Safe to eat leftovers left out for a while?
December 26, 2006 8:52 AM   Subscribe

XMAS DINNER: Is it safe to eat these leftovers?

I had dinner with my parents yesterday, around 5PM. After dinner, my mom packed several containers of food for me and put it in the fridge. I left for home around 7:30PM. I got home around 8PM and set the food on the counter, went about bringing in luggage, put a load of laundry on, etc. Long story short, at 10:30PM I saw that I had left out the food (it was no longer cool to touch, room temp - house was 68 degrees F). I immediately put it in the fridge.

So, is it still safe to eat? Everything was sealed (each item separately) very well. The items are as follows:
-turkey (1/2 breast, one big chunk)
-mashed potatoes
-dressing/stuffing (made and cooked outside of the bird)
-cooked, sliced carrots

Now, I know almost everyone will have an opinion on this, but I am looking for facts...evidence to support your opinions. I will reheat every item before eating (if deemed safe to eat) and if a reference suggests a particular heating method, temp, time, I will follow.

Please let me know, so I can either enjoy the leftovers without food poisoning...or sadly, throw them out.
posted by criticman to Food & Drink (14 answers total)
Yes. There's no way any of that could have possibly gone bad in two and a half hours, and heating it should kill any errant bacteria that got in there. The potatoes might be a little nasty, though.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:57 AM on December 26, 2006

You don't need evidence. They were sealed and out for only a couple of hours. Enjoy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:03 AM on December 26, 2006

In my house, I'd happily have it for dinner. mmmm, stuffing
posted by theora55 at 9:04 AM on December 26, 2006

Best answer: ServSave says to dump anything in the "danger zone" for more than 4 hours, which your food may have been (5-10:30). That said, I'd eat it, unless you're immunocompromised.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:13 AM on December 26, 2006

I routinely leave half-eaten chicken sandwiches out overnight at work, and eat them the next day. 2.5 hours out, in sealed containers, is nothing whatever to worry about.
posted by notsnot at 9:14 AM on December 26, 2006

(ServSafe, that is.)
posted by uncleozzy at 9:17 AM on December 26, 2006

Best answer: Trust me, food sits around that long, warmed and ready to go, in restaurants all the time.
posted by Doohickie at 10:34 AM on December 26, 2006

Funny, yet only somewhat related story: the guy I live with left a piece of raw, unfrozen chicken out on the counter for something like 15 hours in an extremely warm and humid kitchen, then cooked and ate it. Improbably, he is still alive.

Anyway, you can probably eat those leftovers.
posted by Drunken_munky at 11:03 AM on December 26, 2006

About three months ago one of my housemates found some frozen chicken that expired in January of 2005 and cooked it. It was surprisingly not disgusting.
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:05 AM on December 26, 2006

notsnot has just caused me to feel like a germophobe for the first time ever.
posted by rhizome at 11:15 AM on December 26, 2006

(fwiw, I have a cast-iron stomach)
posted by notsnot at 11:36 AM on December 26, 2006

Best answer: My mom is a food scientist, and she would probably say that it's fine to eat. But, be warned that if you are "looking for facts", you're likely to find a lot of info like Uncleozzy's, telling you that it's a Bad Idea.
posted by rossination at 11:55 AM on December 26, 2006

Best answer: Might be overly cautious, but nearly every food safety resource I've ever seen insists on a two-hour rule (two hours from when it's cooked to when it's refrigerated) for leftovers. This primarily refers to meat, poultry, and dairy.

I doubt anything bad will happen to you, but just wanted you to know the information that's out there.
posted by SuperNova at 1:38 PM on December 26, 2006

Response by poster: LOL some people will eat anything! Yeah, I am really not too worried. Now, had it been Taco bell...well, I won't be eating any of that any time soon (apparently 33% of Americans won't be either).

Thanks for the input and for some attempts at providing "evidence."

Mmm, a good meal of leftovers awaits me at home!
posted by criticman at 1:56 PM on December 26, 2006

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