I left a vacuum packed chicken casserole from Whole Food out four hours. Is it safe? The car ride from store is included in the time. Our house is not freezing nor too hot.

  • Things that require refrigeration are safe for 2-4 hours at room temperature, so this is borderline. It's a less dangerous thing (it's not raw meat!) so it's less risky, but up to you! See the marked duplicate for a bit more detail. – Cascabel Oct 11 '15 at 5:50

Yes, it is. The important part, for nearly any dish, is to heat it properly.

Meat is mainly spoiled by bacteria, worms and larvae. Proper heating solves these problems. Bacteria and mold digest proteins and might generate harmful molecules; while heating does not eliminate them, they are easy to smell, especially those in meat. You won't want to eat it way before it becomes a health risk. The other health risks are unhealthy proteins, like the mad cow disease, hormones and antibiotics. They are stable to heating - but they don't propagate, so if they are in there, then they are in there the moment you purchased them.

Note that fat oxidation/rancidity are not actually health risks, even though they will ruin the taste. But 4 hours is way too short to make any fat rancid.

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  • Are you saying there can't be any bacteria in a vacuum packed premade meal from a store? (That's not true; it's just as potentially contaminated as anything else, just with it all sealed in without much air.) – Cascabel Oct 11 '15 at 0:52
  • And are you also saying you can always smell if meat is dangerously spoiled? That's completely false. cooking.stackexchange.com/q/45054/1672 – Cascabel Oct 11 '15 at 1:03
  • Also, I think you're just talking about cooking meat to safe temperatures, but just in case, even thorough heating doesn't turn unsafe food safe: cooking.stackexchange.com/q/32167/1672 – Cascabel Oct 11 '15 at 5:52
  • @Jefromi Are you saying there can't be any bacteria in a vacuum packed premade meal from a store? No, why would I say that? I say that proper heating kills bacteria. – John Hammond Oct 11 '15 at 17:28
  • Okay, well there were a few ways to read your answer: one, you think that it's unequivocally safe to leave something out for four hours, two, you think that you can take something unsafe and make it safe by cooking, or three, you think it wasn't contaminated. Those things are all false, and it was hard to tell which you meant, but the third seemed most likely. – Cascabel Oct 11 '15 at 17:31

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