Can You Reheat Cooked Chicken from the Supermarket?
Leftovers are a great way to stretch out meals and save money. And when you’re short on time, a trip to the supermarket’s hot foods section can provide a quick and easy meal. But what do you do when you have leftovers or cooked chicken that you want to reheat?
Before you do anything, it’s important to understand food safety. The last thing you want is to get sick from a dish that was improperly handled or stored. In this article, we’ll look at how long cooked chicken can last in the fridge, the safest methods for reheating it, signs of spoilage and other considerations for food safety when reheating leftovers.
Understanding Cooked Chicken Shelf Life
Cooked chicken can generally be kept in the fridge for up to four days before its quality starts to degrade. But keep in mind that this timeline can vary based on different factors.
The date listed on the packaging can also provide some guidance as to when it’s best to consume the leftovers. The “sell-by” date indicates to stores when they should remove the product from their shelves. The “best-by” date is an estimate of when the product is still at its peak quality or freshness.
The “use-by” date is the last day recommended by the manufacturer for consuming the product at its best quality and taste. This differs from expiration dates, which are used for safety reasons, but “use-by” dates are meant more as advisory than requirement for safety.
Reheating Cooked Chicken: Is it Safe?
If you decide to reheat cooked chicken, it’s important to do so properly. When food is held at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (known as the “danger zone”), bacteria can multiply rapidly and cause food poisoning.
Don’t take chances with your health by consuming reheated chicken that has been stored improperly or not reheated to the correct temperature. Always make sure to reheat cooked chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F, which will kill any harmful bacteria.
There are risks of chemical contamination when reheating cooked chicken, such as when meat is heated in a microwave with plastic containers. Polycarbonate plastics used in some containers have been found to release a hormone-disrupting chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) when heated. Avoid this risk by using glass or ceramic dishes or microwavable paper plates instead.
Optimal Methods for Reheating Cooked Chicken
There is no one “best” way to reheat cooked chicken, as the optimal method depends on personal preference and convenience. But here are four common methods:
- Microwave: Place the chicken in a microwave-safe container with a lid. Heat the chicken on high for 1-2 minutes, then remove it from the microwave and stir. Continue heating for additional 1-2 minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the chicken in an oven-safe dish with a lid or covered with foil. Heat for around 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- Stovetop: The stovetop method involves heating leftovers using a skillet or pot over medium heat. Place your chicken in a pan that allows for even distribution of heat and cover with a lid to retain moisture. Stir occasionally until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Slow cooker: Add your chicken to a slow cooker with a small amount of added liquid (e.g. water or broth). Heat on low for four to six hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Factors That Affect Reheating Cooked Chicken Results
It’s important to keep in mind different factors when reheating cooked chicken:
- Chicken size and thickness: Larger pieces of chicken will take longer to reheat than smaller ones. Be sure to adjust the cooking time based on the size of your pieces.
- Type of cooking method: Some cooking methods are better suited for reheating certain chicken dishes than others. For example, oven heating works well for roasted or baked chicken, while stovetop may be better for sautéed or grilled chicken.
- How long the chicken has been stored in the fridge: The longer cooked chicken sits in the fridge, the more moisture it loses, which can affect overall quality when reheated. Freshly made cooked chicken will have a better texture when reheated than one that has been in the fridge for several days.
Tips for Storing Cooked Chicken Safely
If you have leftovers that you’re planning on eating later, here are some tips for storing them safely:
- Proper Storage Containers: Use airtight containers or bags specifically designed for storing food. This will help prevent the absorption of other odors or flavors from other food items in your refrigerator. Label containers with dates so you can easily see how long they’ve been stored.
- Pick the Right Temperature Range for Storage: Keep cooked chicken in the fridge at a temperature of 40°F or less. If food is left out for more than two hours, bacteria can begin to multiply to dangerous levels and cause food poisoning.
- Organize Your Fridge to Store Cooked Chicken Safely: Keep raw meat separate from cooked meat in the fridge and ensure that no leaks occur. Store cooked chicken on the top shelf of the fridge, away from any raw meat that might drip onto it.
How to Tell if Cooked Chicken Has Gone Bad
Spoiled cooked chicken may exhibit several sensory cues. Some key signs include:
- Smell: If you open a container of cooked chicken and smell something “off” or “sour,” discard it immediately. Smelling bad is a sure sign that bacterial growth has occurred.
- Texture: Look for signs such as slime on the surface or an unpleasant texture. Spoiled chicken will also feel slimy to the touch and have a sticky texture.
- Appearance: Discoloration or mold growth on the chicken is a clear sign that it’s time to throw it away.
Alternative Ways to Use Leftover Cooked Chicken
If you don’t want to reheat your cooked chicken, there are a wealth of alternative ways to use it up. Here are just a few ideas:
- Cold cuts: Chop up leftovers into small bitesize pieces and mix with other ingredients in a sandwich or wrap.
- Soups and stews: Leftover cooked chicken makes perfect additions to soups, stews and casseroles. Simply chop up the chicken into bite-sized chunks and add it in towards the end of cooking.
- Chicken Salad: Combine chopped-up cooked chicken with mayonnaise or plain yogurt, seasonings, and vegetables for a quick and tasty chicken salad sandwich or lettuce wrap.
Other Food Safety Considerations When Reheating Leftovers
Once you understand how to reheat cooked chicken safely, the same principles should keep you safe when reheating other types of leftovers. Here are a few general guidelines you should keep in mind:
- General Guidelines: Be sure to heat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill harmful bacteria before eating them.
- Recommendations for Specific Types of Food: Follow recommendations for specific types of food as some foods are more susceptible to bacterial growth than others. For example, seafood is highly perishable and tends to spoil more easily than other types of protein.
Cooked chicken from the supermarket can be a convenient solution for busy people who need a quick meal. However, it’s important to understand best practices for reheating it safely. By following our tips for storing and reheating cooked chicken properly, checking signs of spoilage before consuming it, considering alternative ways to use leftovers and being mindful of general food safety guidelines when reheating other types of leftovers, you can keep your meals tasty and safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I reheat cooked chicken from the supermarket?
Yes, you can safely reheat cooked chicken from the supermarket as long as it has been stored and reheated correctly.
How should I store cooked chicken from the supermarket?
To ensure it stays fresh and safe to eat, place the cooked chicken in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to four days.
What is the best way to reheat cooked chicken from the supermarket?
The best method is to use a microwave or an oven. If reheating in a microwave, make sure to cover the chicken to prevent it from drying out. If reheating in an oven, preheat to 350°F and then heat for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Is there a time limit for how long I can keep reheated chicken?
It is recommended that you consume reheated cooked chicken within two hours of reheating. If you cannot consume it within that timeframe, refrigerate it immediately and consume it within four days.