How Long is BBQ Good for in the Fridge?

In this brief article, we will answer the question of how long is bbq good for in the fridge, what precautions you must take when storing BBQ, and how to tell if the stored BBQ is no longer edible. 

How Long is BBQ Good for in the Fridge?

Leftover BBQ can be stored in the fridge for three to four days when refrigerated within two hours of being taken off from the flame. If there is a great amount of leftovers, they should be divided into small containers to assure fast cooling (1). 

Always store BBQ in an airtight container to preserve moisture and the quality of the meat. 

When Must BBQ be Safely Stored?

Similar to other hot foods, the moment a BBQ is taken off the heat source and its temperature falls below the required 140°F, it should either be immediately consumed or refrigerated within a minimum of 2 hours. 

Bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F, so if the food has been left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it is advisable to be thrown away (1). 

Moreover, if the average temperature where the BBQ is cooked is 90°F or above, it must be consumed or stored within an hour. Beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts should be cooked at a temperature of 145 °F, poultry to 165 °F and ground meats to 160 °F. If not, they are not safe to store (1). 

What factors affect the shelf life of BBQ in the Fridge?

The main factors determining the shelf life of BBQ in the fridge are the following (4,5,6,8):

  • The type of meat: different types of meat have different composition (more or less fat, different amino acids) and are susceptible to different microorganisms; 
  • The use of marinating and seasoning: marinating with salts and acids or fruit juices may extend the shelf life of the meat, as the marinating ingredients act as preservatives and antioxidants, depending on the composition;
  • The cooling process: a faster cooling of food may improve the shelf life as compared to long time required to reduce the temperature of food;
  • The storage temperature: door opening of the refrigerator leads to the increase of the refrigerator temperature which may decrease the shelf life of the food by allowing a higher rate of microbial growth; 
  • Cooking/ hygiene practices of preparing the BBQ: according to studies, the domestic environment and the hygiene practices are important sources of food-borne infections and improved hygiene behavior may reduce contamination and ensure shelf life.

How to Store BBQ for Longer?

If you don’t plan on consuming stored BBQ within a maximum of four days, you should freeze it inside freezer containers or zip-lock freezer bags where it can last for as long as three months. 

Freezing can improve the shelf life of food by reducing the free water available for microbial development. In addition, the rate in which chemical and enzymatic reactions responsible for the reduction of the quality of the food occur, is significantly reduced (7).

However, even during frozen storage, chemical changes occur, such as lipid oxidation and protein degradation, leading to the formation of negative sensory characteristics of the stored food. To freeze BBQ, use a freezer bag or a food container. 

With vacuum-sealed freezer bags, leftover BBQ can be stored for even longer in the freezer, since vacuum bags remove any air from inside the bags and preserve the quality of cooked meat for as long as two to three years. Although safe for a longer period, frozen leftovers can lose moisture and flavor when stored for longer times in the freezer (1).

Always label your bags/containers with the name of the product inside them and the date they were packed so that you can assess the best-by date once you decide to reheat them.

How Should You Reheat BBQ?

To reheat frozen BBQ leftovers, BBQ stored in vacuum-sealed freezer bags must be defrosted in the fridge, followed by reheating it inside the bag. Refrigerator thawing takes the longest but the leftovers stay safe the entire time (9). 

After thawing, the food should be used within 3 to 4 days or can be refrozen. It can also be thawed in the microwave. Microwave thawing is the fastest method. When thawing leftovers in a microwave, continue to heat it until it reaches 165° F as measured with a food thermometer (1).

To reheat in the oven, a slow to moderate oven heated to 300-325°F works best for reheating refrigerated BBQ. Make sure the BBQ is covered so that it doesn’t become dry. Flip it over occasionally. 

You can also reheat refrigerated BBQ in a skillet over a mild flame. A one-pound vacuum-sealed bag of BBQ takes at least 15 minutes to cook in simmering water at about 190°F. You can give it some additional time if it still appears frozen. Stir occasionally. 

The third option is the microwave; however, it will heat the meat unevenly. If you still want to use it, keep turning the meat in the container frequently. Check it in different places using an instant-read thermometer to ensure it is at 165°F, which is the lowest ‘safe’ temperature for leftovers.

How to Tell if Stored BBQ Has Gone Bad?

The common signs that your stored BBQ has gone bad include (2,7):

Change of Smell: a foul or strange odor is probably the fastest and easiest way to confirm whether your BBQ has gone bad. 

Change of Texture: accompanied by an unpleasant scent is a change in texture; the BBQ will feel sticky or slimy on touching.

Change of Color: Lastly, bad BBQ will feature a slight color change, and may also have some white or green moldy growth on its surface.

Lipid-derived reactive oxygen species and oxidized myoglobin byproducts initiate oxidation of meat and drastically reduce quality attributes like color, flavor and nutritional values of meat. Also, meat tenderness, juiciness, myofibrillar swelling, and solubility quality is diminished due to protein oxidation (2).

What Happens If You Eat BBQ That Has Gone Bad?

If you eat BBQ that has gone bad, it is possible that you experience an episode of foodborne illness. 

Deterioration of BBQ can occur by bacterial growth. Some foodborne microorganisms that can be found in pork, as well as other meats and poultry, are Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Yersinia enterocolitica and Listeria monocytogenes (3). 

Trichinosis (Food Poisoning) is a food-borne illness caused by eating raw, undercooked, or stale meats, particularly chicken and pork products with bacterial growth or worm infestation (3).

Common symptoms of foodborne illnesses include:

  • abdominal discomfort
  • diarrhea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headaches 


In this brief article, we answered the question of how long is bbq good for in the fridge, what precautions you must take when storing BBQ, and how to tell if the stored BBQ is no longer edible. 


  1. Leftovers and Food Safety. United States Department of Agriculture. 
  2. Seo, JK., Parvin, R., Yim, DG. et al. Effects on quality properties of cooked pork sausages with Caesalpinia sappan L. extract during cold storage. J Food Sci Technol, 2019, 56, 4946–4955.
  3. Fresh Pork from Farm to Table.  United States Department of Agriculture. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  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.
  8. Ramli, Aizi Nor Mazila, et al. Passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) peel powder extract and its application towards antibacterial and antioxidant activity on the preserved meat products. SN Appl Sci, 2020, 2, 1-11.
  9. Freezing and food safety. United States Department of Agriculture.