Can we eat it: fried chicken left in the oven overnight
February 27, 2015 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Can we eat the leftover fried chicken that was accidentally left in the oven overnight?

Looking through older questions and elsewhere online, I have noticed lots of people who say, "I do this all the time," or "We used to do this every Sunday when I was a kid." That is to say, people who eat fried chicken on a regular basis don't seem too concerned about it being left at room temp for a while.

Then there's the conservative camp that pretty much just repeats the FDA recommendations.

I'm kind of inclined to believe the folk wisdom because I have a hard time believing that people were getting sick all the time from eating room-temperature fried chicken at picnics for the last 100 years, but am I way off base on this?
posted by overeducated_alligator to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some of those "I do this all the time" people probably did get sick but don't remember or never connected it to eating contaminated food. My father has gotten food poisoning at least 4 times that I'm aware of in recent years (and at least one of those was from eating left-out fried chicken) but if you asked him he'd deny ever having food poisoning -- and he'll still eat day-old fried chicken given half a chance. So yeah, lots of people have done it without ever coming to harm, but not everyone who says they did actually did every single time.
posted by katemonster at 9:56 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't. It's hard to know who to listen to in times like these but personally, I trust someone like Harold McGee.
posted by biscuits at 10:11 AM on February 27, 2015

I would eat it. I would not serve it to others.

(and not just because I wish to hoard the fried chicken)
posted by sparklemotion at 10:11 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Was it in the oven because you cooked/finished it in there, turned it off and forgot it, so it was cooked completely through and then nobody touched it? Because that's the only scenario in which I'd say "maybe". But I wouldn't eat it. Fried chicken is cheap, better when fresh, and not worth any risk of food poisoning.
posted by zennie at 10:12 AM on February 27, 2015

I'm with sparklemotion. I know my kitchen and I know how I treat food, and more importantly, I know the status of my immune system. So I would eat it myself, I would never serve it to anyone else in my home or a restaurant, and absotively not at all to anyone young (under 12), old (60+), or immunocompromised.

At a wild guess, your kitchen is probably not quite maintained to restaurant levels, so: pitch it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:14 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Too your statement about having a hard time believing people get sick...

CDC: campylobacteriosis is estimated to affect over 1.3 million persons every year [in the US]

And that's just one of the bugs that can get you. In modern times.
posted by zennie at 10:19 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could always be our definitive source for this: eat it and let us know. You know, for science.
posted by cecic at 10:20 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'd eat it, but I also have a digestive system that can handle a rubber boot. You're probably okay if, as Zennie said above, it was completely cooked through in the oven. Otherwise, don't.
posted by Everydayville at 10:22 AM on February 27, 2015

You seem to know that the FDA would recommend that you not eat it, so if you're just polling people to see what we'd do, I'd eat it. But I would do so knowing full well I was risking food poisoning. Either you'll get sick or you won't; I guess it really depends on your own personal level of acceptable risk/reward.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:23 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

I ended up in hospital on a drip for dehydration after 3 days of pooping and vomiting after trying the same trick with a roast chicken. The hospital bill was a lot more than buying some new chicken would have been. Food poisoning can kill you.
posted by wwax at 10:30 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

Do. Not. Eat.
Throw. Away.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:38 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I will eat all kinds of stuff, but overnight seems pretty excessive even to me. Chicken is about a buck fifty per pound and being sick is not fun. Just get some more chicken.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:56 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've had chicken dish leftovers go bad apparently simply because I didn't cool them down quickly enough after the initial meal was served, so I would be inclined to give a thumbs-down to eating reheated leftovers left out this long.
posted by XMLicious at 11:02 AM on February 27, 2015

My partner is a "leave meat over night in the pot on the stove" type person which I find baffling and disgusting. He eats it and he's fine. I refuse to eat it and I am also fine. I think my way is better but so far I don't have any evidence to support it. Unfortunately.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:02 AM on February 27, 2015

Would eat without reservation.
posted by Poppa Bear at 11:03 AM on February 27, 2015

I would eat a lot of things, but wouldn't eat that.
posted by valeries at 11:11 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hmm, I usually only do this with soups and stews that i can reboil and let simmer a bit. Uh, and I may or may not do that A LOT.

With fried chicken I would probably do something weird like over-microwave it, in hopes that the insides got super hot, and then eat it. But I am morally opposed to wasting fried chicken, so I may be biased.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 11:21 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd eat it, 'specially if I was hungry. So would your cat.
posted by Rash at 11:31 AM on February 27, 2015

I would, but only after microwaving it to a pretty high temperature.

If I didn't eat it, I would put it out for the possums.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:42 AM on February 27, 2015

Yeah, as for the "I never get sick camp," I had a housemate who regularly ate meat she left out for a day or longer and insisted she never got sick, despite the fact that roughly every six weeks or so she was laid up for a day or more with "a tummy bug," or extreme nausea. Sometimes she would muse that she must be having "an allergic reaction" (to what, I don't know); she never connected it to her food consumption.

I wouldn't eat it.
posted by tiger tiger at 12:30 PM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Never had food poisoning here. I would eat it, indeed I eat various types of food in a similar situation regularly.
posted by Solomon at 1:14 PM on February 27, 2015

Response by poster: Update: We ate it. We'll let you know how it goes!
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

I'd eat it, glad you did.
posted by sibboleth at 1:53 PM on February 27, 2015

My ironclad rule on kitchen health and sanity: if, knowing its history, I can't enjoy putting a bite of this food in my mouth without being actively bothered/nervous, I throw it out.

The point of food (in my privileged lifestyle) is to enjoy eating it, so if my personal mental state prevents me from enjoying the food, it no longer serves its purpose. There are things that I can eat that others wouldn't enjoy eating, and I do not judge them for needing to throw out food that's been on the counter, nor do I judge the adventurous/traditionalists who think leaving food on the counter is the best standard treatment of it.

In this case, I'd probably wimp out and make chicken soup out of it, rather than eating it straight, but I wouldn't throw it out.
posted by aimedwander at 2:04 PM on February 27, 2015

If :
1. It was hot when you put it in the oven
2. If the oven remained closed
The chicken is probably desiccated but edible. But is it palatable? I doubt it.

If the oven door was opened after the food had cooled to just warm, your chances are increasing that the food may have something growing in it.

Here's my thinking: Once cooked in the oven, both the food and the inside of the oven are sterile. Possible sources of contamination after the oven cools are air drafts or touching it with something not sterilized. If you used a utensil that was not sterile, or your hand, it increases the chance that the chicken will be contaminated. Balance that with the probability that the surface might be hostile to microbe growth due to having a salt coating or being too dry to support life.

Still, you're taking a chance. And the chicken is probably not very tasty by this time.
posted by halhurst at 2:17 PM on February 27, 2015

Ah, dude, why would you do that? You ate it?

I was coming in to say: if you have to ask, don't eat it.

As someone who has suffered thru way too many cases of verified food poisoning I gotta say: "Why, oh why, would you risk it?" (e.g., imagine having the NYC Dept of Health show up at your door for "samples" to identify the salmonella strain because the first seating at a restaurant, including the wait staff, at Thanksgiving dinner has been taken out by the turkey, and I'm the only one who self-treated and wasn't rushed to the ER).

I swear on a stack of La Creuset, food poisoning can be terrible.

I had an epidemiologist from the CDC teach a class while I was getting my degree in Public Health, and she swore there was no such thing as the 24 hour flu -- it was always a mild case of food poisoning/gastroenteritis, and folks generally recovered quickly enuf and never related it to what they had eaten. I tend to believe that.

Anyway ... good luck to ya.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 2:35 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

No way would I eat that.

I used to get 24-hour stomach bugs once every couple of months. Then I tightened up the lax food handling rules that my parents had taught me, and now I only get that kind of stomach bug about once a year. Avoiding five days of misery every year is definitely worth the slight increase in wasted food. So I believe that there are lots of people out there who get mild food poisoning regularly without realizing that's what it is.

(But let's be honest, I really commented so I would remember to check for updates!)
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 3:46 PM on February 27, 2015

I would probably have ate it too, for better or worse. Eagerly awaiting updates.
posted by rodlymight at 4:10 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would, but only after microwaving it to a pretty high temperature.

I would probably do something weird like over-microwave it

Ok, everybody, please stop doing this! "Food poisoning" can be either an infection caused by live bacteria or food intoxication, which occurs regardless of whether the bacteria are living or not. Heat-stable components of bacterial cells persist in food after cooking or reheating and can be potent immune system activators, causing diarrhoea, vomiting, and shock, even in the absence of infection.
posted by pullayup at 4:37 PM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: It's been about 18 hours and we're both fine so far. I'll check in again at the end of the day...
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:55 AM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

My opinion as a professional cook is that eating it was a terrible idea. You aren't guaranteed to get sick but I don't know why you'd risk it. Food poisoning is misery and chicken is volatile.
posted by Evstar at 9:12 AM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Evening report: all systems normal. Proceeding with cautious optimism.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 4:14 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: 48 hour check-in, we're still fine. I won't post again unless something bad happens, I guess.
Thanks again!
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

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