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How long can cooked meat sit out and still be safe to eat?

by (955)
Updated about 3 hours ago
Created November 08, 2011 at 3:18 AM

I accidently left out a steak the other night after cooking for about 6 hours.

It shrunk in size and gained a bit of a tint on the exposed side.

In my pizza eating days, I wouldn't blink twice at leaving a pizza out overnight and eating it the next day for breakfast. But that was loaded with miles of junk. And wasn't steak.

What I want/need to know, if I wish to preserve the sanctity of my grass-fed sirloin, is what's safe? The internet has returned inconclusive ask yahoo results, and I'm certain someone here can break down the science and convince me not to chop up and eat my sadly tainted beef or do so with a reassured mind. (Note: I will not personally hold anyone responsible if I get sick, so be as objective as possible. I am okay with erring on the side of caution, but if I have unneeded worry, I'd rather know so.)

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1652 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

you cooked a steak for 6 hours?

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805 · September 17, 2012 at 8:09 AM

I wonder how the raw paleo people do it, they leave it out raw for hours at room temp :/

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1187 · September 16, 2012 at 9:12 PM

I learned three in my courses.

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955 · November 14, 2011 at 4:28 PM

Ah! Sorry! I am still alive, but that is in no way attributed to eating the steak or not. I ended up skipping it, not for the fact that it had sat out and could be contaminated, but because it had shrunk to a unsatisfactory size, closer to a dry, unflavored big piece of jerky than the meal it could've been. Since this shrunken steak also had slight discoloration, my instincts told me to just forge ahead and make bacon, eggs and sweet potato fries.

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3499 · November 09, 2011 at 9:26 PM

OK so don't leave us in the dark. Did you eat the steak? How do you feel today?

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7223 · November 08, 2011 at 6:59 PM

Lots of people have eaten questionable food without getting sick, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible to get sick that way. In this case, n=1 is meaningless. It may not be your personal experience, but meat can be already be bad enough to make you sick *before* it gets to the stage where it smells bad. As I said in my post above, the odds are it is totally fine and would not cause any problem. But, why risk it? Buying more meat is far cheaper than a bout of food poisoning.

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11099 · November 08, 2011 at 5:37 AM

You can get hepatitis from food that seems fine as well, but, again, that is not going to be the issue from meat left out on one's own counter.

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11099 · November 08, 2011 at 5:36 AM

Really? I don't know, I've eaten more day old unrefridgerated meat than I'd like to admit, and have never gotten sick from any of it...in my experience with meat, it smells really nasty when it spoils...I know botulism has no smell, but that is not going to be the issue with meat left out overnight...

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7223 · November 08, 2011 at 3:41 AM

If a food smells bad, it probably is bad. However, the reverse is not always true. Food left out too long can still cause a foodborne illness even if it smells fine.

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6229 · November 08, 2011 at 3:34 AM

We need an experiment measuring meat microbesin grass-fed vs. grain fed meat after 1,2,3,4,5, hours!

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6229 · November 08, 2011 at 3:33 AM

We need a experiment measuring microbes in grass-fed vs. grain-fed meat left outside after 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 hrs!

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2290 · November 08, 2011 at 3:23 AM

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/bacteria/

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10 Answers

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3499 · November 08, 2011 at 3:30 AM

This shouldn't be a problem, so long as your kitchen isn't particularly hot all the time. I've left out cooked beef plenty of times and the only real issue is the exposed surface that dries out. Probably what you are seeing is discoloring on the cut edge due to oxidation or drying out.

I'm not saying that there is zero risk, but remember: when we're talking about beef, the exposed surface is where most of the bacterial action happens. You had just cooked the steak, so the surface had been heated to a hostile temperature for bacteria. You probably also salted the surface, which contains bacterial growth even further. In most cases, spoilage control is moisture control, which is why you can salt and dry beef into jerky by running air over it for 12 hours. I would say heat it up again before you eat it again, but eat with confidence.

EDIT: another poster on this thread told you to use your nose and find out if it still smelled good or developed some funk. This is the correct thing to do. Let your senses guide you as they are better than any time heuristic. I still think your steak will smell steaky, though.

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7223 · November 08, 2011 at 3:22 AM

Chance are it's fine, but I wouldn't risk it. I prefer to take the better safe than sorry approach. I know grass fed meat is expensive, but it's cheaper than a bout of food poisoning (considering lost work time, potential doctor or even ER/hospital visits, pain & suffering, etc.).

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260 · November 08, 2011 at 4:12 AM

Food safe says no more than 4 hours. If in doubt throw it out. I don't mess with meat.

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1187 · September 16, 2012 at 9:12 PM

I learned three in my courses.

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805 · September 17, 2012 at 8:09 AM

I wonder how the raw paleo people do it, they leave it out raw for hours at room temp :/

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12540 · November 08, 2011 at 3:53 AM

Personally, if I made it in my own kitchen, I'd eat it. I'd heat it up til it was good and hot and throw it in some broth. If it was in someone else's kitchen or from a restaurant... Not so much. I don't have an iron stomach, but I've eaten food all my life that was set out "European style", since my dad was from a farm town in Sicily and my mom a farmers daughter from Ireland. Both of them were born in the early 1920's, and most homes there didn't have refrigeration. Food, including sliced meats, would be put out on the sideboard at lunchtime, and sit there till dinner at 8, so if the menfolk came in hungry, they'd be able to grab something and go back to work on their own schedule. Purely anecdotal, so take it for what it's worth.

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78422 · September 16, 2012 at 9:45 PM

Depends how it is cooked. If it were rare I'd chuck it. If it was well cooked chicken or something I'd trust my nose.

I'd also salt the hell out of it and heat it REALLY, REALLY, HOT.

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10 · September 16, 2012 at 9:07 PM

From all the answers you have goten, nobody really knows. The only thing to do is eat it and see if you puke, then you will have a better gauge to go by next time!

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8239 · November 08, 2011 at 3:34 AM

I have never had a basceria-based stomach crisis. Friends have beat me to the punch. Of all the potential weight loss methods, this one is pretty gruesome. Grass-fed cost more, and "sirloin" suggests you shelled out. Let me also suggest that you not risk it.

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11099 · November 08, 2011 at 3:22 AM

If that ever happens, and it still smells good, I'll eat it without hesitation, if it smells even the least bit funky, it goes to the animals...

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11099 · November 08, 2011 at 5:37 AM

You can get hepatitis from food that seems fine as well, but, again, that is not going to be the issue from meat left out on one's own counter.

13a44ea00b0c9af0b6d0f3d5f5c2cfca
7223 · November 08, 2011 at 3:41 AM

If a food smells bad, it probably is bad. However, the reverse is not always true. Food left out too long can still cause a foodborne illness even if it smells fine.

Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493
11099 · November 08, 2011 at 5:36 AM

Really? I don't know, I've eaten more day old unrefridgerated meat than I'd like to admit, and have never gotten sick from any of it...in my experience with meat, it smells really nasty when it spoils...I know botulism has no smell, but that is not going to be the issue with meat left out overnight...

13a44ea00b0c9af0b6d0f3d5f5c2cfca
7223 · November 08, 2011 at 6:59 PM

Lots of people have eaten questionable food without getting sick, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible to get sick that way. In this case, n=1 is meaningless. It may not be your personal experience, but meat can be already be bad enough to make you sick *before* it gets to the stage where it smells bad. As I said in my post above, the odds are it is totally fine and would not cause any problem. But, why risk it? Buying more meat is far cheaper than a bout of food poisoning.

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0 · November 19, 2012 at 3:16 PM

Bacteria will multiply and within 20 minutes can double, you will not be able to smell at this stage, food poisoning is very common after all what do you think a runny stool is caused by?

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18635 · November 08, 2011 at 3:31 AM

I have personally eaten bacon, sausage, and steak left out for longer than this without ill effect. Up to you though.

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