This article may contain links from our affiliate partners. Please read how we make money!
Life gets busy, and meal prepping help simplify my busy schedules, mine included! One of my favorite things to meal prep with is chicken. Not only is it extremely easy to work with, but there are so many different meals you can create from it. Plus, you can’t beat getting a whole chicken from Costco – talk about a great deal for an entire bird!
This white meat is a convenient and popular protein staple in most meal prep recipes, and you can pair it with various ingredients, sides, and seasoning. But how long is chicken meal prep good for? That depends on how it was stored.
- How Long Is Chicken Meal Prep Good For?
- How Do You Keep Chicken Fresher for Longer?
- What to Avoid When Storing Chicken For Meal Prep
- Related Questions
How Long Is Chicken Meal Prep Good For?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, cooked chicken is good for 3 to 4 days. If you are placing meal prepped chicken in the freezer, it will last 2-6 months. After cooking and meal prepping, allow the chicken to cool for two hours and then place it in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container.
Using the USDA’s guidelines, here’s a quick guide on how long chicken is good for during each stage of meal prepping.
Cooked and Refrigerated Chicken
A common technique I use to preserve chicken is by refrigerating it. It’s a great option when I am not looking to save the meal for more than three or four days, and it’s perfect if my chicken prep includes plenty of veggies and other fresh ingredients.
By storing cooked chicken in the refrigerator, bacterial growth is slowed down. Temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit are not conducive to the growth of bacteria. When storing raw chicken in the fridge, keep any other cooked foods away from it to avoid contamination.
Cooked and Frozen Chicken
One of the best ways I eat healthily is to have healthy chicken prep on hand. I take the time to prepare meals in advance, a few days or even a week ahead of time, and stick them in the freezer for easy reheating.
Cooked chicken is best kept frozen for approximately 2 to 6 months, depending on the preparation method. Chicken nuggets and patties are best used before 3 months, but casseroles and pieces drenched in gravy can last up to 6 months.
How Do You Keep Chicken Fresher for Longer?
When it comes to cooked chicken, you can do a couple of things to keep it fresher for longer.
Use the Right Kind of Meat
First and foremost, to keep your chicken fresh for as long as possible, you need to select the most ideal piece of meat. The USDA recommends that cooks purchase chicken with a “best if used by” date on the package. I buy whole chickens from the butcher and cut them down myself to get exactly what I want and know if the cuts are fresh.
Keep in mind that bone-in chicken has more flavor than boneless. And as a bonus, you can use the chicken carcass and leftover bones to make a broth for the future! Perfect for soups and even to use as your base with rice!
Brine the Chicken
Brining is a food preservation method involving immersing food in a saltwater solution. I brine my chicken in water, salt, and sugar for about 24 hours. Brining helps my chicken keep moist and flavorful during the week.
Not only that, but it gives you more latitude in cooking time and temperature. A quick story – one time, I overcooked my chicken by about 15 minutes (my phone alarm didn’t go off). The brining kept the chicken from being overdone and dry.
The brine also helps preserve the meat longer, so I don’t have to worry about it spoiling. The salt in the water helps draw out excess moisture from the meat, making it very juicy when cooked!
I also add some extra spices to give more flavor to my chicken: garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika powder! These spices help keep your chicken moist while cooking too.
What to Avoid When Storing Chicken For Meal Prep
Chicken effortlessly adapts to countless pre-prepared recipes and dishes. However, it can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, and improper storage can result in foodborne illnesses. Here are some common mistakes I see people making with chicken meal prepping you need to avoid:
- Don’t let the chicken sit at room temperature too long: Harmful bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature (68 to 72°F), causing foodborne illnesses. Pop the chicken in the refrigerator immediately after buying your groceries.
- Avoid cross-contamination: Avoid placing raw chicken near other ingredients during meal prep, especially those that aren’t cooked! If you use a knife to cut raw chicken, be sure to wash it before using it on any other food.
- Avoid storing chicken in the refrigerator door: Not all spots in the fridge are created equally when it comes to how cold they are. I always place my chicken in the meat drawer or in the back of the fridge to keep it as cold as possible. Never place chicken in the fridge door, because that is the warmest spot (think about how many times you open the door each day to get food!).
Is It Better to Keep Meal Prep Chicken in the Fridge or Freezer?
It’s safe to refrigerate or freeze chicken for different lengths of time. The best method depends on how long you plan to keep it stored. Cooked chicken remains safe in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you plan to store it for longer, I recommend putting your meal prep in the freezer.
How Do I Know if Chicken Has Gone Bad?
You can identify foul chicken meal prep by its smell, color, and texture. Like raw chicken, the rotten chicken will have a bad smell, turn a grayish-greenish color, and have a soft, slimy texture. It can also develop visible mold growth and residues. If rancid, discard the meal immediately and wash your hands thoroughly.
Can You Eat a Pre-prepared Chicken Meal After 7 Days?
You can eat a pre-prepared chicken meal after 7 days if you store it in the freezer. If you store it in the fridge, it can only last 4 days. Always check for the signs of rancid chicken before you eat it!
Chicken is the perfect protein for meal prepping, but it can quickly go bad. Ensure your chicken meal is appropriately prepared and stored. Store it in the refrigerator if you plan to use it within four days, or pop it into the freezer to make it last longer.
Richmond Howard started Meal Prepify in 2019 and has helped over a million people learn how to meal prep, get better at meal planning, and create a kitchen they love to use. He’s an avid home chef and loves to bbq, grill out, and make awesome food for family and friends. He’s been featured on MSN, Renaissance Periodization, and Good Financial Cents.