Pre-cooking chicken and storing it in the fridge is a great way of reducing food waste while also helping with meal preparation. Whether you’ve cooked some chicken for a fresh chicken salad for work or for a roast dinner later in the week, you’re probably wondering how long can meal prep chicken last before it begins to spoil and become dangerous to eat.
Pre-cooked meal prep chicken can last 3-4 days in the fridge if it is cooked when it’s fresh. Lots of factors will affect how long your chicken lasts and the quality of the chicken when you come to eat it.
The correct preparation, handling, cooking and storing of chicken is essential when it comes to preserving its quality and shelf life. How long it lasts before spoiling can depend on its storage conditions, how it’s stored, and how fresh the chicken was when it was cooked. Knowing what can affect your meal prep chicken and following the guidelines in this post will help maximize the shelf life of your chicken and avoid any cross-contamination or bacteria forming.
If you’re an incredibly busy person that likes to cook ahead of time, or you’re simply looking for some information on how long you can store your leftover chicken, this is the blog post for you. Today we’re going to talk about how long meal prep chicken can last, factors that might affect the shelf life of your chicken, and some tips on how to keep your meal prep chicken as fresh as possible.
Factors that affect the shelf life of meal prep chicken
As mentioned above, there are many factors that could affect the shelf life of your meal prep chicken. Understanding what could affect its shelf life and safety will help you safely store it and minimize the risk of cross contamination.
The temperature of your fridge
You should store your chicken at or below 40°F or 4°C to prevent any bacteria growing that can cause you to become unwell and spoil the chicken.
How fresh the chicken was when cooked
The fresher the chicken was when it was cooked, the longer it will last as meal prep in your fridge. If you cooked the chicken because it was nearing its expiry date, the shelf life won’t be as long.
How the chicken is stored
If you store your chicken and it has exposure to the air, it will be more prone to bacteria growth. Your best bet is to store it in air-tight containers or sealed plastic bags.
How long the chicken is stored
Leaving your chicken for too long before consuming it increases your chances of getting sick due to bacterial growth. You’re better off consuming your meal prep chicken as soon as possible.
How the chicken was cooked
The method used to cook the chicken will also affect how quickly it’s spoiled. Make sure you always thoroughly cook your chicken to 165°F or 74°C to kill any bacteria. If your chicken is even slightly undercooked it could make you sick.
Handling and cross contamination
Following professional kitchen rules and using separate cutting boards and utensils for the handling of cooked and raw chicken is essential to avoid cross contaminating the cooked chicken – or any other food. Remember to wash your hands before handling cooked chicken, and before and after when handling raw chicken.
Taking all of these points into consideration, you can extend the life of your meal prep chicken in your fridge and enjoy many different meals.
Tips for keeping meal prep chicken fresh
Prolonging the shelf life of your meal prep chicken can come down to the way you handle it before storing it. Ensuring you properly store your chicken will help keep its freshness, taste and safety. Let’s take a look at some all-important tops so you can store your meal prep chicken safely:
- Cool down before putting it in the fridge – it’s important to let your meal prep chicken to cool down completely before putting it in the fridge. This usually takes about 1-2 hours. Doing this helps prevent condensation and any moisture build up which could lead to bacteria growing.
- Use air-tight containers – be sure to store your chicken in air-tight containers. Exposure to the air may allow bacteria to penetrate and spoil your meal prep chicken.
- Label and date – take the time to label your cooked meal prep chicken to avoid accidentally eating after the recommended time. This is especially important if you have cooked more chicken since and need to store it in the same fridge.
- Consider portioning – portioning out your food before putting it in the fridge will help it cool down faster. Not only that, if your chicken is already in portions you can take out and use only what you need, meaning the rest of the chicken isn’t exposed to the air or any bacteria. It also saves you having to reheat the whole batch.
- Keep away from raw meat – keep your meal prep chicken well away from any raw meats in your fridge to avoid cross contamination.
- Place in the coldest part of your fridge – because chicken is a meat you need to be extra careful with, it’s important to store it in the coldest part of your fridge. This is usually at the back or on the bottom shelf. Storing it anywhere else in the fridge may expose it to changes in temperature when the fridge is opened and closed.
- Don’t overfill your fridge – making sure that your fridge isn’t too full is also essential. If you store too many things in your fridge it can prevent the air circulating properly, which means your food may fluctuate in temperature, increasing the risk of bacteria growing.
So, how long can meal prep chicken last? If you follow the guidelines above, you’re looking at 3-4 days. Remember that the length of time it will last will depend on the freshness of the chicken, how you handle it and also how you store your chicken.