How Long Can Food Sit Out within the Sun Before Going Bad?


Between yard barbecues and neverending seaside days, summer season is the prime time for consuming alfresco. Nothing beats digging into contemporary fruit salad (or biting into an enormous ol’ burger) together with your toes within the sand and the solar in your face. But keep in mind: Your physique isn’t the one factor absorbing these golden rays. If your meals is omitted for too lengthy—particularly in the summertime warmth—it begins to spoil.

Unfortunately, perishable meals hanging out within the nice outdoor can turn into breeding grounds for dangerous micro organism like E.coli and Salmonella. And nothing turns an ideal seaside day right into a sh*tty 1 like a sudden case of meals poisoning.

But let’s not get forward of ourselves. Before you swear off all picnics for the remainder of time, there are some things you must know. Follow these guidelines of summertime snacking and you will be OK.

The Golden Two-Hour Rule

As you in all probability guessed, the precise period of time you possibly can depart meals out of the fridge and within the nice outdoor relies on the meals in query—and naturally, the temperature. But in line with the FDA, you must at all times comply with the fundamental two-hour rule: Don’t depart something that you’d usually refrigerate out for greater than 2 hours at room temperature. If it’s a very scorching day—anyplace close to 90 levels Fahrenheit—make that only one hour.

Most of the micro organism you do not wish to be snacking on flourish in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees, a thermal window (fairly dramatically) dubbed “The Danger Zone.” If left to do its factor, a bacterial inhabitants can double in nearly 20 minutes. Not so appetizing.

So for those who’re unsure, keep away from meals that’s been sitting within the scorching solar for an hour or extra. (One good way to do that that does not require consuming very in a short time is bringing a cooler!) Common sense comes into play right here too—so for those who discover a brand new scent or a slime, maintain that funky meals out of your physique.

Don’t Forget About the Hot Stuff

While we are inclined to keep in mind that the two-hour rule applies to the meals we wish to maintain cool, it is simple to neglect that it is simply as essential to maintain the new stuff scorching. According to dietitian-nutritionist Gina Hassick, MA, RD, cooked scorching meals that are not served straight away must be stored at or above 140 levels. She suggests utilizing warming trays, sluggish cookers, and chafing dishes to maintain your meals (actually) secure and heat. Want to verify your meals is not falling into “The Danger Zone?” Bring a meals thermometer to maintain temperature tabs in your dishes.

Hassick additionally notes that improper cooling of scorching meals usually results in foodborne sickness. “Even though the food has been safely cooked, bacteria can still be reintroduced if given the opportunity.” For faster, extra even cooling, Hassick suggests utilizing shallow containers, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and plastic baggies when storing leftovers.

Meat, Poultry, and Fish

Unless you’re keen on inviting an indignant mob of micro organism into your physique, don’t depart any of those within the solar for greater than an hour—or 2 if at room temperature. Meat, poultry, and fish are all positively topic to the two-hour rule—and if we’re speaking barbecues, be additional cautious.

Raw meat, together with poultry and shellfish, is especially susceptible to bacterial progress when omitted in “The Danger Zone.” Staph, E.Coli, and Campylobacter can multiply quickly—a surefire approach to get meals poisoning ASAP. Keep that uncooked meat cool and out of the solar till it goes on the grill, wash all slicing boards and plates that touched it, and maintain it away from different meals that gained’t be cooked.


According to a current Wisconsin-based study, some cheeses can safely keep unrefrigerated (at temps 70 levels or cooler) for about six hours. However, not all cheeses are created equal—it seems that the speed at which a cheese will begin to go dangerous has to do with its water content. While tougher cheeses (like Parmesan, Gouda, and cheddar) can hold for a number of hours, high-moisture cheeses (like ricotta, queso blanco, and mascarpone) will spoil fairly shortly. (Yep, we’re again to the two-hour rule.) So for those who’re planning a day-long seaside picnic? Get that cheddar… or eat your tender cheese with some hustle.

Fresh Produce

Since they’re perishable items, fruits and veggies must also be thought of a part of the two-hour—1 within the solar—rule, according to the FDA. To maintain them contemporary for longer, do not minimize into your fruit till you are able to chow down. That means fruit salads may not be the most effective thought for a picnic on a scorching day.

Fruit Juices

So you’re dying of thirst… however that carton of OJ has been sitting out for a couple of hours. Is it price it? According to Tropicana, most of its refrigerated merchandise shouldn’t sit out of the fridge for greater than 3 hours. If you’re outdoors within the scorching solar? More like 1.


Unless you are making mulled wine, scorching libations do not sound significantly appetizing. And in line with VinePair, there is a reason to maintain wine chilled for so long as potential. Heat and daylight have been identified to have an effect on the tannins of wine, so for those who’ve let a bottle sit out or in a roasting automotive for a day, it would begin to turn into barely acidic and tangy. Though there’s not a lot analysis on precisely how lengthy wine can sit within the warmth, we might extremely suggest toting round your vino in a cooler.

Salads and Dressings

While leafy greens will wilt after an hour or 2, crunchier veggies are inclined to final somewhat longer. If you’re on the lookout for a salad that may maintain all through a day-long barbecue, attempt utilizing crunchy greens—like cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, and onion—and high with a balsamic French dressing. While some dressings will spoil shortly when omitted for too lengthy, others with vinegar would possibly maintain up a bit higher.

According to at least one examine, vinegar and olive oil might have antimicrobial properties that shield in opposition to Salmonella and E.Coli. (But olive oil by itself tends to become rancid quickly at excessive temperatures—so think about tossing in some vinegar!) Again, that doesn’t imply depart your salad in direct daylight all day lengthy—simply know dressing with a vinegar base would possibly maintain up higher than a creamier selection.

The Takeaway

Though there’s some science behind how meals fare when uncovered to heat air, you do not have to be a microbiologist to remain secure. Use the fundamental two-hour rule, your intestine (and nostril!)—and when unsure, throw it out. Don’t wish to be wasteful? Pack a cooler and plan to chow down earlier than you go to sleep within the solar.

(Editor references)

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