6 Tips To Store Cooked Chicken Correctly And Keep It Fresh
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As one of the most widely consumed forms of protein, chicken is a healthy meal option to pick for every type of recipe – from soups, curries, sandwiches, rolls and pulao – chicken, when prepped the right way, can be one of the best meal prep ingredients to keep handy. Storing cooked chicken properly is essential to maintain its freshness, flavour, and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. While it might be tricky to get around to storing cooked meat, a few simple tips can help in preserving the freshness and palatability of your bird, which can be bought whole and used across a number of dishes, as per your mood and schedule.

Cooling Thoroughly

After cooking, allow the chicken to cool down to room temperature for no longer than two hours. Rapid cooling inhibits bacterial growth and so, if the chicken is still warm after two hours, refrigerate it immediately. Ensuring that your cooked chicken is cooled completely will also let you break down the bird according to the kind of recipes you want to use it for, without having the meat dry out due to the juices running.

Separate Storage

Divide the cooked chicken into smaller portions or slices and place them in separate airtight containers or resealable plastic bags. This helps maintain freshness and prevents cross-contamination. Also taking a little extra effort to separate white meat and brown meat will allow you to compartmentalise what kind of meat you want to use in recipes; for example, white meat works well for salads or sandwiches while brown meat can be added to stir fries and curries, for an extra boost of flavour.

Labelling & Dates

Properly label each container or bag with the date of storage. This practice ensures that you use the oldest chicken first and helps you keep track of its shelf life. In case the texture or colour of the cooked chicken changes while in storage, it is best to get rid of the batch and replace with a fresh one, if possible.

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Place the airtight containers of cooked chicken in the refrigerator as soon as possible. The refrigerator should maintain a temperature below 4°C for optimum freshness. Keep the chicken away from other raw meats or foods to avoid any potential cross-contamination, even when it is cooked. Using containers as opposed to resealable bags is better for storing meats of any kind as it also helps maintain the hygiene of your refrigerator.

Use In Four Days

Cooked chicken should be consumed or used within four days of refrigeration. After this time, the quality and safety of the chicken may deteriorate. If you don't plan to consume it within four days, consider freezing it. Be conscious about not discarding the bones from the chicken and using it to make a batch of stock, as it is rich in collagen, vitamins and other nutrients.

Freeze For Long Term

If you need to store cooked chicken for an extended period, freezing is the best option. Ensure the chicken is stored in airtight freezer-safe containers or freezer bags. It's recommended to use it within two to six months for the best quality and flavour. Thaw frozen chicken in the refrigerator first, before reheating or consuming.