Smoking is a popular cooking method that has been used for centuries to cook and impart a distinct flavor to various types of meat, including chicken.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association (HPBA), smoking was the second most popular barbecue cooking method in the United States in 2020, with 64% of Americans reporting that they use a grill or smoker at home.
But like all other types of meat, smoked chicken can go bad if not handled properly.
Typically, smoked chicken can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to four (4) days; in the freezer for up to six (6) months.
However, you must check with a meat thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature of the chicken reaches at least 165°F (74°C) before consuming or storing it in any way.
Otherwise, it may not have been cooked enough to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present inside the chicken, such as Salmonella or Campylobacter, which can cause foodborne illnesses.
In contrast, smoked chicken that has been left at room temperature between 40°F and 140°F (4°C and 60°C) will start to grow bacteria after the two-hour mark.
With the rise of home smoking, it’s important to know how to handle and store smoked meats properly to ensure that they will be safe for consumption. Fortunately, this guide will have everything you need to know about it.
The Basics of Smoking Chicken
Smoking chicken is a great cooking method that involves exposing the meat to smoke from burning wood or charcoal until it is tender and aromatic.
In order to do this, it is necessary to prepare and season the meat with your favorite rub or marinade of choice. Afterward, the chicken should be placed inside a smoker rack for several hours.
While this process is generally slower than using the oven, the result is a juicy yet flavorful meat that cannot be replicated by other cooking methods.
However, it can be quite difficult to tell whether the chicken is fully cooked or not, so you have to use a meat thermometer to check if the internal temperature is at least 165°F (74°C). According to the USDA, doing so would ensure that your chicken is free of bacteria and safe to eat.
Proper Storage of Smoked Chicken
After making an effort to follow the recipe and cook your smoked chicken to perfection, it is incredibly important to store it properly and ensure its best quality so that you can enjoy it without any worries.
Below are the methods you can use to properly store them for later:
Whether you bought smoked chicken from a rotisserie or made a fresh one at home, you should never forget to store it in the fridge after letting it sit at room temperature for two hours.
Anything longer than that, and your tasty smoked chicken will start growing bacteria and lose its quality.
You can do this by simply putting the meat in an airtight container to prevent it from getting exposed to air and moisture. Alternatively, you can also wrap it tightly with plastic wrap to keep it from spoiling quickly.
Doing this method will keep your smoked chicken fresh for about four (4) days, but it is generally recommended to consume it before that.
The longer your smoked chicken or any other cooked meat sits in the fridge, the worse its quality will become. Just make sure to reheat it properly so you can enjoy its flavor better.
If you are planning to store your smoked chicken for a longer period of time, then your best option is to freeze it.
Simply wrap the meat in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and then place it in an airtight container or freezer bag afterward. Make sure that there aren’t any air pockets inside the wrap to help prevent freezer burn and allow the meat to maintain its flavor and texture.
When properly stored, this method will make your smoked chicken last for up to six (6) months.
Leaving it in storage longer than that will cause its quality to degrade rapidly, and you would be better off just buying a new batch of chicken from the market.
It is also recommended to put a label on the container or bag with the date the chicken was stored so it’s easier to keep track of its storage time.
Risks of Improperly Stored Smoked Chicken
If you don’t store your smoked chicken properly, it can pose various risks to you and everyone else who will eat it. Here are some of those risks:
- Bacterial growth and foodborne illness: Improperly stored smoked chicken can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.
- Risk of contamination from other food items or surfaces: If the chicken is stored in the same container as other foods or if it comes into contact with a contaminated surface, it can also lead to cross-contamination.
- Potential for food to spoil or go bad: It doesn’t happen right away, but leaving smoked chicken at room temperature for too long can cause it to spoil or go bad as well. In the worst-case scenario, this can result in the production of harmful bacteria, which can cause food poisoning or other health problems.
- Risk of developing mold or other harmful microorganisms: When your smoked chicken is left at room temperature in a damp environment, it can develop mold or other harmful microorganisms, which can cause illness or other health complications.
Smoking chicken is a popular and delicious way to add depth and complexity to the meat that cannot be replicated by other cooking methods.
However, it is important to know the basics of smoking chicken, including the proper cooking temperatures, storage methods, and handling tips, to ensure that it remains safe for consumption.
Whether you’re a seasoned smoker or a beginner, the information mentioned in this article can help you take your smoked chicken to the next level so you can enjoy it together with the people you love.