Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a cookout, only to realize that you left that steak out on the counter for a little too long?
Maybe you were distracted by the sizzle of the grill or the chatter of your friends and neighbors. And before you knew it, an hour or two, maybe more, had passed. So you started to wonder, “Can steak go bad if left out?”
And it’s good that you did. Because I’m here to tell you that the answer is a definite and resounding yes. Meat, especially steak, is perishable and shouldn’t be left out or it can cause food poisoning.
I guess that’s why in this post, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to tell if your steak has gone bad—and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the first place. Grab your favorite drink and follow along.
How Long Can You Leave Raw Steak Out?
Well folks, we’ve established that meat, particularly steak, is perishable and needs to be handled with care. That means it should never be left out at room temperature for an extended period of time.
So how long is too long, exactly?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, raw meat shouldn’t be left to sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. This is because bacteria can grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F (4.4°C and 60°C). If the steak is left out in this range for too long, it can become unsafe to eat.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. “But Sammy, it’s as hot as a furnace outside—and my kitchen gets pretty warm. Won’t the heat kill off any bacteria that might be on the steak when I cook it?”
Well, it’s true that heat can kill bacteria, but it’s not a guarantee.
It’s important to remember that bacteria can grow quickly, especially in the summer months when the temperature is high. They can also leave behind so-called spores and toxins, many of which resistant to heat. So be safe and follow the 2-hour rule and keep your steak refrigerated until it’s time for grilling.
What About Steak That’s Cooked? Can It Sit Out Longer?
Now, I know what’s plaguing your mind next: What about cooked steak? Can it sit out for longer than raw steak?
The answer is still “no,” and for pretty much the same reasons. The risk of getting food poisoning is still there with cooked steak, and it can absolutely become unsafe to eat if it’s left out at room temperature for too long.
Cooked meat shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, food safety experts advise, or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F. Bacteria can still grow on the meat and multiply to dangerous levels that can make us sick.
It’s also worth noting that cooked steak can dry out and lose aroma and flavor if it’s left out for an extended period of time. The meat loses moisture in the heat, and it becomes less and less appealing to eat the longer it sits.
Store cooked steak in the fridge or freezer if you’re not planning to eat it right away.
Can Steak Stay Out Overnight?
I can tell you that leaving a steak out overnight is not something I’d recommend. In fact, it’s something you should never do if you want to keep yourself and those you cook for safe, and you do. Meat is a breeding ground for bacteria, and if it’s left out at room temperature for too long, it can become unsafe to eat.
Some of you may be wondering: Won’t heating it up nice and good make the steak safe again?
Heating the steak up might kill off some of the bacteria that have grown on it while it was left out, it might not get rid of all of them. And if there are enough bacteria present, they can still cause food poisoning, no matter how well the steak is cooked (or how thoroughly you heated it).
Err on the side of caution and toss the steak in the garbage can. After all, you don’t want to risk getting sick when there are plenty of other tasty options out there.
Handle steak with care to ensure the safety and quality of your BBQ party.
Raw steak should never be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or bacteria can grow quickly and cause food poisoning.
Cooked steak should also be stored in the refrigerator or freezer if it will not be eaten immediately, as it can become contaminated with bacteria. Moreover, it loses aroma, flavor, and moisture if left out for an extended period of time.
Remember to follow these guidelines to enjoy delicious—and safe—steaks whenever you fire up the meat.