When do you toss the leftover Pad Thai (or lasagna) that’s in the fridge?

You Are Hungry!

You’re standing in front of your open refrigerator. A container here and a container there. Move them around. Wow. A Tupperware all the way in the back. Wonder what’s in it.

Take a peek. Container #1: the leftover take-out Pad Thai from five days ago. Container #2: the rest of your lasagna you brought home last night from a huge restaurant portion. Some of Mom’s really delicious stuffing from last weekend. That’s in the Tupperware.

Big question: Will you end up writhing in pain and spending the next day in the bathroom if you eat any of it?

How Long Can Food Stay Out?

According to the FDA, when you buy hot, cooked food, you should eat it right away and avoid letting it sit out at room temperature. If the food is cold, eat it within two hours of preparing it, store it in the fridge, or freeze it.

Buzz, Buzz: The Food Is Here

When food is delivered, you want to prevent any lurking potentially nasty and harmful bacteria from multiplying, so eat the food within two hours after it arrives. If you aren’t going to eat it within two hours keep it hot in an oven set at or above 200° F (93° C). Side dishes, like that delicious stuffing in the Tupperware, also have to be kept hot in the oven. Cover the food to keep it moist while you’re keeping it warm. Don’t guess at the temperature of the food. Use a food thermometer to check that the food is kept at an internal temperature of 140° F (60° C).

The Danger Zone

The FDA defines the “danger zone” as the range of temperatures at which bacteria can grow. It is usually between 40° and 140° F (4° and 60° C). To keep food safe, it’s important to keep it below or above the “danger zone.”

The 2 Hour Rule

There is a 2 Hour Rule: Throw away any perishable food (the kind that can spoil or become contaminated by bacteria if left unrefrigerated) that has bee left out at room temperature for more than two hours. When the environmental temperature is above 90° F (32° C), throw out the food after one hour.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Nutrition Action Healthletter, expands on the Rules For Leftovers with what they call:

2 hours – 2 inches – 4 days


2 hours from oven to refrigerator: any leftovers should be

refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours of cooking or they should be thrown away.

2 Inches thick to cool it quick: food should be stored in containers at a shallow depth of about 2 inches or less, to speed the chilling time.

4 days in the refrigerator or freeze it: use refrigerated leftovers within 4 days with the exception of stuffing and gravy which should be used within 2 days. Reheat Solid leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees F and liquid leftovers to a rolling boil. Whatever you don’t finish, throw out.

Do you still want that Pad Thai? Maybe some lasagna?

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2 Responses to When do you toss the leftover Pad Thai (or lasagna) that’s in the fridge?

  1. Elatia Harris March 12, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    This is SO good! And your posts are all so useful and well done. An awful lot to offer, and I appreciate it.

  2. Trevor August 3, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    I guess I should throw away that Salmon from last week. 🙂

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