How long can I keep lasagna in the fridge before cooking?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how long can I keep lasagna in the fridge before cooking” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of lasagna. Moreover, we are going to discuss tips to properly store lasagna.

How long can I keep lasagna in the fridge before cooking?

Lasagna can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. Although uncooked lasagna is made with uncooked dry lasagna pasta or fresh lasagna pasta, the other ingredients, such as ground meat and sauce have been cooked and are considered leftovers (1).

Refrigerating food can extend its shelf life, when compared to storage at room temperature, however, it does not halt the growth of microorganisms. The shelf life may vary, depending on many factors that will be discussed in this article.

It is important to note that you should not store dishes containing uncooked or partially cooked ground meat in the refrigerator or the freezer, because of the high risks of microbial spoilage related to this food item (2).

What determines the shelf life of lasagna in the fridge?

The shelf life of uncooked lasagna can be determined by many factors. The main factors are (3,4,6):

  • The ingredients: The quality and of the ingredients, as well as their intrinsic properties vary. Meat, cheese, tomato sauce and other ingredients have different physicochemical characteristics (pH, water activity), and are susceptible to different deterioration processes and different types of microbial spoilage;
  • The freshness of the ingredients: Foods prepared with fresh ingredients have an improved shelf life when compared to foods prepared with ingredients that have been previously stored;
  • The cooling process: Exposing food to a temperature above 40°F for extended periods prior to refrigeration or freezing can accelerate microbial spoilage;
  • The storage temperature: High internal temperatures of the refrigerator and temperature fluctuations due to frequent door opening of the refrigerator may reduce the shelf life of the food. 
  • Cooking/ hygiene practices of preparing the dish: Good hygiene conditions of the domestic kitchen added to proper food handling and personal hygiene practices are crucial to determine optimal shelf life.

Can I freeze lasagna before cooking?

Yes, you can freeze lasagna before cooking lasagna, although pasta products are better frozen after being cooked (7). Lasagna if kept in an air-tight container or plastic freezer bag in the freezer can last for about 2-3 months (1). 

Freezing is recognized as one of the best methods to extend the shelf life of food. The reduction of the temperature to 0°F or lower is able to halt the microbial growth and reduce the enzymatic and chemical reactions that occur within the food matrix, which causes the food to degrade (7).

Remember that you should not freeze lasagna that contains uncooked or undercooked meat and that the shelf life may vary. In addition, the quality of the dish can significantly be affected by freeze-thawing processes.

How to identify spoiled lasagna before cooking?

To identify spoiled lasagna before cooking, you should look for possible signs of spoilage. These include (1,5,7):

  • Generation of putrid, rancid off-odors
  • Generation of gas or bloating of the packaging
  • Changes in the color of meat, sauce or pasta
  • Formation of slime or mold on the surface

Meat, sauce and pasta are susceptible to spoilage caused by microorganisms as well as spoilage caused by chemical and enzymatic reactions, which lead to the loss of sensory and nutritional quality of food.

What are the risks of eating spoiled lasagna?

The risk of eating spoiled lasagna is of experiencing an episode of foodborne illness. Lasagna is highly prone to suffer microbial spoilage, due to its ingredients. 

As a consequence, by eating a lasagna that has been stored improperly or for extended periods, you expose yourself to a risk of foodborne illness (6). The possible symptoms of a foodborne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ache, headache and fever.

Can I refrigerate cooked lasagna?

Yes, you can refrigerate lasagna. After cooking lasagna to an internal safe temperature of 165°F, you should cool the lasagna within 2 hours, place it in a food container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (1). 

How to properly store lasagna?

  1. You should always store your lasagna at 40°F or below (1).
  2. Use food containers with a lid or wrap your lasagna before storing it to avoid contamination and deterioration by exposure to oxygen.
  3. It is a good practice to store lasagna on one of the shelves of the refrigerator rather than the door as there is a lot of temperature fluctuation at the door of the fridge that can mess up the quality of lasagna (3).
  4. Do not leave your baked or unbaked lasagna out in the open for more than 2 hours or else bacteria will contaminate it. You should discard the lasagna that has been left in open for more than 2 hours as bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between the temperature of 40 and 140°F, therefore there are greater chances of the lasagna being already contaminated with bacteria when left out for more than 2 hours (1)
  5. Freeze the lasagna if you don’t plan eating it in 3-4 days.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question “how long can I keep lasagna in the fridge before cooking” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of lasagna. Moreover, we discussed tips to properly store lasagna.

Citations

  1. Leftovers and food safety. USDA. 2020.  
  2. Beef from farm to table. USDA. 2020.
  3. Roccato, A., Uyttendaele, M., & Membré, J. M.  Analysis of domestic refrigerator temperatures and home storage time distributions for shelf-life studies and food safety risk assessment. Food Res Int 2017, 96, 171-181.
  4. Coorey, Ranil, et al. The impact of cooling rate on the safety of food products as affected by food containers. Compr. Rev. Food Sci 2018, 17, 827-840.
  5. Horbańczuk, Olaf K., et al. The effect of natural antioxidants on quality and shelf life of beef and beef products. Food technol biotechnol, 2019, 57, 439.
  6. Redmond, Elizabeth C., and Christopher J. Griffith. The importance of hygiene in the domestic kitchen: implications for preparation and storage of food and infant formula. Perspec Public Health, 2009, 129, 69-76.
  7. Evans, Judith A., ed. Frozen food science and technology. John Wiley & Sons, 2009.

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