How Long Can Meat Sit Out Before It Goes Bad?

Raw meat should not sit out and should go in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible. Cooked meat can be left out until it is cool enough to go in the refrigerator or freezer.

All raw meat contains some bacteria. Chilling or freezing the meat can slow down or halt the bacteria from spreading, so it is important to put raw meat in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible. When shoppers purchase meat, they should chill it as soon as they get home. People should also marinate meat in the refrigerator as leaving meat to marinate at room temperatures can allow bacteria to grow.

Cooking meat kills bacteria on the surface. However, new bacteria can easily grow and spread on room temperature food. Although people should avoid putting hot food in the refrigerator or freezer, they should be sure to chill meat or meat dishes as soon as they cool down.

People should also avoid letting frozen meat out to thaw. Freezing does not kill most types of bacteria; it just stops them from growing. Instead, cooks should thaw meat in the refrigerator, defrost it in the microwave or submerge it in water that is colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They should change the water periodically as it gets warmer to prevent bacteria from building up.