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Mar 17, 2009 10:36 AM

Can I leave cooked pasta outside the fridge?

Hi there. We got last-minute free tickets to the theatre and as we are coming back late, I made some spaguetti with butternut squash, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, garlic and herbs. Is it ok to leave it in the pan, oputside the fridge, for 3-4 hours and reheat when I get back or is it safer to store in the fridge?


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  1. Keeping in mind that asking food safety questions on this site is not the best way to get good advice, my thinking is that all the ingredients you mentioned are things that sit unrefrigerated in the grocery store. And if you hadn't cooked the dish, would you worry about leaving an eggplant or a tomato at room temp for 3 hours? No, of course you wouldn't, so the act of cooking them, IMO, shouldn't do anything that would make the dish unsafe after 3 or 4 hours (or longer for that matter).

    3 Replies
    1. re: bnemes3343

      i agree with bnemes. As long as none of the ingredients would spoil-no meat, dairy etc. in dish it would be fine..

      1. re: bnemes3343

        I am not sure the reasoning of cooked versus uncooked ingredients is always sound. Keeping a raw onion or eggplant room temperature is not a problem but leaving cooked onions or eggplants room temperature can cause fermentation and spoilage. That might not happen in 3 to 4 hours but longer can be a problem. I agree that asking food safety questions on this site is not a best way to get proper advice. You will get all sorts of conflicting facts and opinions.

        1. re: PBSF

          Why would a cooked onion ferment more quickly that a raw one? What's the science?

      2. I would put it in the fridge, just to be on the safe side. I have a food safety certificate and I would never leave cooked food out that long.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bayoucook

          There's a big difference between the levels of food safety necessary in a commercial setting and the levels needed at home. People who are preparing food commerically have to follow food safety practices that ensure 100 percent safety, but that doesn't mean that other food handling practices are *unsafe*, only that they aren't guaranteed 100 percent safe.

          Whether food is "safe" or not depends on a wide range of factors, including the general cleanliness of the area, the specific presence of pathogen-carrying items in the food prep/service area, the care taken during food prep not to cross-contaminate raw and cooked foods, the ambient temperature and humidity of the area, etc. In my kitchen I wouldn't worry about leaving the dish described out for a few hours, but everyone's mileage varies.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Absolutely correct. There are so many variables. It more than 1 hr I refrigerate. Maybe just got that from Mom who won't let butter set out more than 5 minutes and ices her food from the grocery store. A bit overkill since she is 15 minutes away.

            Really, many factors which need to be taken into consideration.

        2. I think it would be fine to leave outside but I might just put it in the fridge as I don't want to be worrying about potential food poisoning whilst watching the play (and knowing me, I know I will) It's one of those things that you're never too sure about and successive google searches were fruitless (or maybe I didn't look properly?)

          Thanks for the advice!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Paula76

            Foods left out of the fridge and freezer
            The Two-Hour Rule
            Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers, within two hours. Discard food left in the Danger Zone longer than two hours. This includes food in the car, picnics, and food left on the counter.

            Danger Zone is between 4ºC (40ºF) and 40ºC (140ºF). Visit Chill for more information

            1. re: bayoucook

              What bayoucook says, also keep in mind that 2 hours isn't 2 hours, then in the fridge, then another 2 hours, then in the fridge, then another 2 hours. That is a total of two hours over the life of the food. I run a food manufacturing company and we have every certification you can get for the industry that matters. He is pretty much dead on with his times.

          2. I do fridge to be safe. Better safe then sorry. Just a habit. I don't like leaving stuff out once cooked.