Can you eat cold chicken while pregnant?

Quick Answer

Yes, it is generally safe to eat cold chicken while pregnant as long as it has been stored and handled properly. Cold chicken should be consumed within 1-2 days of cooking and reheated to 165°F. Avoid chicken that has been sitting out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Practicing food safety precautions can prevent foodborne illnesses from cold chicken.

Is It Safe to Eat Cold Chicken While Pregnant?

Eating cold chicken while pregnant is usually safe if it has been stored properly. Here are some general guidelines for eating cold chicken during pregnancy:

– Only eat chicken that has been cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. This kills any harmful bacteria that could be present.

– Refrigerate cooked chicken within 2 hours of cooking. Do not leave chicken sitting out at room temperature.

– Store cooked chicken on the top shelf of the refrigerator, so raw chicken juices cannot drip onto it.

– Eat refrigerated cooked chicken within 1-2 days of cooking.

– Reheat chicken thoroughly to 165°F before eating. This kills any bacteria that may have grown during storage.

– Avoid chicken that has been left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. The “danger zone” for bacterial growth is between 40-140°F.

As long as you follow these basic food safety guidelines, it should be safe to consume cold cooked chicken during pregnancy. The key is preventing bacterial contamination and growth by chilling, reheating, and storing chicken properly.

Are There Risks of Food Poisoning from Cold Chicken?

There are some risks of food poisoning associated with eating cold chicken if food safety practices are not followed:

– **Salmonella** – Raw chicken may contain Salmonella bacteria. If undercooked chicken is then stored in the refrigerator, Salmonella can still grow during storage and cause illness. Always cook chicken to 165°F.

– **Listeria** – Listeria bacteria can grow at refrigerator temperatures. If cooked chicken comes into contact with a source of Listeria, such as uncooked meat juices, contamination may occur.

– **Clostridium perfringens** – This bacteria grows on cooked foods left at room temperature for too long. If chicken is not cooled quickly enough, it can multiply and cause illness.

Proper food handling is key. Chicken should go directly from the oven or stove into the refrigerator within 2 hours, stored in a container on the top shelf, away from raw meats. Reheating to 165°F will kill any bacteria that may have multiplied in storage.

For pregnant women, Listeria is of particular concern as it can cause pregnancy complications like miscarriage, stillbirth, and illness in newborns. Following food safety guidelines carefully can prevent Listeria infection.

How to Handle and Reheat Chicken Safely

Here are some tips for safely handling and reheating cold chicken during pregnancy:

– **Wash hands and cooking surfaces** – Wash hands before and after handling chicken. Sanitize counters, cutting boards, utensils, and platters that have touched raw chicken.

– **Cook thoroughly to 165°F** – Use a food thermometer to confirm chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F which kills harmful bacteria.

– **Refrigerate within 2 hours** – Refrigerate or freeze chicken within 2 hours of cooking, or 1 hour if outside temperatures exceed 90°F. Divide chicken into shallow containers for fast chilling.

– **Store chicken on top shelf** – Keep cooked chicken on the top shelf of the fridge, so raw meat juices cannot drip onto it. Use within 1-2 days.

– **Reheat thoroughly to 165°F** – Reheat chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F before eating to kill bacteria that may have multiplied in storage. Bring soup or gravy to a full boil when reheating.

– **Avoid the “danger zone”** – Do not leave chicken sitting out between 40-140°F for more than 2 hours total. Bacteria grows rapidly in this temperature danger zone.

Following proper food handling procedures and using a food thermometer can help pregnant women safely consume cold leftover chicken without worrying about food poisoning.

How Long Can You Store Chicken in the Fridge?

Cold chicken can be stored in the refrigerator at 40°F or below for 1-2 days. Here are the recommended maximum storage times for different types of chicken:

– Whole chicken or chicken pieces – 1-2 days
– Chicken soup or gravy – 1-2 days
– Chicken salad – 3-4 days
– Cooked chicken pieces for chicken salad – 1 day
– Chicken nuggets or patties – 1-2 days
– Leftover fried chicken – 3-4 days

Always check the “use by” date on pre-packaged chicken products like nuggets as they may have shorter shelf lives.

If you freeze chicken, it can be kept for longer periods:

– Chicken pieces or casseroles – 4-6 months
– Soups and gravies with chicken – 2-3 months
– Chicken nuggets or patties – 1-3 months

Frozen chicken should be thawed in the refrigerator, not at room temperature to prevent bacterial growth. And remember to never refreeze chicken once it has been thawed.

Following the proper fridge and freezer storage times for different types of chicken can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness. When in doubt, remember the basic rule – store chicken for only 1-2 days.

Can You Get Food Poisoning from Eating Leftover Chicken?

Yes, it is possible to get food poisoning from eating leftover chicken if it is not stored and reheated properly. Some high-risk situations include:

– Undercooked chicken – Chicken that is still pink in the middle or not cooked to 165°F can contain Salmonella bacteria that causes food poisoning. Always cook chicken thoroughly.

– Chicken left out too long – Chicken left at room temperature for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if over 90°F outside) can allow dangerous bacteria like Salmonella to multiply quickly.

– Chicken juice contamination – Drippings or juices from raw chicken can contaminate already cooked chicken in the fridge by contact. Store cooked chicken on the top shelf, away from raw meat.

– Reheating improperly – Simply microwaving chicken may not heat it evenly to 165°F needed to kill bacteria. Bring leftover chicken to a full boil or 165°F.

– Eating after expiration date – Chicken kept past the recommended 1-2 days of refrigeration has a higher risk of bacterial overgrowth. Follow proper storage times.

To prevent food poisoning, pregnant women should only eat leftover chicken that has been refrigerated promptly, kept for a maximum of 1-2 days, and reheated fully to 165°F. When good food safety practices are followed, eating leftover chicken poses minimal risks.

Tips for Safely Reheating Leftover Chicken

It is important to properly reheat leftover chicken to 165°F to kill any bacteria before eating. Here are some reheating tips:

– Use the stove or oven to reheat chicken pieces, casseroles, and soups to 165°F. Bring soup or gravy to a full rolling boil.

– Microwave chicken thoroughly, stirring and rotating periodically for even heating. Cover the dish to retain moisture.

– Bring chicken salad or stuffing with chicken to 165°F on the stove or baking it in a 350°F oven.

– Preheat chicken nuggets or patties in the oven following package instructions until steaming hot.

– Reheat fried chicken in the oven or toaster oven until hot and crispy. Microwaving can make it soggy.

– If you are heating up a chicken dish containing vegetables or other ingredients, ensure the innermost parts reach 165°F.

– Stir, rotate, and check chicken with a food thermometer to verify it reaches the food safe 165°F temperature.

– Never microwave chicken on high power for an extended time. This can create cold spots where bacteria survives.

Taking these simple steps when reheating will ensure any bacteria that has accumulated in the fridge is killed, making leftover chicken safe for the sensitive stomachs of pregnant women.

Can You Microwave Day Old Chicken?

Cold chicken that is only a day or two old can be safely reheated in the microwave but special care should be taken:

– Remove chicken from fridge 30 minutes before microwaving to allow it to come closer to room temperature. This helps it heat evenly.

– Place chicken pieces or container of chicken on a microwave-safe dish and cover it. Rotate dish during cooking.

– Heat chicken using 50% power for about 5-7 minutes per pound. Chicken that is reheated too quickly or unevenly can have cold spots where bacteria survives. Take your time.

– Stir, check, and rotate chicken every minute or two to distribute heat. Insert a food thermometer in thickest parts to ensure it reaches 165°F.

– Allow microwaved chicken to rest for a full 2 minutes before eating. Residual heat will finish cooking it fully.

– Heat chicken gravy, soup, or casserole in a microwave-safe bowl with liquid stirred every minute until bubbling. Bring just to a boil.

Follow these tips when microwaving cold leftover chicken to ensure it is properly reheated throughout to a safe 165°F temperature to prevent illness. Never microwave chicken that is more than 2 days old.

Can I Eat 5 Day Old Refrigerated Chicken?

Chicken that has been refrigerated for 5 days is generally considered unsafe to eat. Here is some guidance on eating chicken kept for this length of time:

– **Do not eat it** – Chicken that is 5 days old has surpassed the recommended 1-2 day storage guidelines. Bacteria levels can be high even if the chicken smells and looks fine. It’s best to discard 5 day old refrigerated chicken.

– **Higher risk for food poisoning** – Dangerous bacteria like Salmonella has likely multiplied to dangerous levels at 5 days in the fridge. Eating this old chicken significantly increases your risk of foodborne illness.

– **Higher risk when pregnant** – For pregnant women, food poisoning from 5 day old chicken can lead to dehydration, fever, miscarriage, and complications. The consequences are more severe than for the general population.

– **When in doubt, throw it out** – Always follow the rule that cooked chicken should only be refrigerated for a maximum of 1-2 days. If you lost track of when chicken was cooked, it’s not worth the risk.

To stay on the safe side, do not eat chicken that has been refrigerated for 5 days or longer. Cooked chicken is highly perishable and bacteria can multiply quickly even when refrigerated. For pregnant women, erring on the side of caution is wise.

Can I Eat Chicken Left Out Overnight?

Chicken that has been left out at room temperature or in the “danger zone” between 40-140°F overnight should not be eaten, especially when pregnant. Here’s why:

– **Rapid bacterial growth** – Harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli multiply rapidly on chicken between 40-140°F. Just 2 hours in this zone can make chicken unsafe.

– **Can’t know bacterial levels** – There is no way to know just how much dangerous bacteria may be present after overnight room temperature storage. Safer to discard the chicken.

– **Food poisoning risk** – Eating overnight chicken that may have very high bacterial contamination poses a very high risk of developing food poisoning.

– **Higher risk when pregnant** – Foodborne illness from overnight chicken can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, fever, and complications which can severely affect a pregnant woman and her baby’s health.

– **When in doubt, throw it out** – Even if it looks and smells okay, overnight chicken should be discarded. It’s simply not worth the potential risk.

Chicken has a very short room temperature shelf life. Pregnant women should never eat chicken left out overnight and instead follow the 2 hour danger zone rule for safety. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to food poisoning risks.

Can Reheating Make Chicken Safe to Eat?

Simply reheating chicken that is well past its prime is not enough to make it safe to eat. Here is some guidance:

– **Reheating does not destroy toxins** – Dangerous bacteria produce toxins that can cause illness. Reheating cannot destroy these toxins in spoiled chicken.

– **Bacteria may continue growing** – Some bacteria like Bacillus cereus spores actually thrive and continue growing when chicken is reheated.

– **Contamination can persist** – Pathogens like Salmonella can infiltrate chicken meat and survive high temperatures. Reheating cannot reverse this.

– **Quality deteriorates** – Even if chicken seems safe microbially, the quality and taste deteriorates with prolonged storage in the fridge or at room temperature.

– **When in doubt, throw it out** – Chicken that is clearly past recommended storage guidelines or has been temperature abused should be discarded. Reheating long stored or old chicken is risky.

Proper refrigerated storage, handling, and reheating is needed from the start to keep chicken safe. Reheating chicken that may already be heavily contaminated is not a wise food safety risk, especially for populations like pregnant women.

Can You Get Sick from Smelling Bad Chicken?

Simply smelling spoiled, raw chicken will not make you sick. Illness requires actually ingesting contaminated chicken. Here is some information:

– **Ingestion needed** – Food poisoning comes from eating chicken containing pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella, not just smelling it. odor alone cannot transmit illness.

– **Spoiled smell is a warning** – The “rotten” smell of old chicken is caused by bacterial growth and ammonia. This signals chicken should be discarded, not consumed.

– **Avoid contamination** – Handling the old chicken and bringing it close to your nose can lead to cross contamination with bacteria. Avoid direct contact.

– **Remove from kitchen** – Chicken that smells bad or “off” should be immediately thrown away in a sealed bag. This prevents spread of bacteria to surfaces.

– **Clean area afterward** – Disinfect any sinks, counters, plates, and hands that may have touched the spoiled chicken using soap, bleach, or disinfecting wipes.

While smelling bad chicken cannot directly make you sick, it means chicken should not be eaten and cross contamination should be avoided. The spoiled smell is the bacteria’s warning signal to throw chicken away and sanitize surfaces.

What to Do if You Think You Have Food Poisoning

If you suspect you have food poisoning from chicken or other contaminated food, here are important steps to take:

– **Stop eating the suspect food** – Discontinue consuming any remaining chicken or meal that may be the source of contamination.

– **Drink fluids** – Food poisoning often leads to vomiting and diarrhea which can cause dehydration. Sip small amounts of water, broth, or electrolyte drinks.

– **Call your doctor** – Seek medical advice, especially if experiencing diarrhea for over 2 days, bloody stools, high fever, vomiting that prevents fluid intake, or signs of dehydration.

– **Rest** – Get lots of rest while recovering from food poisoning. Staying hydrated and avoiding solid foods till symptoms pass may help ease digestive upset.

– **Avoid certain medications** – Check with your doctor before taking anti-diarrheal, anti-nausea, or pain medications which can have side effects in pregnancy.

– **Monitor fetus** – Pregnant women should monitor fetal movement and call their OB-GYN if concerned. Seek care immediately for fever over 101°F which can risk the fetus.

Pay attention to food poisoning symptoms that last over 24 hours, are severe, or prevent fluid intake, especially when pregnant. Call your doctor who can provide the right medical treatment to aid recovery and prevent complications.

How to Prevent Food Poisoning from Chicken

Here are some key tips for avoiding food poisoning from chicken during pregnancy:

– **Cook chicken thoroughly to 165°F** – Use a food thermometer to ensure chicken reaches the safe internal temperature that kills potentially harmful bacteria.

– **Refrigerate chicken within 2 hours** – Do not leave cooked or raw chicken at room temperature for more than 2 hours before transferring to the fridge.

– **Store chicken on top fridge shelf** – Place chicken in a container on the top shelf of the refrigerator to prevent raw meat juices dripping onto it.

– **Avoid rinsing chicken** – Washing raw chicken can spread bacteria to surfaces. Cook chicken thoroughly to required safe temperatures instead.

– **Use separate cutting boards** – Prevent cross contamination by using separate cutting boards and utensils for raw chicken and cooked foods or produce.

– **Wash hands and surfaces** – Wash hands, counters, sinks and utensils thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling chicken.

– **Check “sell by” and “use by” dates** – Do not eat chicken that has passed expiration dates on the package as it has higher bacteria levels.

Following proper food handling, storage, cooking temperatures, and hygiene practices can help pregnant women prevent risky cases of food poisoning from chicken.


Eating cold chicken while pregnant is generally considered safe when proper food safety guidelines are followed. Cook chicken thoroughly to 165°F, refrigerate within 2 hours, store for only 1-2 days, reheat fully, and avoid the danger zone between 40-140°F. With proper handling, storage, and reheating, the risk of food poisoning from eating cold leftover chicken can be minimized in pregnancy. Discard chicken that is more than 2 days old, has been left out overnight, smells bad, or is otherwise suspicious. Preventing exposure to pathogens like Salmonella and Listeria should be the priority for pregnant women. Following food safety best practices can allow pregnant women to safely enjoy leftover chicken meals.

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