Freezing Green Tomatoes
Baby Food Turns Runny

How Long Can Cooked Food Be Left Out

Please let me know how long you can leave freshly cooked food out at room temperature, i.e. turkey, roast beef.  I was told by a friend that you must either freeze or refrigerate immediately because bacteria builds up immediately.



This is probably the post I get the most comments on, and most of them are "I hate to waste food."  Just in case the message below isn't clear, do not risk you health or that of others to save a few dollars.  Throw out any food that has been left in the temperature range below for more than 2 hours.  -- Dave

The general rule of thumb is that the time the food spends between 140°F (60°C) and 40°F (4°C) should be no longer than two hours, total.  Within this temperature range, which is often called the danger zone, bacteria can multiply at a very fast rate, doubling in number about every 20 minutes.

Because the turkey, roast, chicken or whatever, comes out of a significantly hotter environment, there is a bit of time at the start where the food is still warmer than the danger zone.  On the other hand, the two hours is not the amount of time before you put the food into the refrigerator or freezer, but rather the total time it spends in the danger zone, since the food may still be warmer than 40°F (4°C) when you put it away.

In fact, your friend may be creating a different risk all together if they are putting the food into the fridge or freezer immediately.  If it is too warm, heat from the food being put away may raise the temperature within the fridge or freezer high enough to increase bacterial growth on food that is already there.  This is especially true for anything that is either touching or just close to the food that was just put in, as it will be the most likely to get warmed up.  This lesson I know from personal experience -- and not a fun one!

The best approach is to leave the food covered with foil or plastic on the counter until it has cooled down until it is just warm to the touch and then put it away.  In practical terms, this means you can probably eat supper while the food is cooling down.  If you enjoy long slow meals and sit at the table for hours on end, put the food away between courses.

Sometimes it may be necessary to speed up cooling in order to avoid having food sit in the danger zone too long.  When making larger batches of soup, for example, I will frequently place the stockpot full of soup into my kitchen sink and run cold water around it.  To speed things up even further, I keep a couple of large plastic pop bottles filled with water in the freezer and may drop one or both of them into the surrounding water bath.  If not, I drain and refill the sink as soon as the surrounding water gets warm.

Improper cooling of food is the cause of about 30% of all food borne illness and not leaving food at temperatures within the danger zone for longer than two hours is a key food safety skill.


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Hi I cooked a full Sunday lunch 3 hrs before my guests arrived, all the veg etc, but not the meat. Is it safe to heat everything up again including a white sauce?Many Thanks

fried fish, put in microwave and forgot about it. 10 hrs later. Can I recook and eat or is it cat food now?

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I want to know how long can you leave out cooked fish?

What happens to cooked pumpkin if it is left in the open too long? Thank you. Peter

How long can veg/beef soup be left in a crock pot? The temperature on "warm" is reading l60 degress F. Is it safe to eat?

Whenever I put overly warm food in the refrigerator, I add a couple of freezer packs (like you put in a cooler) near it to compensate. This helps in two ways. It cools the warm food more quickly, and it also keeps the other food already in the refrigerator from warming into the danger zone.

I left a freshly baked pumpkin pie out all nite and forgot to refrigerate. Can we still eat the pie?

I cooked porridge (only water and oats - no dairy) at 8:00 am this morning and put a warm serve into a sealed plastic container. I then went to work with the porridge in my back pack intending to eat it when I arrived 1 hour later. Its now nearly 5 hours later, and the porridge is still in my back pack. Is my porridge still safe to eat ? i.e. Its been at room temp for 5 hours in a sealed container.

I worked tirelessly on an expensive shoulder roast all day yesterday for a small dinner party I'm having Friday night. I basted constantly and slow roasted it for 4 hours. I then forgot about it and fell asleep and it sat out for 10 hours. I'm so sad - but i don't want to kill my guests either. I have to throw it out, right?


I'm afraid so. I know it hurts to waste both the money and the effort, but your guests health is more important that those.

What did you end up doing?? I just did the same thing with turkey. It tastes fine so I'm inclined to try it and see what happens but am a little nervous. I hate throwing food out.


Don't think because food "tastes OK" it is safe to eat. It is quite possible for food to be dangerously spoiled and taste the same as it did when it came out of the oven.Do Not Eat It! There is no sense risking your life or health, or that of your friends and loved ones. A leftover turkey isn't worth it. Throw it out.Dave

Hi, I bought a packaged cooked ham yesterday, in the evening, and I forgot to put it in the fridge. It has not been opened, but it has been sitting out all night. I was wondering if it is still good??

I cooked pizza pockets last night. They consist of pizza sauce, pepperoni, cheese and canned biscuits. I forgot to put them in the fridge. Are they safe to eat now?

How long should you keep chicken gumbo on the stove?

I put a roast in my crockpot yesterday am at around 6 - in beef broth and forgot to plug my crock pot in. So when i got home last night i cooked it in the oven at 350 for 1 hour and then transported it to my crock and cooked it all night and all day today. Is it safe to eat?

When eating out I have gotten salmon or other foods and not went right home afterwards. What if you put the salmon in the fridge three hours after it was cooked? Will it be ok to heat it up and eat it the next day?

I cooked spaghetti last night at about 9pm and didn't refrigerate it until 6am this morning. I hate to throw it out, but it's no good, is it?

is it okay to leave bread in a hot car if it is in a plastic bag?

Hi I cooked a Beef roast on high In the slow cooker for about 6 hours Yesterday, and left it on warm all night and day today. It's not safe to eat anymore is it?


I would not recommend eating it. Even if it was kept hot enough to still be edible, the beef is going to be very dry after that long on heat, and as I always say, "When in doubt, throw it out."Dave

I pulled out cooked chicken enchaladas at 12:00 p.m.

Are they still okay to eat after 3.5 hours of sitting out???

Hello my name is Meggan And i cooked a pumpkin pie. Now i was wondering how long you can leave them out or if they even have to be refrigerated?Please and thank you


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