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How long can cooked food be safely stored at room/warm temperature?

I put 2 large pork roasts into my roaster oven to cook overnight for pulled pork today. I started it around 8:30 p.m. and cooked it for an hour and a half at 350 then turned it down to 250 to cook all night. Sometime in the night my roaster oven bit the dust and when I awoke at 7:00 a.m. this morning and went to check on it, the oven wasn't working, and the meat was not completely cooked and had cooled to an internal temp of 80 degrees. I quickly put it in the regular oven to finish cooking, but will it be safe to eat? I just don't know how long it had been off. This was over $30.00 of meat and I hate to waste it. I can cook it all day today, would you risk eating it?


1 Answer 1


I wouldn't eat it.

The usual guideline is that food shouldn't spend more than 2 hours in the "danger zone," i.e. the temperature range in which bacteria can grow -- 40-140°F. It sounds like your pork may have spent a lot more than 2 hours in this range, so you should toss it.

It may hurt to toss $30 worth of meat, and it's possible that nobody will get sick from eating this pork. But if someone does get sick, you (and they) will certainly wish that you had thrown the pork away. And if they get very sick, they may require a trip to the doctor or even the hospital, and that'll cost a whole lot more than $30.

  • Agree - and I would add that recooking does not mean that the meat gets safe to eat, because every cooking process reduces the bacteria, it doesn't kill them. If you have 10 000 bacteria in you meat before your cooking and one in 1000 survives, you are left with 10 bacteria, which your immune system can kill. If you have 10 000 000 000 bacteria due to improper storage and one in a thousand survives, you are left with 10 million bacteria, which will overwhelm your immune system and make you sick.
    – rumtscho
    Apr 15, 2012 at 14:38
  • @rumtscho Certainly there's some temperature at which all bacteria will be killed. I think the important point here is that food that has spoiled won't be "unspoiled" by cooking. Cooking can make food safer by killing bacteria (which is one reason that we do it), but if the food has spent a long time in the danger zone, the bacteria may have produced toxins which are not destroyed by heat.
    – Caleb
    Apr 15, 2012 at 14:48
  • OK, this is also a good point. But "some temperature at which all bacteria will be killed" is probably high enough to render the food inedible.
    – rumtscho
    Apr 15, 2012 at 14:56

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