Food Safety 101: How Long Can I Leave Cooked Food Unrefrigerated?

With the USDA ground beef recall fresh on our minds, we thought it might be smart to brush up on our own food handling practices. Do you know how long you can leave that potato salad on your buffet before it needs to go back in the fridge? How about the right way to thaw frozen meats?

If you're not so sure, no worries: we're doing a Food Safety 101 course the rest of this week to keep you and your guests happy and healthy.

First up: how long can you leave food at room temperature?

Leaving Food at Room Temperature: Four Hours

Four hours is a good rule of thumb for most buffet foods. After four hours, the potential for you to get sick from eating food left at room temperature increases drastically. If you're throwing a party and afraid you might forget, try setting a timer to remind yourself when four hours is up.

Ice cream and other frozen foods are of course another story - try putting those back in a little sooner!

And we cannot dispense medical advice - take these as rules of thumb and read up on food safety along with us.

More Food Safety 101
How to Defrost Frozen Meat

This is by Emma, who is up for one of our new writer positions. Welcome Emma!

(Image credit: Skippy's Catering)

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