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Rotisserie Chicken: Shelf Life, Storing Leftovers

As you stroll the aisles of your local grocery store, the tantalizing aroma of roasted chicken wafts through the air and draws you like a magnet towards the deli section.

There, behind a gleaming glass display, is a row of rotisserie chickens, their succulent flesh basking in the infrared burner’s fiery glow.

The sizzle and hiss of the rotating birds ignite your taste buds, and before you know it, one of those plump, golden-brown beauties has found a cozy spot in your shopping cart.

But as you triumphantly carry the cooked bird home, questions start to loom: Exactly how are you supposed to store rotisserie chicken, and just how long will it last?

Read on—we’ve written this guide to answer all of your burning questions about rotisserie chicken’s shelf life… and the ones you didn’t know you had.

Rotisserie Chicken’s Shelf Life

Food ItemStorage MethodShelf Life
Rotisserie chickenLeft out at room temperature1 to 2 hours
Rotisserie chickenRefrigerated at 40°F (4.4°C) or below3 to 4 days
Rotisserie chickenFrozen at 0°F (-18°C) or belowIndefinite
How long rotisserie chicken lasts

Two factors are of the essence when it comes to food safety and rotisserie chicken: time and temperature.1USDA (2016, December 20). Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/steps-keep-food-safe

The longer you keep the cooked chicken and the warmer its storage conditions, the shorter its shelf life and window of food safety become.

As the clock ticks, a few dozen bacteria that may have populated the surface of the chicken can multiply into a number big enough to cause gastrointestinal discomfort or even severe to potentially life-threatening case of food poisoning.2NIH (2019, May 1). Symptoms & Causes of Food Poisoning. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/food-poisoning/symptoms-causes

How Long Can Rotisserie Chicken Sit Out?

Rotisserie chicken should not be left to sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. On warmer days, when the outside temperature soars to 90°F (32°C) and above, that time window shrinks down to about an hour.3USDA (2013, May 13). Safe Handling of Take-Out Foods. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/safe-handling-take-out-foods

So, how can you make sure that you’re playing by the rules and keeping your rotisserie chicken safe from bacterial growth?

First and foremost, make rotisserie chicken your final stop at the grocery store. This way, you can head straight home, minimizing the time it spends outside a controlled environment.

Let’s face it: the last thing you want is for your savory prize to languish in the trunk of your car while you run errands, unknowingly compromising its freshness.

Second, once you arrive home, you need to make a decision on what to do with the rotisserie chicken promptly:

Either eat the rotisserie chicken straight away, enjoying it while it’s hot and steamy, or put it in the oven and ensure that it maintains an internal temperature of at least 140°F (60°C).4U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (2022, September 1). 4 Steps to Food Safety. FoodSafety.gov. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe/4-steps-to-food-safety

If neither of those options is feasible, waste no time. Promptly cool and refrigerate the chicken within 1-2 hours.

The key is to keep the chicken out of “the danger zone,” the temperature range between 40°F (4.4°C) and 140°F (60°C) within which bacteria thrive and double their count every 20 minutes.5Messing, L. (2015, April 26). Food danger zone. MSU Extension. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/food_danger_zone

How Long Does Rotisserie Chicken Last in the Fridge?

After the meal, you may find yourself with leftover rotisserie chicken that you want to savor for another day.

Leftover rotisserie chicken can stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.6USDA (2023, March 24). How long are my take out leftovers safe? AskUSDA. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-long-are-my-take-out-leftovers-safe To ensure the best quality and maintain its deliciousness, follow the storage tips below.

Wrap the cooked rotisserie chicken tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap (or break it up into pieces and transfer it to an airtight container). This helps preserve the chicken’s moisture and prevents unwanted odors from other foods in your fridge from seeping in.

To optimize the longevity of your chicken, find a cozy spot on the lower shelves of the refrigerator.

That’s where it’s coolest in your fridge, as cool air naturally settles toward the bottom. Placing the chicken on the lower shelves helps maintain a consistent coldness, which is essential for keeping the cooked bird fresh and safe to eat for as long as possible.

Reheat rotisserie chicken leftovers for food safety. This is necessary to kill any bacteria that may have proliferated on the surface of the poultry during refrigeration.

How Long Is Rotisserie Chicken Good For in the Freezer?

Absolutely yes, you can freeze leftover rotisserie chicken!

Properly frozen, rotisserie chicken will stay safe to eat indefinitely, but will only retain its best aroma, mouthfeel, and taste for up to 4 months.7(n.d.). How Long Does Cooked Rotisserie Chicken Last in the Fridge? Still Tasty. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://www.stilltasty.com/fooditems/index/16799

Freezing rotisserie chicken is the only way to extend its shelf life beyond a few days. It’s also a great way to have flavorful options readily available for future meals.

First, ensure that the rotisserie chicken is completely cooled before freezing. You can either freeze the whole chicken or portion it into smaller, meal-sized portions for easy thawing.

If you’re dividing the chicken, consider removing the skin and bones to save space and make it more convenient for future use.

To protect the chicken from freezer burn, which can negatively affect its texture and taste, it’s important to wrap it properly.8(2019, November 19). What is “freezer burn?”. Library of Congress. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/food-and-nutrition/item/what-is-freezer-burn/

Start by wrapping the chicken tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to create an airtight seal.

Then, place the wrapped chicken into a shallow airtight container or freezer bag, ensuring to remove any excess air before sealing it tightly.

Remember to label the packaging with the date of freezing to keep track of its storage time.

Can You Eat Rotisserie Chicken After 5 Days?

From a food safety perspective, refrigerating rotisserie chickens for more than 4 days is a recipe for disaster.

If you kept rotisserie chicken in your fridge for more than this time window, you should throw it away and not eat it, even if it looks, smells, and tastes perfectly fine.

Unlike spoilage bacteria, which can give cooked chicken a sticky texture and sour odor, pathogenic bacteria that cause food poisoning are completely stealth to us.9USDA (2022, November 1). Do spoilage bacteria make people sick? AskUSDA. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/Do-spoilage-bacteria-make-people-sick10Jarvie, M. (2015, October 22). Food spoilage and food pathogens, what’s the difference? MSU Extension. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/food_spoilage_and_food_pathogens_whats_the_difference

These harmful bacteria cannot be detected by our senses and remain unnoticed by humans outside of a laboratory setting.

Simply put, rotisserie chicken that’s been kept for too long may look, smell, and taste perfectly fine, yet it could still be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria can cause food poisoning.

Bottom Line

Rotisserie chicken lasts 1 to 2 hours at room temperature, 3 to 4 days in the fridge, and maintains its best quality for up to 4 months in the freezer.

Buy the bird last in place at the grocery store and head directly home after purchasing it, where you should eat, refrigerate, or freeze it within 1-2 hours.

If you need to keep the rotisserie chicken warm for a little longer than that, place it in the oven and ensure it maintains an internal temperature of at least 140°F (60°C).

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.