How Long Can Meat Sit Out? Cured, Raw, Frozen, Cooked & More

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Meat is a type of food that we all know we have to be careful with when cooking and storing to keep it safe to consume. Knowing how long can meat sit out is a tricky hack – all meat is different and can be raw, cooked, frozen or refrigerated.

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Often people think that these changes may differ the time in how long meat can sit out at room temperature. In this article we will provide answers for how long meat can sit out at room temperature safely depending on the meat type and state.

Table of Contents

raw meat on ice

How Long Can Meat Sit Out To Thaw?

Can I leave meat out overnight to thaw? It’s very important to keep all raw or cooked meat at a safe temperature while trying to thaw. This includes all types of meat such as poultry, beef, lamb and pork.

The meat is safe while it is frozen but as it starts to thaw it becomes vulnerable to bacteria growth. Do not let your meat thaw out at room temperature for over 2 hours. If you want to leave your meat to thaw overnight, it is safer to allow it to thaw in the fridge.

raw meat on chopping block

How Long Can Raw Meat Sit Out

How long can raw meat sit out at room temperature? The general rule is 2 hours and that counts for all raw meats! The 2 hour rule also applies if the raw meat is frozen or refrigerated.

If raw meat is left out over 2 hours at room temperature, harmful bacteria can grow rapidly which could lead to food poisoning.

How long can food sit out? If it’s a perishable item like meat then 2 hours maximum. This does not apply for food types like vegetables.

How Long Can Cooked Meat Sit Out

Cooked meat is no different to raw and refrigerated meat and therefore will still only be able to withstand room temperature for two hours before bacteria growth begins.

We have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about cooked meat sitting out at room temperature:

  • How long can cooked steak sit out: No more than 2 hours. If you keep your cooked steak stored in a refrigerator, it will stay safe to be consumed for 3 to 4 days.
  • How long can deli meat sit out: Deli meat is like every other meat. It can only stay out at room temperature for a maximum of two hours.
  • How long can hamburger meat sit out: Hamburger meat is like every other meat and can only stay out at room temperature for a maximum of two hours.
  • How long can smoked meat sit out: Smoked meat is like every other meat. It can be at room temperature for a maximum of two hours.
  • How long can packaged meat sit out: All meats, even if they are in vacuum packaging, cannot be at room temperature for over 2 hours. The packaging will not do anything to protect the meat and the bacteria will start to grow after the two hour point.
  • How long can cured meat sit out: Cured meat is slightly different. Some curing methods can allow the meat to be stable at room temperature. This means that some cured meat can stay at room temperature for long periods of time without spoiling.
  • How long can charcuterie sit out?: Charcuterie meat is like every other meat. Leave it out at room temperature for a maximum of two hours.
board of grilled meat

How Long Can Frozen Meat Sit Out

If you are wanting to defrost your meat then leaving it on the side, at room temperature for up to two hours is your best bet and a very safe way of defrosting your meat. This can vary depending how big of a portion of meat you have and what type of meat it is.

It may be better to defrost in your refrigerator if you are wanting to be 100% safe and keep the meat as good as possible. Defrosting in the refrigerator will be a lot slower. This can be sped up by putting your frozen food on an aluminum pan, which will make your meat defrost quicker.

If you are not wanting to defrost your frozen meat, then leaving it on the side, at room temperature is a bad idea!

How Long Can Meat Sit Out Before Cooking

Any meat such as chicken, beef, lamb or pork, if they are raw or cooked should not be left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. This is the 2 hour rule that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated.

If the room is very warm and you have left your meat out, you should allow it less time. If the room is slightly cooler, you may be ok but it’s best to stay safe and refrigerate the raw or cooked meat as soon as you possibly can.

How Long Can Refrigerated Meat Sit Out

When looking at how long a meat can sit out at room temperature, there is not a different rule for refrigerated meat when compared to other meats such as raw, packaged and frozen.

The advised danger zone for bacteria production is the temperature range between 40 °F (4.4 ºC) and 140 °F (60 ºC). These are the temperatures that will help bacteria grow rapidly. Your refrigerated meat may take longer to reach room temperature compared to others, but it’s better to be safe and not allow your meat to sit between 40 °F (4.4 ºC) and 140 °F (60 ºC) for more than 2 hours. 2 hours is the amount of time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends, even calling it the “2-hour rule”.

sliced raw meat

Play It Safe And Keep To The Guidelines

We recommended keeping it safe and always sticking to the health and safety guidelines when storing any perishable item, like meat. Off meat can contain bacteria that can make you very ill if you consume, so it’s always best to air on the side of caution when it comes to meat. If the meat has generally been left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it is advised that you throw it away!

How long do you store your meat at room temperature?


Is It Safe To Eat Meat Left Out Overnight?

It is not safe to leave any meat out at room temperature overnight. This includes if it is raw meat, cooked meat or frozen meat. The general rule is to only leave meat out at room temperature for two hours maximum. If you leave any perishable food out at room temperature after two hours it may spoil and cause you to become ill from food poisoning if you consume. Even if the meat smells and looks okay the morning after, it most likely will not be safe and is not worth the risk.

By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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