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How long can barbecued foods sit outside after cooking? Let’s find out! Summertime means grilling season! Nothing says summer like the smell of sizzling burgers and hot dogs on the grill. But with the warm weather and outdoor cooking, it’s essential to remember food safety. One of the most common questions about barbecued food is, how long can it sit outside after cooking?

The answer to this question may surprise you. We’ll dive into food safety guidelines and explore how long you can safely keep your barbecued favorites outside during your next backyard barbecue. 

Grilled summer bbq dishes on a picnic table.

How Long Can Barbecued Foods Sit Outside After Cooking?

After cooking, barbecued food can safely sit outside for up to two hours if the outdoor temperature is below 90°F (32°C). However, if the temperature is above 90°F, you should not leave the food out for more than one hour. To prevent bacterial growth and foodborne illnesses, following these guidelines and refrigerate leftovers promptly once they’ve reached room temperature is important.

Below is a table, but please note that the safety temperature zones listed above are recommended for both cooking and storing food.

The “Safety Temp Zone (Hot)” column indicates the minimum internal temperature the food should reach when cooked. In contrast, the “Safety Temp Zone (Cold)” column indicates the temperature at which the food should be stored in the refrigerator.

Always use a food thermometer to ensure that your food is cooked and stored at the proper temperatures.

BBQ FoodTime Outside (Below 90°F / 32°C)Time Outside (Above 90°F / 32°C)Safety Temp Zone (Hot)Safety Temp Zone (Cold)
Grilled Chicken2 hours1 hour165°F (74°C)40°F (4°C) or below
Grilled Steak2 hours1 hour145°F (63°C)40°F (4°C) or below
Grilled Pork2 hours1 hour145°F (63°C)40°F (4°C) or below
Grilled Fish2 hours1 hour145°F (63°C)40°F (4°C) or below
Grilled Vegetables2 hours1 hourN/A40°F (4°C) or below
Hot Dogs & Sausages2 hours1 hour165°F (74°C)40°F (4°C) or below
Hamburgers2 hours1 hour160°F (71°C)40°F (4°C) or below
Salads with Mayonnaise2 hours1 hourN/A40°F (4°C) or below

For more information regarding how long barbecued foods can sit outside after cooking, keep on reading as we break it down even further.

BBQ food safety

Summer is the perfect time for barbecues and outdoor grilling. However, keeping safety in mind when handling and serving food is important. Leaving food out too long can lead to food poisoning and other illnesses, quickly ruining a fun gathering. To keep everyone safe, it’s important to follow some simple guidelines when it comes to barbecued foods and safety.

Firstly, it’s important to note that food safety shouldn’t take a backseat to fun. While everyone wants to enjoy themselves, it’s crucial to be aware of the risks of leaving food out too long.

Bacteria can quickly multiply on food that is left out in warm temperatures, leading to illness and potential hospitalization. Following some simple rules makes it possible to enjoy delicious barbecued foods safely.

Cut fruit

Cut fruit can only be safe for two hours maximum if the temperature is between 40-89 degrees; if it exceeds 90 degrees, its safety window will shorten to one hour. After that, it must be discarded. The warm temperature is conducive to the multiplication of bacteria that can cause food poisoning, making it necessary to keep fruits refrigerated or avoid keeping them out for too long.

Hence, to avoid unnecessary risks and ensure that everyone’s health is prioritized, it’s essential to adhere to safety guidelines when handling food during barbecues.

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Cooked and raw vegetables, pasta, and herbs

Cooked and raw vegetables should not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. Beyond that time, the risk of bacterial growth increases, leading to a higher probability of foodborne illness. It is recommended to refrigerate cooked vegetables immediately after serving, while raw vegetables should be stored in the fridge until ready to use.

For outdoor events, keep the vegetables in a cooler or refrigerator until it is time to grill them, and then promptly remove them from the grill and return them to the cooler or refrigerator when they are done cooking.

Pasta is a favorite barbecue dish, but like vegetables, it should not remain at room temperature for longer than two hours. Cooked pasta can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days, but storing it for longer than that increases the likelihood of bacterial growth.

When cooking pasta for a barbecue, it is best to wait until it is time to serve it before boiling it. After cooking, mix the pasta with the sauce and promptly refrigerate it in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Herbs are a great addition to any barbecue dish but should not be left at room temperature for too long. Fresh herbs can last several days when refrigerated, but dry herbs can last several months when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark location like a pantry.

To keep fresh herbs from wilting or drying out, trim the stems and place them in a glass of water, then cover them with a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator. Use dry herbs within six months of opening the container.

Leafy greens

Leafy greens are a summer staple but can also be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria when left out too long. Since they can be difficult to wash, it’s important to always keep them refrigerated or in a cooler with ice. Once they’ve been sitting out for two hours, the risk of dangerous bacteria increases, so it’s best to avoid consuming them afterward.

While it may be tempting to leave a salad out for guests to graze on throughout the day, it’s important to prioritize food safety and ensure that all perishable items are kept properly chilled.

Grilled meat

Grilled meat is a staple at barbecues but can also be a breeding ground for bacteria if left out for too long. Even though the meat is cooked, it can still start to grow harmful bacteria after two hours if left at room temperature. This makes it unsafe to consume and can lead to food poisoning.

It is important to keep grilled meat refrigerated or heated to the proper temperature to prevent the growth of bacteria and ensure a safe, enjoyable barbecue experience. So, enjoy your grilled burgers, steaks, and hot dogs while they are fresh and properly stored.

Raw meat

Raw meat is a staple at any barbecue, whether it’s hamburger patties or chicken breast. But it’s crucial to handle raw meat with care, especially regarding storage. Leaving raw meat at room temperature for too long can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria, which can cause food poisoning in those who consume it.

The general rule when it comes to raw meat is to not leave it out for more than two hours if the temperature is between 40 and 89°F. This time frame is cut down to just one hour if the temperature is above 90°F. Raw meat should not be left in direct sunlight, as this can hasten the growth of bacteria and result in off-flavors in the meat. Additionally, it’s best to thaw meat in the fridge instead of leaving it out on the counter.

Acidic foods

Acidic foods are those with a pH below 7.0, such as tomatoes, pickles, citrus fruits, and vinegar. These types of foods have a lower risk of bacterial growth than neutral or alkaline foods due to their high acidity levels. However, that does not mean they are immune to spoilage or foodborne illnesses. Acids can slow down bacterial growth but cannot completely stop it.

Therefore, even acidic food should not be left out at room temperature for an extended period. It is recommended that acidic food be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and discarded after being left out for more than two hours. Additionally, leftover acidic foods should be reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F before consumption.

Butter for corn on the cob

Butter is a popular topping for corn on the cob, adding a rich and creamy flavor to the sweet and juicy kernels. Whether you’re grilling up corn for a cookout or reheating leftover corn at home, adding a pat of butter can take your corn to the next level. When selecting butter for your corn, make sure it’s at room temperature or slightly softened for easy spreading.

To create a custom butter blend, you can also mix in other seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, or herbs. Just be sure to enjoy your buttered corn within the recommended timeframe for safe consumption.

Grilled bbq dishes on a table.

How long can BBQ meat sit out?

BBQ pork can sit out at room temperature after cooking for a limited time. If it reaches ChefsTemp of 165⁰F and is covered with a lid, it can be left out and served later. However, if it’s not in a chafing dish, it should not sit out for more than four hours as it enters the temperature danger zone. After that, it can either be refrigerated or reheated to 165⁰F and is safe to consume for another two hours. Always remember that reheating food more than once is not advised.

Leaving out barbecued food for too long carries a substantial risk of food poisoning. The rule is two hours for most cooked and uncooked food when kept in temperatures between 40-89⁰F. This can be decreased to an hour for food above 90⁰F.

Is it safe to eat BBQ left out overnight?

Barbecues are a popular gathering for friends and family during summer. It’s important to ensure that the food served is safe to eat. Leaving barbecued food out overnight is not recommended as it can lead to food poisoning. Perishable items like dairy and meat contain bacteria that can cause illnesses. Such bacteria multiply fast at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. If the food has been sitting out for more than two hours, it is best to discard it. Outdoor temperatures above 90°F should not exceed one hour.

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