than cold chicken will warm up. The slope of the exponential rate of change will be much steeper when starting with hot chicken than with cold.

in short, you get a lot more time in your situation than the canonical 2h stated for the hot chicken.

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    That’s actually very risky advice. We need to look at the danger zone and for refrigerator-cold food to get there it’s just a few Kelvin. The danger zone starts well below average room temperature, in fact, at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just above the recommended refrigerator setting. Yes, bacterial activity is lower at cooler temperatures, but don’t just consider the time to get to room temperature. The food regulations are not differentiating between cold food or hot food left out. – Stephie Jul 9 '19 at 16:40
  • Very risky :-).. Contrarily to much of what's discussed on this site, food safety is not that exact a science, and there's no reason to let paranoia run rampant. Food's best when it's fresh, and you should take reasonable precautions with it, absolutely. But there's no need to think you're going to die a horrible death if your chicken stays on the counter 20mn.. I have managed to give myself mild food poisoning exactly once in my life, but it involved a whole afternoon of direct spring sunshine – user57361 Jul 9 '19 at 22:51
  • @GeorgeM Correct, it's not an absolute science, and yes you can get away with not following the rules exactly. But (and it is a big but) it would be remiss of us to give advice that strays from the guidelines established for safety. It's a bit like saying to someone who's not a swimmer that swimming in the river rapids is fine - you've done it lots and you're still here after all...it only takes once, if you see my point. – bob1 Jul 10 '19 at 2:41
  • @bob1 Actually, it is an exact science, you can look up any HACCP/HARPC plan and reference their critical parameters for time vs temperature criteria, or run your own pathogen modeling. For chicken breast, pathogen of concern would be Salmonella, you can use the standard internal temp guidelines 40°F-80°F < 8 hours, 80°F-120°F < 2 hours (Thompson), but should redo lethality treatment 165°F – Arctiic Jul 10 '19 at 10:40
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    @Arctiic, by some definitions of exact. It is no more exact than any biological model, as in you can do some modeling and they will work within limits, but that is still no guarantee that the pathogens are there in the first place, or indeed that the particular strain used under lab conditions is the same as the strain found in your food. Still it is one of the better modeled biological systems, and the science is good. – bob1 Jul 10 '19 at 11:06

Generally - No, a cumulative 2 h at room temp is considered the limit for any food stuff before spoilage is likely to occur

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    Citation required, because two hours cumulative between uncooked and cooked makes ZERO sense. – RonJohn Jul 8 '19 at 23:54
  • Here you go... from the CDC, and South Australian food safety board Zero sense? That's the growth range of the dangerous bacteria - if they grow well at that temp, then that's when they will grow and spoil food, just because you put it back in the fridge doesn't mean that they die and you get to start again. – bob1 Jul 9 '19 at 4:25
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    Bob, cumulative mean "adding up". Cooking raw chicken kills all the germs, even if it's been left out for two hours. Then you can leave the cooked (and cooled) chicken out for another two hours. Cumulatively, that's four hours. – RonJohn Jul 9 '19 at 5:06
  • @RonJohn I know what cumulative means. Re-read the OP. They ask if they can take chicken which was already cooked and cooled (2 days stored in fridge) and then leave it out again, not freshly cooked chicken. The 2h limit means after 2h you don't put it back in the fridge and hope you're ok, it should be eaten within the 4h limit. Admittedly the OP said left out for 1.5h, but they didn't say how long it had been out after cooking. – bob1 Jul 9 '19 at 11:57
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    @RonJohn Of the three microbiological routes of "delivery" for foodborne illness, lethality treatment only addresses infection, and not intoxication nor toxin-mediated infection. Also note, although not a standard pathogen of concern for this product, pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes are extremely difficult to cook out. – Arctiic Jul 10 '19 at 10:47

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