I marinated a couple of chicken breasts overnight in the fridge

The next day I baked it (in the same ovensafe dish it was marinated in) until fully cooked through

After baking, the chicken is still fully submerged in the marinade

I let it chill 30 min at room temp and then put back in the fridge

StillTasty says it will last 3-4 days refrigerated

If on day 3 I reheat, rebake or even boil it for 10 minutes, will it kill all bacteria that were present and multiplying during those 3 days in the fridge? In other words, can I restart the 3-4 days count whenever I recook the chicken, so that it will last indefinitely?

  • 1
    Indefinitely? No. You can extend it, but you have to heat & cool it quickly, to minimize the cumulative time in the 'danger zone'. See cooking.stackexchange.com/q/16872/67 (although note that the top answer is about holding the food at a safe temperature for a long period of time, not just reheating it for a few minutes. I suspect that you'd start getting towards pasteurization if you're holding it above 140°F for 8 hours at a time). Also related : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/20978/67
    – Joe
    Dec 12, 2018 at 22:08
  • Oh, and another old school method of preservation : cook it with enough animal fat so it forms a solid cap when it's cooled down (after sufficiently heating it to pasteurize it). I'm not sure how much that extends the fridge life, though.
    – Joe
    Dec 12, 2018 at 22:14

2 Answers 2


What you're concerned with when it come to food spoilage is the toxins bacteria produce, not the bacteria. While heating it will kill the bacteria, the toxins are typically proteins which will not be destroyed until your food has been turned to charcoal. Heating it will thus not increase the shelf life. On the contrary: heating and the cooling means your food has been in the 'danger zone' for longer than if it was refrigerated the whole time.

If you want to increase the shelf life of a dish like you described, freeze it. If frozen as soon as it comes out of the oven, it will last for several months in a normal freezer. The sooner you get it frozen the better for extending shelf life.

  • 1
    Freezing requires thawing which is a lot of concern for me as I would then have to plan meals 24 hours ahead. If get it right, per USDA it takes 3-4 days before bacteria start to produce toxins in such cooked dish? In that case, if I keep eliminating all bacteria every 3 days (and never get to day 4 without reheating) then bacteria never get to produce any toxins during that 3 day time window? (as long as the dish is always put back in the fridge immediately after cooking/reheating, i.e. without letting it chill at room temp)
    – Dan B
    Dec 12, 2018 at 20:57
  • 3
    It's more like 3-4 days before the toxins start being present at problematic levels. Bacteria live, die, and produce waste (whether toxins or benign) very rapidly; humans are large enough that bacteria have to reach a certain concentration before our system is affected.
    – Erica
    Dec 12, 2018 at 22:06
  • 1
    And those concentrations are really low for botulism : cidrap.umn.edu/infectious-disease-topics/botulism . (but I personally would've frozen the raw meat in its marinade, so as I thawed it, it was marinating)
    – Joe
    Dec 12, 2018 at 22:11
  • @Dan Would you rather plan in advance or get botulism? All that aside, you can place fully cooked, frozen food directly in the oven or microwave to defrost and reheat very quickly. You shouldn't cook meat from frozen, but you can reheat meat from frozen.
    – user141592
    Dec 13, 2018 at 6:29
  • the toxins are typically proteins which will not be destroyed until your food has been turned to charcoal this seems wrong to me. Protein denatures even below 60 degrees.
    – fjch1997
    Apr 8, 2020 at 1:19

The short answer is: no, you can't. In food safety, the times safe at a specific temperature range are cumulative, and nothing can "reset the clock". You only get the opportunity to keep it from ticking while the food is at another temperature range, which is what Johanna suggested with the freezing.

If you need the logic behind it, beside the toxins mentioned in the other answer, you seem to also make the assumption that cooking will sterilize your food. It won't, proper cooking will just reduce the bacteria to a certain level, the usual assumption is 1 in 100 000. The food safety agencies have not modelled bacteria growth after the reheating of a dish on the verge of becoming unsafe - it is possible that after the reheat, you will have more bacteria left than after the first cooking. And even if you think "the difference must be very small", the problem is that bacterial growth is exponential, and a tiny difference in starting conditions could give you huge differences after just a few hours.

But logic aside, do not try to invent your own food safety techniques. I already hinted at it above: bacterial growth is impossibly complex, and trying to predict what you will get by commonsense knowledge and a few calculations on the back of the envelope will end up wildly wrong, similarly to trying to predict the weather a week from now by gut feeling. Leave it to the guys with the supercomputers and a body of scientific knowledge to input into the computers.

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