Whether they're deep fried, baked, grilled or roasted, chicken wings hit the spot during family picnics or while you're watching the big game with friends. Unfortunately, if you don't handle these tasty treats with care, you can give your friends and family a foodborne illness. Leaving the chicken wings out on the table for too long gives harmful bacteria a chance to multiply to dangerous levels.
Time Before Refrigeration
You can safely leave your chicken wings in the danger zone -- between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit -- for up to two hours. If you're hosting events in locations -- indoors or outdoors -- where temperatures get to 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you can only leave the wings out for an hour. When calculating the time, start the timer as soon as the wings come out of the oven or off the grill.
Need More Time?
If your guests are still munching on the wings at the two-hour mark, or the one-hour mark for warmer temperatures, you can quickly reheat the wings to 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the microwave in 15-second intervals. This process makes the wings safe for another two hours, although you can only complete this reheating process one time before the leftover wings should be cooled in the refrigerator or freezer.
Storing Leftover Wings
Once your time window is up, store your leftover wings in the refrigerator or freezer. Place the wings in shallow containers and leaved them uncovered in the refrigerator until they've cooled to a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, seal them in airtight containers to keep them moist. You can store leftover wings in the refrigerator for three to four days. Alternatively, you can freeze them for two to six months. While they'll still be safe to eat after six months, the quality may suffer.
Reheating Leftover Wings
Chicken wings, unless they've been deep fried, reheat exceptionally well. To keep your leftover wings safe for consumption, reheat them in the oven or the microwave until they reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Foodsafety.gov: Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer
- Washington State University: Keep Foods at Safe Temperatures
- United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Danger Zone" (40 Degrees F - 140 Degrees F)
- Alabama Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Services: Preventing Foodborne Illness with Temperature Control
- The Great Wings Book; Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison