Holding Meat

When my extended family gets together for special meals, they often continue for several hours. Can meat spoil during this time?

Temperature plays a critical role in holding meat safely. The Danger Zone is the temperature range that is ideal for bacterial growth--between 40 °F and 140°F. fried chickenBacteria grow readily between the temperature range of 70°F and 120°F. Therefore, meat must pass through this temperature range quickly.

  • Cooked food should be cooled to below 70°F within 2 hours, and to below 40°F within 4 hours.
  • Keep meat that should be hot above 140°F.
  • Keep meat that should be cold below 40°F.
  • If meat is accidentally left on the counter overnight, assume it is NOT safe to eat and dispose of it!



Tips To Reduce the Time in the Danger Zone

  • Don’t cool hot food (turkey and dressing) on the counter before refrigerating.
  • Divide hot food into smaller amounts so it will cool more quickly.
  • Limit pan depth to 1-2 inches.
  • Slice large pieces of meat.
  • Use metal containers.
  • Do not stack containers of hot food in the refrigerator (or freezer).

Handling Meat Leftovers

If you have leftovers from a meal, refrigerate them immediately, and date them if you think they will be held for more than a day. Don’t keep meat if it has been unrefrigerated for more than two hours.

Don’t taste-test leftover meat dishes before reheating. Reheat leftovers to 165°F or higher. Don’t re-heat leftovers more than once and don’t use a slow cooker.

If you have more leftovers than you can use in one week, divide into usable portions and freeze.