Poultry products are the single biggest source of food poisoning in the US. Salmonella and campylobacter account for a large number of cases in the US. Samples of chicken tested by the nodal agency have revealed a high percentage of food poisoning. This is unsurprising, as annually, 9 billion chickens are consumed in the US, with the average American expected to consume around 93 pounds every year. The number of recipes and preparation methods of chicken keep growing, with celebrity chefs sharing exotic recipes for homemakers. A significant percentage of individuals are either unaware or do not pay attention to the need for prevention of food poisoning by refrigerating/freezing chicken. Many individuals are unaware of exactly how long can raw chicken sit out? Consequently, while the refrigeration process may have been followed, the thawing time may have been more, resulting in food poisoning.

We now take a look at the reasons behind food poisoning and the need for adopting the right timings in refrigeration/thawing of chicken. This will prevent a significant percentage of food poisoning cases.

How long can raw chicken sit out? What happens if it is not refrigerated in time?

A simple rule of thumb will effectively answer the question that is foremost on everyone’s mind – how long can raw chicken sit out?. The maximum time that you let chicken to sit out is 120 minutes. This will decrease further if the temperature is higher. If the temperature is excessively high, this can reduce by as much as one hour. This applies for raw chicken and cooked chicken. In the case of cooked chicken this can be slightly longer but not too much. It also depends on the ingredients used. For instance, if coconut is part of the ingredients, then you certainly need to put it back in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Certain food products and ingredients quickly deteriorate, and it is therefore essential to refrigerate at the earliest.

What happens if chicken is not refrigerated?

The main reason why chicken like all meat has to be refrigerated is because meat carries disease causing bacteria which are known to rapidly multiply at certain temperatures. If left unchecked, the disease causing bacteria will increase to a level where food poisoning occurs. Refrigeration helps to keep the meat at a temperature below that level which is conducive for the bacteria to multiply. This prevents the bacteria from multiplying and ensures that individuals who consume the meat do not fall sick. Similarly, chicken or any meat that is cooked or maintained at a hot temperature prevents the bacteria from multiplying. This again ensures that individuals do not fall sick, after consuming the meat.


How long can raw chicken sit out after it has been taken out of the refrigerator or cooked?

One of the reasons behind most food poisoning cases is the time the chicken is kept out of the fridge. This could be after it has been taken out to thaw, or after it has been cooked. The same thumb rule applies for chicken at all times. Deterioration occurs when the meat is exposed to particular temperatures. Therefore the attempt should always be to ensure that the chicken (cooked or raw) is not stored at those temperatures. The answer to the question – how long can raw chicken sit out – is 120 minutes if it is at normal temperatures. At other temperatures, this time will shrink. It is also important to ensure that the temperature is not below a certain point. Many individuals often make the mistake of storing at a temperature below a particular point. That is also not the safest option. The temperature settings of your refrigerator should ideally be between 34 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit when you store meat products. This will prevent the bacteria from growing.

Simple tips to ensure that the refrigerated meat is safe

There are general tips that need to be followed when refrigerating. This will help to ensure that the refrigeration is effective. Certain practices need to be avoided. While the answer to how long can raw chicken sit out elicits an answer, which is easy to follow, most individuals fail to follow best practices while refrigerating. Consequently, the quality of refrigeration fails and the whole idea of refrigeration is negated. Here are a few tips that will help to ensure that refrigeration is effective in preventing the rapid growth of bacteria in meat.

# Taking meat out that was first put in – There is a possibility of storing poultry products when there are other poultry packets. As a result individuals are likely to leave the older packs in the refrigerator while the newly stored meat is likely to be taken out first. It is essential to follow the best practice of identifying poultry packets that have been stored first. What goes in first, should be taken out first. This can be achieved by following a system of placing the packets in a particular order, therefore ensuring that the packets are retrieved accordingly.

# Removal of decaying food products – This is essential to ensure that the decay does not spread to other food products. As mentioned earlier, the rapid multiplication of bacteria is the reason for disease and food poisoning. Food products with high levels of bacteria are sure to cause decay in other food products also. This is one of the reasons why separate packs and trays are always recommended.

#Unusually long periods of storage are to be generally avoided – It is always healthy to avoid storage of meat products for an unusually long time. While it may be unavoidable at times, it is better to follow the best practices of putting meat in a refrigerator with the intention of using it within 48 hours. This will help to keep the meat free from bacteria. Here it is important to look at it in the context of how long can raw chicken sit out?. The main reason why poultry products are refrigerated is to slow down the speed with which the bacteria multiplies. By keeping it for a long time, there is every possibility of the bacteria having multiplied to a certain extent. When it crosses a point, it becomes unhealthy. By taking food products out from the refrigerator within a period, it reduces the window for the bacteria to multiply fast.


Will cooking destroy the bacteria that has formed if chicken is left out for a long time?

In addition to the doubts about how long can raw chicken sit out, individuals are also unsure if cooking spoilt chicken will turn it around. Unfortunately, the answer is no. Chicken that has deteriorated beyond a point is unsafe for eating and no amount of heating it or preparing it will turn it around to a healthy dish. Once food poisoning occurs, the meat is spoilt and is unsafe for consumption by humans. Only certain animals that can eat rotting flesh can consume such meat, while humans are most likely to end up in hospitals.

Care to be exercised while purchasing poultry products

Unscrupulous stores are known to use chemicals to mask the odor of decaying meat. This is achieved successfully, and shoppers are unaware of the effects of consuming meat that has been chemically treated. The strong effects of the chemicals ensure that the distasteful smell and flavor of rotting meat is hidden, but it is bound to have serious effects on the health of individuals consuming the meat. This will increase with the quantity consumed and the amount of chemicals used in the process. It is therefore necessary to exercise caution while purchasing poultry and meat products and follow the thumb rule in answer to the question how long can raw chicken sit out. Poultry and meat products should not be out for more than two hours, and in warmer climes, should not be out for more than one hour.


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