Have you ever wondered how long you can store cooked chicken wings in the fridge before they go off?
Having this information allows you to plan your meals and minimize your food waste (which should bring down your monthly grocery store bill), and it reduces the risk of making yourself sick by eating something bad!
How long do cooked chicken wings last in the fridge? It should be safe to store your chicken wings in the fridge for three or four days once they have been cooked, but you should not keep them for longer than this.
If the chicken was not very fresh when you cooked it, you may wish to reduce this estimate by a day or two.
How Long Can You Store Cooked Chicken Wings in the Fridge?
Cooked chicken wings that are placed in the fridge promptly should be safe to store for up to four days, provided your fridge is under 40 degrees F at all times.
Store the chicken wings in the coldest part of the fridge to maximize their shelf life and slow the bacterial spread.
You should place cooked chicken wings in an airtight container before storing them, to minimize the airflow. This should reduce the risk of any cross contamination between the chicken and any other food, and may help the chicken to last for longer.
When exposed to oxygen, chicken is more likely to go bad quickly, and may also become dry or hard around the edges. It’s therefore best to wrap chicken before you refrigerate it.
How Can You Tell If Chicken Wings Have Gone Bad?
You should always inspect chicken wings closely if you are worried that they may have gone bad. The exterior will often show visible signs of mold, which may appear as pale blue, green, or white flecks.
It may also have turned mushy or slimy, rather than firm, and this indicates that bacteria may have started breaking it down.
If you have taken chicken wings out of your fridge and you aren’t sure whether they are safe to eat, leave them on your counter for a short while to warm up.
This should allow the meat to start releasing its scent, and this will give you a further indication as to whether it is safe to eat.
If it smells sour or unpleasant, the chicken has gone bad and you should not consume it.
It is best not to taste chicken that you think is unsafe, so if you aren’t sure about your chicken wings, throw them away rather than consuming them – even in small amounts.
Chicken that looks, smells, and feels fine should still be thrown away after four days in the fridge, as it may be going bad without showing any visible signs.
Eating it could cause food poisoning, which may lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly even hospitalization.
The Impact of Initial Freshness on Shelf Life
When it comes to the shelf life of cooked chicken wings, the initial freshness of the chicken plays a significant role.
Freshly cooked chicken wings tend to last longer and maintain their quality better compared to those cooked from near-expiry chicken. It’s crucial to consider this factor when planning your meals and storage strategies.
Understanding the ‘Danger Zone’ in Food Safety
The ‘danger zone’ in food safety refers to a temperature range between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Within this range, bacteria can multiply rapidly, posing a risk to food safety.
Cooked chicken wings left at room temperature for more than two hours, or one hour in outdoor sunlight, enter this ‘danger zone’, increasing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
Therefore, it’s essential to store your cooked chicken wings promptly in the fridge or freezer to avoid this risk.
Preventing Cross-Contamination and Freezer Burn
- Cross-contamination: This occurs when bacteria or other pathogens are transferred from one food item to another.
- To prevent this, store your cooked chicken wings in an airtight container or zip-top bag, minimizing contact with other foods.
- Freezer burn: If chicken wings are left in the freezer for more than six months, they may become ‘freezer-burnt’, affecting their taste and texture.
- To avoid this, ensure your wings are properly sealed before freezing and try to consume them within six months.
Is it Safe to Freeze Cooked Chicken Wings?
You can freeze cooked chicken wings, yes. This should keep them edible indefinitely, provided they remain frozen, but it is a good idea to use them up within six months of freezing.
After this point, the taste and texture are likely to start deteriorating. The sooner you use them, the better the texture will be.
If you are going to put chicken wings in your freezer, you should do so promptly after cooking them, rather than allowing them to linger in the fridge first.
Cooking the chicken will kill off bacteria, but this will soon start breeding in the flesh again.
The faster you can freeze the meat, the less chance bacteria will have to spread throughout it, and the better it will last once it is defrosted again.
Always wrap chicken wings in a freezer bag or seal them in an airtight container before freezing them, or they may end up with freezer burn. This will ruin the texture, leaving the meat dry and unpleasant.
Can You Reheat Cooked Chicken Wings?
You can safely reheat cooked chicken wings provided you do so according to the current guidelines.
The USDA recommends heating them to at least 165 degrees F (internal temperature) to ensure that any bacteria is killed.
Most people recommend only heating meat twice (once for the initial cooking, and one reheat).
This is because bacteria breed more quickly at warm temperatures, and when the meat is cooling down after cooking, bacteria can spread throughout it rapidly.
The more times you reheat meat, the longer it spends at dangerously warm temperatures, and the more bacteria can spread through it.
However, it is generally safe to reheat chicken wings more than once provided you are cooling them promptly and storing them below 40 degrees F.
If possible, you should only reheat the amount that you intend to consume straight away, and leave the rest in the fridge until you want them.
Apart from the safety factor, the texture of chicken wings will noticeably decline if they are reheated and cooled several times. They may become dry or soft, losing the crispiness that makes them so appealing.
Can You Leave Chicken Wings at Room Temperature?
You should never leave chicken wings at room temperature, especially overnight. According to the USDA, all meat products should be stored in the fridge or freezer within two hours of cooking.
This massively decreases the speed with which bacteria spreads through the meat.
If you are working in a hot environment (above 90 degrees F), you should decrease this two-hour estimate to one hour. The sooner you can get the meat in the fridge, the better it will last.
Cool the cooked chicken wings down by spreading them out on a tray, and then transfer them to your fridge as soon as they are cold. Do not put hot or warm chicken wings in the fridge.
Cooked chicken wings last well in the fridge, and should be safe to eat for up to four days after they have been cooked.
Chicken that is fresh when you cook it should last better than chicken that is close to its use by date, but proper refrigeration will still be key to ensuring it remains safe to eat.