Can you eat cooked meat left out overnight?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question, “Can you eat cooked meat left out overnight?. Moreover, we will discuss how to safely store cooked meat? and the risks of cooked meat left out overnight.

Can you eat cooked meat left out overnight? 

No, you can not eat cooked meat left out overnight. Meat is highly perishable, meaning that it should be stored in a refrigerator to prevent bacterial multiplication at room temperature, otherwise it can lead to foodborne illness if the food is “temperature abused.”

Meat does not last long after it has been cooked, and even if the meat that was left out overnight looks precisely the same the next morning, it should be discarded. This is because once the cooked meat starts to cool, it becomes a breeding spot for bacteria. 

The unrefrigerated leftover meat starts spreading bacteria in quite a few hours and following a night on the kitchen counter, they are unsafe for consumption.

The risks of cooked meat left out overnight

Bacterial contamination 

Meat has to reach a minimum internal temperature before they are safe for consumption. However, the internal temperature varies by the type of meat i.e., beef and chicken, but the reason for it remains identical, that is;

Before it reaches that temperature, bacteria can multiply in and on the meat. Between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat is in what the United States Department of Agriculture describes as the danger zone, which is the perfect environment for harmful pathogens, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli, to multiply rapidly.

Food poisoning 

Consuming meat that has been left out overnight, can lead to severe symptoms of food poisoning due to contamination by the bacteria. 

Common symptoms of food poisoning include 

  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • stomach cramps 
  • fever 

These symptoms can last for a day to one week. can appear as early as 4 hours after eating meat contaminated with bacteria or as late as one week after consumption of contaminated meat. 

The United States Department of Agriculture records that some groups of people are at a greater risk of falling sick than others; these include 

  • Elderly people
  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • People with a weakened immune system, including transplant patients and people with diabetes, kidney disease, cancer and also people with HIV/AIDS. 

For these people with increased susceptibility, food poisoning can even be lethal.

Other risks

In addition to food poisoning, eating meat contaminated with pathogenic bacteria can lead to other consequences as well. The consumption of Salmonella has been linked to cancer as well as inflammatory conditions such as bowel disease. 

On the other hand, consumption of meat contaminated with E. coli has been linked to urinary tract infections, septicemia and meningitis in children.

How to safely store cooked meat?

To prevent the spoilage of cooked meat and to keep it safe for consumption, it should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours after being cooked. If it is not kept in a refrigerator within this period, it will become unsafe for consumption. 

If the room temperature is higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the timeline is even shorter, and your meat should not be left out for more than 1 hour before you put it in a container to store it.

Storing the cooked meat in a freezer or refrigerator does not necessarily mean it is safe. Large quantities of meat, like whole roasts that have not been sliced take more time than smaller portions to cool off in the fridge. 

This means that even though the temperature in your fridge is under 40℉, the meat you store in the fridge takes too long to reach the corresponding temperature, and stays in the danger zone. 

To safely store cooked meat, it should be cooled quickly. Slice it and place it into an airtight container to keep bacteria out and to ensure the quickest cooling possible.

Even cooked meat that is properly stored does not last forever. This is because storing the meat does not necessarily kill microorganisms, it only hinders their growth. After some days in the fridge, the leftover meat will still have bacteria and ultimately mould. 

Always store cooked meat in a fridge for 3 or 4 days, and if you desire to preserve it longer, then keep it in the freezer. No doubt, the meat will stay safe in the freezer for longer at zero degrees Fahrenheit, but the texture and taste will start to worsen. Based on the type of meat, it may last for 6 months in the freezer.


In this short article, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat cooked meat left out overnight?. Moreover, we will discuss how to safely store cooked meat? and the risks of cooked meat left overnight.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.