Ask the Chef: How Long Can You Leave Food Sitting Out?

The USDA advice is to keep cooked food out no more than two hours. That means you can let the crowd go at it for awhile, but then wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator until they are ready for round two. Then you can easily microwave it and set it back out. Just make sure you put it away BEFORE the two-hour mark.

Ask the Chef: How Long Can You Leave Food Sitting Out?

Food & Drink

Ask the Chef: How Long Can You Leave Food Sitting Out?

Ask The Chef

The following question came into The Food Channel:

Question:

It’s time for the Super Bowl, and we’re going to a party where there will be food sitting out for the whole game. Is that safe?

Answer:

Great question—and one that concerns a lot of Americans this weekend. The advice is a good way past football season, though.

Photo by Claudia Viloria on Unsplash

Photo by Claudia Viloria on Unsplash

The average game at this level can be as long as 3-4 hours, That includes a long halftime show and a lot of expensive commercials, but not the hour or more of pre-game. So it’s wise to keep an eye on cooked foods.

Assuming all the hot dips, sliders, pizza, and wings aren’t eaten up during the pre-game show, here are a few tips.

The USDA advice is to keep cooked food out no more than two hours. That means you can let the crowd go at it for awhile, but then wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator until they are ready for round two. Then you can easily microwave it and set it back out. Just make sure you put it away BEFORE the two-hour mark.

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

If you prefer, keep the hot food hot enough so that bacteria won’t grow. That means keeping it in a heated chafing dish or on an electric warmer. Even then, the temperature can go down into the “danger zone,” between 40°F and 140°F, so check it periodically to make sure it stays above that.

Crock pots are great for keeping dips warm, and you can serve right from the “bowl.” Just keep them plugged in—a step some people skip on a crowded table.

Similar advice applies to cold food. It’s not just the mayonnaise you need to be concerned about—this applies to all perishable food. That means beef, poultry, fish, dairy—anything you regularly need to refrigerate.

Photo by Herson Rodriguez on Unsplash

Photo by Herson Rodriguez on Unsplash

There will not be visible signs of bacteria growing, but it could be there. To protect your friends, go ahead—be the one at the party to show food sense and make sure to err on the side of safety.

For more of our Ask the Chef series, just click and enjoy.

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