How Long Can Grilled Burgers Sit Out?

Just like every other grilled meat, burger patties shouldn’t be left to sit out for too long after they’re done cooking.

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There’s nothing like the smell of a burger that’s freshly grilled to perfection, then neatly tucked between two soft, lightly sweet, golden-yellow buns.

What not everyone knows about grilled burgers, though—and the reason why you’re probably here—is that they’ll spoil about as fast as they’ll cook. Especially when left to sit out in the sun on a hot summer’s day.

So work up your appetite before you get grilling and eat those burgers up shortly after they come off the heat. Otherwise, you could find yourself with a stomach situation (or, worse, get a bad case of food poisoning).

Grilled burgers shouldn’t sit out for more than 2 hours (or more than 1 hour if the temperature outside is 90°F), or they will become unsafe to eat. Cover freshly grilled burgers from the sun and eat or refrigerate them within this time. In case they sat out for longer, toss them.

I know this sounds like overkill to some of you, but stay with me here. Food safety and foodborne illness are nothing to joke about.

For starters, the CDC estimates that 48 million Americans get sick from food every year. Of them, 128,000 end up hospitalized, and a grim 3,000 wound up dead. You don’t wanna be on any side of the statistics.

And you don’t need to go and eat at a dirt-cheap Vegas buffet to get sick from food. Leave grilled burgers to sit out under the sun for too long, and the bacteria inside them can grow so fast that they can become dangerous for you.

According to the USDA, the pathogenic bacteria in food items grow the fastest in the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F, roughly doubling in count every 20 minutes.

“Pathogenic bacteria,” in case you’re wondering, is the kind of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Think Staphylococcus aureusSalmonella EnteritidisEscherichia coliCampylobacter, and all those other Latin names you and I can’t pronounce, nor do we want to stomach.

Most grill-duty dads I’ve exchanged pleasantries with think that the intense heat from the charcoal or gas burgers kills all of those bad boys while the burgers cook, and they are partly right.

The problem is that A) not everyone cooks their burgers to the safe minimum internal temperature and B) even when they do, those bacteria are quick to come back, bite into our food, and start feasting on it almost as hungrily as we do.

Finally, to annoy the hell out of you—all with good intent—I’m going to repeat myself: once you’re done grilling burgers, eat them up or let them cool down on the plate and put them in the fridge.

This applies to every kind of burger you could think of, from beef to beef ‘n pork patties, even that vegan stuff with the lentils and such your kids ask you to grill for them (vegetables shouldn’t sit out for long, too).

How Long Grilled Burgers Last in the Fridge

Your fridge is your best friend when it comes to storing leftover grilled burgers.

That being said, meat is meat. And refrigeration will slow down the growth of bacteria, but it won’t stop it. So do use those burgers up within the next few days.

To refrigerate grilled burgers, let the patties cool down to room temperature, transfer them to a food storage container with the lid closed, and store them somewhere on the lower shelf of your fridge where it’s the coldest.

Patties cooked to rare or medium are sometimes a little too juicy for storage. When stored, that juice can make the meat soggy. To prevent that from happening, pat them dry with a paper towel or a clean, lint-free cloth before putting them in the fridge.

Properly stored and continuously refrigerated, grilled burgers will last for 3-4 days in the fridge. If you left burgers in your fridge for too long, err on the safe side and throw them in the bin; they’re unsafe to eat.

When you suspect that that’s the case, don’t procrastinate. Leaving old burgers in the fridge leaves room for other members of your household to make the mistake of eating them. Also, don’t give them to your dog (or cat, or other carnivore pet) as it may make them sick.

How Long Grilled Burgers Stay Good Frozen

Freezing puts the activity of pathogenic bacteria inside your food on pause, which is why frozen food stays safe to eat indefinitely. (Not my words, folks. This is the opinion of the USDA itself.)

However, frozen food will eventually dry out and lose its appealing texture, aroma, and flavor. So it’s a good idea to use it up sooner rather than later.

Grilled burgers will keep their meaty aroma, wholesome flavor, and tender juiciness for up to 4 months when frozen. Though they’ll remain safe to eat afterward, their quality will slowly but surely degrade.

To defrost grilled burgers, move them from your freezer to your fridge, preferably in some sort of plate or shallow bowl to catch drips, then let them sit there overnight. They’ll be ready for reheating the next day.

How to Reheat Grilled Burgers

The best ways to reheat a cooked burger so that it doesn’t dry out are in the oven, the toaster oven, and the air-fryer. Avoid the microwave as it will make them rubbery if you leave them inside for too long.

In the Oven

To reheat grilled burgers in your oven, bring them to room temperature first by leaving them out for 10-15 minutes. Use that time to preheat your oven, with the convection fan switched on, to 350-400°F.

Place the burgers on a sheet pan, preferably on a piece of parchment paper to keep them from making a mess of the bakeware. Then heat them for 2-3 minutes on each side until they’re warm and ready to eat again.

You could also place them on a wire rack instead of a piece of parchment paper. That way, you won’t need to flip them over, as the rack will lift the meat and allow hot air to warm it on both sides.

In the Toaster Oven

The same rules apply to your toaster oven if you end up going for it. It’s a great alternative to your wall oven for when in a hurry or when feeling frugal—it will preheat much faster and consume less electricity as a result.

In the Air-Fryer

To reheat a grilled burger in your air-fryer, set the temperature to 350-400°F and preheat the appliance for 4-5 minutes. Once that’s done, lay the patty in the basket and reheat for 2-3 minutes on each side.

As most of you can guess, thinner burgers will reheat quicker, and their thicker counterparts will reheat slower than that. So don’t wander away and check for warmth and doneness at the second to third minute.

In Summary

DishStorage MethodShelf Life
Grilled burgersRoom temperature1-2 hours
Grilled burgersRefrigerated3-4 days
Grilled burgersFrozen4 months
How long are grilled burgers good for?

End of story, fellers. Grilled burgers, as it turns out, stay good for 1-2 hours when left out, for 3-4 days when refrigerated, and keep their best quality for 4 months when frozen.

But you and I both know they taste their best when fresh off the grill. It takes a couple of tries or so to get the quantity right when grilling burgers for the family or having friends and neighbors over in the backyard, I know.

But do it often and try hard enough and, sooner or later, you’ll nail it. From that moment on, forget about cold and reheated burgers. Freshly grilled is how we like ’em in the US of A!

By Sammy Steen

Sammy, Barbehow's editor, is a die-hard carnivore, barbecue whisperer, and self-proclaimed master of the grill.

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