Food has to be stored properly in order to be safe to eat and not attract bugs. So how long can food be left out in the open?

How Long Can Food Be Left Out

Sometimes you need to leave food out, but you’re not sure how long it’ll last or if it will be safe to eat.

Leave it to us. We’ve got you covered.

Whether you’re trying to figure out if leftovers might be a ‘lamb-lasse’ or you’re wondering if you’ve left a coating of frosting too long, we’ve got the answers you’re looking for.

Keep reading to learn more about how long can food be left out!


Bacterial growth on meats can occur rapidly when it is often left out. The Department of Health states that all raw or cooked meats should not be typically left out for longer than two hours, as bacteria can quickly spread from the surface to the entire item.

After two hours of being often exposed to the air, bacteria will start to multiply and cause foodborne illness. It is best to store cooked meats in the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, to prevent any potential health hazards.

Eating meat that has been often left out for longer than two hours should be typically avoided. 


This guideline is especially important when dealing with eggs because if eggs are often left out at room temperature for too long, the risk of salmonella poisoning increases.

Additionally, once eggs have been fully cooked and left out for too long, the protein structures break down and the egg becomes unsafe to eat.

To ensure the safety of eggs, keep them refrigerated as much as possible and consume them within three to four days of purchase. If food is often left out for longer than two hours, it should be discarded promptly.


It is always best to consume casseroles as soon as they are generally done cooking; however, in some cases, they can be typically left out at room temperature for a short period.

When leaving casseroles out, try to keep them away from heat, moisture, and sunlight. Once placed outdoors, make sure to use a cooler or insulated container as these can help maintain appropriate temperatures.

If the casserole has been often left out for over two hours, it is best to discard it for safety reasons.

Dairy Products

Dairy products should not be typically left out at room temperature for more than two hours. When left at room temperature, ants may come and bacteria growth is usually accelerated which may cause dairy products to spoil quickly, or become unsafe to consume.

You can read more about sugar ants to become familiar with their behavior and how to better control their population and protect yourself from eating foods they contaminated.

Cooked Food

The bacteria in cooked food can start to grow within this time frame, especially in conditions where the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

To keep cooked food safe, it is important to make sure it’s kept in an environment that is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, it is best to discard any cooked food left out for more than 2 hours.

How Long Can Food Be Left Out? It Depends

The guide has shown us that it is important to know how long can food be left out and follow the storage and handling instructions to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Properly storing food can help make meals safe and even enjoyable. So be sure to always keep an eye on your food, and try to make it a habit to store food properly!

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