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