Can you leave food in the microwave overnight?

In this article, we answer the following question: Can you leave food in the microwave overnight? We talk about the dangers of not storing food properly and give you a brief list of how long certain products can be stored outside a refrigerator. 

Can you leave food in the microwave overnight?

You should not leave food in the microwave overnight. Microwaves are used to heat food, not to keep it cold, nor is it a sterile environment. Most foods kept outside a refrigerator overnight – that is between 4 and 60 degrees – are in the so-called by the FDA “danger zone.

Since the temperature in the microwave will be approximately 21 degrees, it is the main environment for bacteria to grow and multiply.

It says the limit for leaving cooked food out is no more than two hours, so food that stays inside a microwave overnight rather than being properly refrigerated has a higher risk of becoming contaminated with bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. Reheating food in a microwave doesn’t kill the bacteria, so leaving a slice of pizza outside and then microwaving it to eat later only adds to the stakes.

Staph aureus can grow on any type of perishable food, but it is most common in meat, poultry, eggs, mayonnaise-based salads, and dairy products. Other factors such as room temperature, who handle the ingredients, and the humidity of the food can also influence how quickly the bacteria multiply, making it difficult to determine which foods will end up infected.

Bacterium Bacillus cereus spreads through food and causes food poisoning in humans (and, in the worst case, death). And while you would probably never eat spaghetti or a piece of meat that has been out of the fridge for five days, you may wonder how long unpreserved food will last before throwing it out.

How long can food be kept at room temperature?

Perishable food: no more than two hours

Meat, fish, eggs, and leftovers should not be more than two hours at 4.44 degrees Celsius, according to the United States government. The best thing is to keep them in the fridge and keep the door closed as much as possible. In the event of a power outage at home, the food in the fridge is safe as long as no more than 4 hours pass without electricity. Federal authorities recommend that we never test the food to “determine its safety.

If after starting to consume the leftovers there are still remains, they must not remain at room temperature. The FDA recommends that it is better to freeze them before storing them in the refrigerator for several days.

Cheeses: depends on the type

Following the guidelines of the US Administration, some cheeses can be kept without refrigeration and without a time limit and others must be in the refrigerator. However, it is advisable to take out those that are refrigerated a while before to serve them at room temperature and enhance their flavor.

Cheeses such as Parmesan or provolone are safe at room temperature, but grated cheese, fresh cheese, or others considered soft, such as Roquefort, mozzarella, or cottage cheese, cannot be more than two hours at more than 4.44 degrees Celsius. The same rule applies to other dairy products, like cream.

Butter: a while to soften if we want to cook

As for butter, it has been proven that the varieties with salt do not proliferate many bacteria, so this is better than its variety without salt if we want to leave it out of the fridge to soften and use it in dishes. Be careful: if we leave it for a day or two, we will soon notice how rancid. However, even if we can keep it for a while or a few hours in a place where it is not in the sun, the best way to keep it cold.

Eggs and tortillas: no more than two hours

Classic is to prepare the mayonnaise without eggs if it is going to be consumed outdoors, especially in summer. If it is purchased and we have already opened it, the Americans recommend that it not be out of the refrigerator for more than eight hours above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, that is, 10 degrees Celsius. By the way, some industrial sauces, like ketchup or mustard, can be out of the fridge before opening.

Scrambled or hard-boiled eggs should be thrown away after sitting at room temperature for two hours or more, as bacteria growth will then proliferate. And if they are refrigerated in the supermarket where we buy them, we have to maintain the cold chain to prevent them from spoiling. 

Dishes prepared with eggs (desserts, quiche …) should also be thrown away if they spend more than two hours in the open. Tortillas, for example, should be put in the refrigerator once they cool down if they are not going to be consumed at the moment.

Homemade cakes: two days

If you’ve baked a homemade cake with fresh fruit (for example, apples), let it cool first. Then, if you want, you can put it in the fridge, but it can also be kept for one or two days in the pantry or in a dry corner and at a normal temperature. If it smells funny, throw it out.

Bread: about five days

Bread can be kept out of the fridge for several days. In fact, if we put it in the fridge it softens or molds. Of course, it will harden over time, and in cases such as sliced bread, it is advisable to keep it in its container, well-closed, or in another container. A classic to soften it in the toaster, although it must be consumed very quickly, otherwise, it will harden again.

Food chilled and frozen from the supermarket: one hour

It can also happen that you do not finish cooking the food but have bought it from the supermarket to consume at home. The key is here in the cold chain. 

According to the FDA, if more than an hour has passed between you taking them off the shelves, paying, and arriving at your home, the cold chain has been broken and it is not worth storing them again. In these cases, they should be consumed immediately. To do this, the best thing is that, when buying them, you take them when you are about to pay and put them all in the same part of the cart.

Conclusions

In this article, we answered the following question: Can you leave food in the microwave overnight? We talked about the dangers of not storing food properly and gave you a brief list of how long certain products can be stored outside a refrigerator. 

Our recommendation is not to leave food in a microwave overnight. Microwaves are used to heat food, not to keep it cold, nor is it a sterile environment. Food that stays inside a microwave overnight rather than being properly refrigerated has a higher risk of becoming contaminated with bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. 

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

Reference

Usda.gov

Fda.gov

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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.

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