HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


PLEASE HELP! How long can cooked meat stay out for, and still be eaten?

So I made a small pot roast last night (late - around 10 or 11pm), and took it out of the oven to cool on the counter, and naturally, fell asleep. I put it in the fridge this morning around 8am. Is it safe to eat, having been out at room temp for about 9-10 hours?

Surely, I can be the first person to experience something like this...


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Two hours is what I've always heard, I'm still alive!

    1. Was the pot roast in a dutch oven or on a rack?

      There's a food service/government food safety answer and a home cook answer.

      Personally, I think you'll be fine, especially, if you reheat thoroughly before eating.
      Cooking kills any of the bad bugs. It was sitting on your counter; you weren't stirring and serving and touching it (possible cross-contamination). Also, I don't see how e-coli, salmonella or any other food poisoning bacteria will "fall" onto the food while sitting on your counter.

      However, it all comes down to your comfort level.

      3 Replies
      1. re: dave_c

        Reheating food that has been contaminated already with bacterial growth will not necessarily help. Food poisoning occurs from the toxins produced from bacteria. If food has growing bacteria on it with the toxins, heating it will only kill the bacteria. Toxins are heat stable and will not be eliminated. Bacteria also will die from stomach acid but toxins will remain.

        1. re: dave_c

          Cooking does not "kill any of the bad bugs"

          1. re: C. Hamster

            That's a rather broad statement. Certain temps kill certain pathogens.

        2. There are so many variables to weigh in each situation that a general rule is too hard to articulate. For example, what was your room temp? What was in your pot roast? And whether something is safe to eat will also depend on the eaters -- i.e., anyone have compromised immunity?

          I've left chicken soup out overnight, refrigerated, and have had no ill effects whatsoever. Same with chili. Heck, I've eaten leftover pizze on the counter overnight and eaten it the very next day (sans refrigeration or reheating) with no problems.

          This isn't to say that you now have carte blanche to eat your pot roast without hesitation, but just passing along my experiences.

          1. I've left meat out overnight and eaten it the next day gazillions of times....no problem yet. :)

            1. Lots of factors involved, but the principle one is what you're calling "room temperature?" I know people who consider 84F room teperature and others who think 67F is room temperature. I vote for 73F. Other factors are whether anything with germs on it touched it after carving. Was it covered or uncovered? Do you have pets who may have had a lick or two? TONS of factors, PROBABLY safe, but no guarantees. How strong is your immune system, and how far to the nearest emergency room? '-)

              Next time, set a timer. That's what I do. Then pray I don't sleep through it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Caroline1

                When I've got something sitting out on the counter cooling I leave the livingroom light on. (We usually spend our evening either in the craftroom/computer room or in the bedroom watching our tivo.) At some point in the evening I'll have to go out there and turn it off, and I'll see the food if I haven't remembered to deal with it yet!

              2. Sorry V, but 9 hours on the counter is over the jfood safety line.

                At least it was a small PR.

                1. I recently cooked some smoked turkey legs in the oven late one evening, turned it off and forgot about it until the next morning. I put it in the fridge & warmed it up the day after and it was eaten...not saying that you should follow suit but if it were me in your case, I'd eat it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Cherylptw

                    Leaving it in the closed untouched oven is a lot safer than leaving it out on the counter. It takes several hours for the oven to cool down to room temperature, and any bugs in the oven would have been fried while the food was cooking, so the window for contamination is a lot smaller. If I cook a meal and we're not going to eat it for a few hours I'll leave it in the oven unless it's in danger of getting frazzled.

                  2. Since we're talking pot roast, I assume it was in a covered dish. If that's the case, I'd eat it without hesitation. If it was exposed, it's probably fine, but you might want to reheat it to an internal temp of 160F just to be on the safe side.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      Being in the Food and Beverage industry for over 24 years I have learned that you cannot leave anything out more than 4 hours that needs to be refrigerated due to bacteria that can accumulate on food. The choice is yours though as some people swear that it is ok by other responses.

                      1. re: carmenb

                        Health departments hold restaurants to a very high standard for food handling, and would undoubtedly require that the pot roast be discarded. A typical commercial kitchen has lots of people working in it and many sources of cross-contamination, and health departments don't want profit-oriented restaurant managers making judgment calls on whether something is safe enough for someone else to eat. This is a good thing.

                        But health department rules don't apply to private residences. And there's a good reason for that, too. At home, the sources of cross-contamination are far fewer - only one meal is usually cooked at a time - and typically only one person handles the food. Given that the person cooking the food is the same as the person eating it, that same person can be trusted to exercise his or her best judgment as to whether it's safe, which is what the OP is trying to do here.

                        Nothing in life is risk-free, but eating a pot roast that sat in a covered container for 10 hours is pretty close. You're more likely to suffer serious injury or death driving to the grocery store for another piece of meat.

                        1. re: carmenb

                          "Being in the Food and Beverage industry for over 24 years I have learned that you cannot leave anything out more than 4 hours that needs to be refrigerated due to bacteria that can accumulate on food."


                          Restaurants do this to insulate themselves from legal liability. Rules governing the commercial food industry are generally overly restrictive -- and for good reason because the same chicken served to a healthy young male will also have to be plated at some point to that infirm 80 year old.

                          It's sort of like speed limits. Some drivers with quick reflexes can drive safely at 65 mph, but some can barely do it at 60 mph. So the government to be safe, sets the limit at 55 mph. Does that mean people can only drive safely at 55 mph? No.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I like your analogy. To take it a bit further, a restaurant kitchen is like a semi-tractor hauling double trailers down a mountain road, while a home kitchen is like a small sedan traveling the same route. The risk of something going wrong with the former is greater, recovering from trouble is more difficult, and the potential consequences of an accident are more severe. Different rules can and should apply.

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              Could you imagine if all homecooks followed every single food safety rule that a commercial or restaurant kitchen had to adhere to?

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                You don't wear a hair net when you cook?! I'm never eating at your house.

                                1. re: bookhound

                                  "You don't wear a hair net when you cook?! I'm never eating at your house."


                                  You were never invited. Plus, I'm bald.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    OK, beard net then...
                                    and OMG got suckered into a 2 year old conversation because it was bumped to the top with a response...

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  I try not to double-dip with my tasting spoon when we're having company. Does that count?

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    I try not to let my guests see me double dip.Is there a difference?

                        2. To be honest, I'd eat it. The meat was thoroughly cooked; a pot roast. I'd have second thoughts about a *rare* piece of meat that's sat out for 9 hours.

                          If you're really concerned, heat up a little stock and bring the slices of pot roast up to boiling point; serve as a hot sandwich or a hot plate.

                          Of course, in our restaurant I'd be bound by law to throw it out once it'd cooled down past the "safety" zone. And I'd throw it out, as wasteful as that may seem, because (someone else said this hereinabove) although I may have a cast-iron stomach, that doesn't mean that my customers who're elderly, ill (esp. compromised immune system) or otherwise sensitive wouldn't have big, big problems with the bacteria that can accumulate on un-refrigerated protein.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: shaogo

                            I'm with you, I'd eat it. And if it happened at a restaurant I owned, I would tell the help that it was being thrown out, walk it out to my car and drive it home.

                            1. re: bagelman01

                              Mr. bagel man: I'm with you!

                              And you don't know my staff very well. Some of them grew up in shacks in China with no running water nor refrigeration. They'd never abide the wastefulness. They'd be fighting me for this 9-hour-old pot roast, believe me!

                              1. re: shaogo

                                I understand not abiding with waste, BUT one has to make a point of telling the help that the item is thrown out so they never get the idea that it is alright to serve/eat something left out too long in the restaurant.

                                My father always taught me that you take care of your help, don't let them think you are taking things from the establishment for yourself, or they will think it is fine to take for themselves.

                                In that case, I'd tell them, this is not fit for us to eat, we'll have a freshly made staff meal, this has to leave the premises or the health inspectoir will write us up and none of us will have a job.

                                Although born here, I've worked and lived in Africa (in the 70s) and know full well about no, electricity, running water, and little food. We Americans waste much and waste even more because we worry about being sued.

                            2. re: shaogo

                              Exactly, fully cooked meat in a salty sauce is going to last quite a while sitting out. Totally different from raw.

                            3. Crucial question is what was the temperature.

                              Certainly we've left things out, intending them to cool before going into the freezer and then we've forgotten till next morning. No-one's died or been ill yet.

                              Some parts of the world are warmer than others. It's struggled to reach 20 here today, for example.

                              I'd be happy with beef, lamb or pork, perhaps less so with chicken and probably not at all happy if it was seafood.

                              1. I'd eat it, and believe me I eat stuff that's been sitting out just about daily. Never had a problem.

                                If Sam F were still with us he'd have posted by now and said the same thing. Read his "magic house" thread some day. It's the first line in the related posts at the end of this thread.

                                But if one is worried, why not just put the thing back in a pot with a little water and reheat it good and hot for 10-15 minutes. That ought to kill off anything that has developed in the meantime.

                                Certainly no reason to throw it out. As someone else mentioned, your risk of something bad from driving to the store to get a fresh one is probably greater than the risk of eating the one you already have.

                                1. There would probably be total agreement here if only you had fallen asleep before you took the roast out of the oven ....... mmmmm......maybe a new thread topic - "Does anyone like burnt?"

                                  Seriously, to me, 9-10 hrs is pushing the envelope but (especially if room temp wasn't too warm) I'd probably eat it but I wouldn't serve it to anyone else.

                                  1. Growing up, whenever my mother made a big pot of stew, she would literally let it sit out until we finished it. Some times for 2-3 days. She just made sure to bring the whole pot up to a boil every day, and nobody ever got sick...

                                    1. I want to clarify something about reheating.

                                      Reheating food is not a panacea for food safety.

                                      Reheating food will generally kill harmful bacteria, but it will *not* necessarily kill all harmful toxins produced by those bacteria.

                                      For example, the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria produces a toxin that is heat stable.

                                      I still stand by my original post, however, and would still eat the pot roast.

                                      But just more food for thought for the sake of edification.


                                      1. Official guidelines are more conservative than practical ones. When people speak of heat resistant toxins, I think those are mainly botulism, which is tough stuff resulting from canning (requires an anaerobic environment). Other toxins, such as those produced from salmonella, will kill off at lower temps (in that case, 150 degrees F).


                                        Reheat it fully, and I think all will be well. If unopened on the first night, the container contents were virtually sterile when you left them.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                          >>>Reheat it fully, and I think all will be well. If unopened on the first night, the container contents were virtually sterile when you left them.<<<

                                          Bada Bing, Did you notice her inquiry is from 4 years ago?!?! Do you still think she should just reheat it fully and all will be fine?

                                        2. We ate pork chops and potatoes cooked in a covered dish. The covered dish was left on the cabinet for 3 hours in a kitchen where the temp was 73 degrees. Are these pork chops safe to reheat and eat?