Is Canned Chicken Already Cooked?

Is Canned Chicken Already Cooked?

Canned chicken is a great convenience food for those days when the world is hectic and you are struggling to keep up. It makes cooking a whole lot easier, and can speed up weeknight dinners and make lazy weekends a breeze. However, you might be wondering how this works, and whether canned chicken has already been cooked.

Is canned chicken already cooked? Yes, canned chicken is already cooked. Canning a food means heating it to a safe temperature to kill off bacteria, and then sealing it so tightly that no new bacteria can get in. It’s a very safe way to give chicken a long shelf life without needing it to be frozen, and canned chicken is ideal for quick, easy cooking.

Why is Canned Chicken Cooked?

Canned chicken is cooked because this is how the canning process works. It is necessary for the manufacturers to cook the chicken in order to kill off bacteria before they seal the can. If the chicken was not heated, it would simply continue to breed bacteria inside the can, and wouldn’t be safe to consume.

Until canned chicken is opened, it is safe from bacteria, because no oxygen can get at it. It is important for manufacturers to ensure that there is no residual bacteria in the chicken, however, and for this, they have to heat it to at least the cooking temperature recommended by the USDA (165 degrees F).

That means they cook the chicken and then seal it in the can at a high temperature, which ensures the food stays fresh and good to eat, regardless of how long it is stored for. Obviously, this is a big advantage over fresh chicken, which must be cooked and eaten quickly, or frozen chicken, which takes space and power to maintain.

Where Should You Store Sealed Canned Chicken?

This kind of chicken can be stored anywhere that is suitable for cans – the external environment does not matter too much, as long as it is not extremely hot or extremely cold. It is a good idea to put cans somewhere cool and dry so that the cans do not get rusty, although this is not usually much of an issue.

You may be able to store canned chicken in your basement or in a pantry, or it will be fine if kept in a cupboard.As long as it does not get heated massively or chilled to the point of damaging the can, it should be stable no matter where you keep it.

Where Should You Store Opened Canned Chicken?

Once you have opened canned chicken, however, be aware that it is no longer stable and it becomes much like any other meat; it needs proper storage in a cool place. You should put it into a sealable container and place it in the fridge or the freezer.

Don’t leave canned chicken in the open can, because once cans are open, they may start to leach plastics from their seals and into the food that is in contact with them. Being stored in an open can may also affect the flavor and texture of the chicken.

Always remove chicken from the can as soon as you open it. Any that is not used should be put into a storage container and placed in a fridge.

How Long Will a Can of Chicken Last For?

Provided it is stored well, canned chicken should last for years. That might sound incredible, but the whole point of storing chicken in a can is to massively extend its shelf life. Check the best before date on the can, but most are given around five years.

It is a good idea to try and use chicken up within these five years to ensure that it is still good to eat. However, it may last beyond this suggested shelf life, as canned food can often last for extremely long periods.

If you have let a can of chicken go past its recommended best before date, it is okay to open it and inspect the contents. If they look fine and smell fine, check the texture. It should be reasonably firm, and not slimy or mushy. If there are areas that feel odd or there is any bad smell, throw the chicken away.

If everything looks okay, it should be alright to eat. Remember, ‘best before’ dates only indicate that a food may have lost some quality, not that it will be unsafe after that date. However, if in doubt, it’s safest to discard expired meat products. Do not ignore “use by” dates, as these do refer to whether the food is safe to eat or not.

What If a Can of Chicken Gets Damaged?

If a can of chicken gets damaged, it is best to throw it away most of the time. Although a small dent is not usually a problem, damage can destroy the seal of the can. Even a miniature hole will let oxygen – and bacteria – into the can, compromising the chicken.

Although the can may look fine, a dent can create an invisible hole, and the chicken will very quickly go off, since cans are stored at room temperature. With some canned produce (vegetables), it may be okay to risk the contents, but with meat products, it is best to get rid of them.

A very tiny dent may not be anything much to worry about, but large dents are likely to have spoiled the seal, and the food will quickly become inedible. Don’t try and use the chicken up; it is best to throw it away and not risk getting food poisoning from it.

Don’t buy dented cans from the store for this reason. If you drop and dent a can yourself, open it and put the chicken in the fridge straight away to keep the meat fresh.

Final Thoughts

Canned chicken is cooked, yes. It can be used in meals directly, because it has already been cooked, skinned, and prepared for your food. It is worth checking the can, as it should say “fully cooked” somewhere on it, but you can be pretty sure that the chicken that comes from a can is not raw.