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How Long Can Frozen Chicken Sit Out? Not That Long.

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When chicken sits out, dangerous bacteria begin to grow. Not great. And it happens more quickly than you might expect.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the limits of how long you should allow frozen chicken to sit out and a few safer alternatives for thawing it.

How Long To Thaw Frozen Chicken?

Frozen chicken can safely thaw at room temperature for up to 2 hours, per USDA guidelines. But if the temperature exceeds 90°F (32°C), don’t leave it out for over an hour. 

Frozen chicken thawing in a bowl on the counter.
Frozen chicken thawing on the counter.

Fortunately, there is a better way to do it.

Bacteria Growth

Contrary to popular belief, no matter how much you heat the chicken, you cannot cook the bacteria out of it. Many people believe that when food is left out for too long, all you have to do is reheat it properly. But that is not how it works.

Once bacteria growth is critical, it’s best not to waste your time and resources cooking or consuming that chicken.

Although it may feel like throwing money in the trash, the honest-to-goodness best solution is to dispose of the chicken and be more careful next time.

Better Thawing

Always thaw chicken in the refrigerator or cold water. 

This way, the chicken will remain at a consistently low temperature outside the danger zone (40-140°F) for bacteria growth.

Don’t rely on room temperature for thawing, and never use warm water.

If you want the option to refreeze the chicken later, using the refrigerator is always the best solution.

Frozen chicken in refrigerator.
Chicken being thawed in the refrigerator.

Sous Vide

Another great option for thawing frozen chicken fast is to cook it while it thaws, sous vide style.

This is, by far, the fastest and easiest way to get a well-cooked piece of chicken on the table. And, because sous vide method cooks the chicken in its own juices, you’ll never end up with a dry chicken dinner.

Here are some simple and versatile recipes for the juiciest chicken you’ll ever have:

And if you’re unfamiliar with sous vide, use us as your resource to learn about sous vide. We hope you try sous vide! You won’t regret it. It’s the easiest way to an amazing meal.

Chicken breast being cooked sous vide.
Chicken breast being cooked sous vide.

If your plan was to grill (or smoke) your chicken, sous vide can also be a good fit. Simply bring the frozen meat to your desired doneness, and then toss on the grill for a smoke or hard sear.

How Long Is Frozen Chicken Good For?

In a “best case” scenario, raw frozen chicken can last up to 9 months in the freezer. But the truth is, it depends. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • The temperature of your freezer. Ideally, the internal temperature of your freezer should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit. This will keep the chicken properly frozen and help maintain its quality and freshness. Any temperature variation can aid the growth of bacteria and spoil the chicken.
  • Proper packaging is essential. Always use the original packing or an air-tight container. Any nicks or cuts in the packaging can result in exposure to air, causing the chicken to spoil quickly. Always check the packaging when buying frozen chicken to ensure it is not damaged.
  • How the chicken was handled before freezing. If the chicken was mishandled before freezing, it wouldn’t last as long. For example, if it spent too much time sitting in the back of your car while you were shopping, it would spoil more quickly.

It’s also worth noting that your chicken’s quality will be inversely proportional to the time spent in the freezer. The longer it sits in that freezer, the lesser the quality. 

Always label it with the date you put it in the freezer so you know when to throw it out.

Yes, you can in fact freeze fried chicken with good results. Note though that it is good for only four months.

Frozen Chicken FAQs

Can you leave frozen chicken out for 5 hours?

No, frozen chicken should be discarded if it’s left out for more than 2 hours. If it is a hot day or your kitchen is warm, reduce that time limit to an hour. You will put yourself at risk for food-borne illness if you consume frozen chicken that was left out for longer.

Is chicken OK 24 hours after defrosting?

If the chicken was defrosted in the refrigerator and then stored there, it is safe to be cooked and consumed after 24 hours of thawing. When in doubt, it’s best to avoid questionable chicken since it can be a carrier of food-borne illnesses, such as salmonella.


  • Savini

    Savini Gauri is a trained chef from the Culinary Institute of America, and a culinary expert at Kitchen Ambition. She has a passion for dietary restrictive cooking and alternative cuisine. Savini loves to work with simple ingredients with an aim to make cooking and baking an accessible skill for everyone. Her life's goal is to taste and try as many global cuisines as possible.

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