My husband cooked chicken breasts on the barbecue grill yesterday. We put the remaining breasts into the refrigerator soon after pulling them off of the grill, around 3:00 pm. At 4:00 am, my daughter pulled the chicken out of the fridge to make a sandwich and forgot to put the other breasts back. My husband found them at 5:30 a.m. and put them back in the fridge. Are they still good to eat?
The accepted food safety rule is that food should not be held at a temperature within the so-called danger zone, between 140°F (60°C) and 40°F (4°C), for more than two hours.*
Assuming that the breasts were refrigerated immediately after being grilled, and that both your daughter and husband were accurate in their memory of the time, then you might be OK, especially if you are using them in something that will be thoroughly reheated. If they sat out for an hour while you ate supper, and the time estimates for when they come out of the fridge and went back in are off by even just a little bit, then you may not want to eat them.
As I have said before, it is better to not risk you health or that of the ones you love just to save a few dollars.
* It seems whenever I write something about food safety, I get a note from someone who claims to regularly eat food that has sat out for days on end. Interestingly, I have never gotten an e-mail from someone who died (or nearly died) from eating spoiled food. I can attest that it ain't no fun, which is why I tend to be cautious.
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