Author: Ethan

How Long Is Leftover Pizza Safe To Eat?

We often order too much pizza on "accident" and are stuck with delicious leftover pizza. This is a great way to prep future meals, but one problem is that leftover pizza is commonly left out too long.

Since this is such a common occurrence, it is good to learn how long pizza lasts in the fridge or when left sitting out.

Pizza is safe to eat for three-four days in the fridge and for up to two months if frozen. According to USDA, pizza should be refrigerated within two hours of it being cooked. Bacteria may rapidly grow on food left out too long in temperatures between 40ºF-140ºF.

This obviously doesn't mean that you will certainly get sick from consuming the pizza after the exact two-hour mark.

It should be noted these USDA guidelines are meant to be very conservative and safe.

However, it is still good to know that the risks of bacteria growth increase drastically after that point.

In the rest of this article, we will look at how to keep pizza warm for longer, why it is important not to leave your pizza out too long, and how to freeze it when needed.

You may also like these other pizza-related articles:

How to Keep Pizza Warm at a Party

Sometimes you may need to keep your pizza warm and available for longer than 2 hours when having a party or just entertaining guests.

Here are two solid ways to keep your pizza warm and safe for longer than 2 hours:

1. Put the pizza in the oven and warm between 165ºF and 200ºF

You can combine the pizza into the boxes and pop them straight in the oven to keep warm if you have room.

If you don't have room for the pizza boxes, you can wrap the individual slices in foil.

Pop the slices in the oven at least 165ºF to be sure it gets above the danger zone for bacteria growth. Some ovens have a warm setting.

You don't have to worry about the boxes starting on fire until you get closer to 400ºF.

Just remember the longer the pizza is there, the more the quality will decrease.

reheat pizza in oven

2. Fully Reheat the Pizza After One Hour

When the pizza is cooled, separate the slices and reheat the pizza using an oven. You can put them on a pan with foil and cook for 5 - 10 minutes at 350ºF.

Reheating your pizza can also be accomplished with a toaster oven if you only need to heat a few slices.

Otherwise, if an oven is not an option, you can reheat your pizza using another method like the microwave, stove, or grill.

What to do With Pizza Left Sitting Out

We are probably all guilty of leaving pizza out but do we really have to toss it if we leave it out too long?

If pizza is left sitting out too long at room temperature, it should be thrown away. It is recommended that all perishable hot or cold take-out food should be trashed if left out for more than two hours. Bacteria can start growing rapidly around 2 hours after it cools below 140ºF.

This is a USDA food safety guideline that was published in 2013.

There are a couple of reasons people don't like this answer besides just not wanting to throw away tasty pizza:

  1. People have eaten pizza left out before and not gotten sick.
  2. Heating the food back up kills bacteria, right?

First off, it might sound crazy, but you can get sick from bacteria and not really notice it.

You might think if you aren't nauseated or throwing up, you didn't get sick from the food. This bacteria can often just cause digestive discomfort, which is still not good for you.

Heating the pizza can kill active bacteria, but you might not get the right temperature for long enough to kill all types of bacteria.

Some specialized bacteria can go dormant and possibly survive extreme temperatures and lack of nutrition for a time.

This means if you let the pizza sit out too long, you can later refrigerate and reheat it, but there is a chance you could still get sick as the bacteria can become active again when reaching the right temperatures.

In the end, if you are dead intent on risking eating pizza left out too long, you can do the following to help mitigate the risks:

  • When reheating pizza, choose the oven over the microwave and ensure that it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165ºF for at least a minute to help kill most bacteria.
  • Drink a beer or glass of wine with the leftover pizza as alcoholic beverages have been proven to lower the risk of getting sick from food-borne illnesses.

Can You Store Pizza in the Box?

Should you store leftover pizza in the box, and how long does it last sitting out?

If you need to, you can store pizza in the box, but it should still be refrigerated 2 hours after you get it. It is better to store pizza in a sealed container or bag to slow the drying out process and help maintain the quality. Storing pizza in an airtight container will also prevent it from smelling up the fridge and should take up less space.

a pizza box

Storing pizza in the box is fine for a day, but because pizza boxes are not airtight, your slices will dry out faster. Containers are sealed with air in them too, but boxes allow circulation of air.

To properly store your leftover pizza in the fridge, within 2 hours:

  1. Let it cool to room temperature 
  2. Separate the pizza slices
  3. Wrap the individual slices in plastic
  4. Then store them in an airtight container in the fridge

How to Freeze Pizza

You can always freeze pizza if you have way too much leftover pizza or just know you aren't gonna eat it in the few days following.

When properly frozen and stored in the freezer, pizza can last up to two months. The pizza should be first cooled then stored in either two layers of plastic or a layer of plastic and one layer of aluminum foil. 

Here are the basic steps to freeze pizza:

  1. Let it cool to room temperature 
  2. Separate the pizza slices with a knife
  3. Wrap the individual slices in plastic
  4. Put the slices in plastic freezer bags or wrap them in foil
  5. Write the date you froze them on the foil or plastic

You can wrap a whole pizza together, but unless you intend on cooking the whole thing at once, it is more convenient to freeze the slices individually.

Conclusion

It is good practice to remember the two-hour rule and not to leave your leftovers out too long.

Leaving food out is easy to do and happens all the time, but this is great to remember for all cooked food items.

It is simple enough to save and store food properly; we just have to remember to do it.

If you are like me you will probably have a tough time throwing that pizza out when it's left out too long, so plan ahead!

Happy Eating!

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