If you’re preparing a buffet or pot-luck brunch, it can be all too easy to forget about how long your food is going to be sitting around at room temperature. When it comes to pork, how long is too long?
So, how long can cooked pork sit out? Cooked pork can sit out at room temperature for up to 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), after which it is no longer safe to eat and should be discarded. Leaving food exposed to air increases the risk of bacterial contamination.
But why should we be concerned about how long food is sitting out, and why are cooked meats so risky? We’ve got all the answers and more for you!
We will also take a look at how to store cooked pork safely and give you some tips on what to do if you need to leave cooked pork out at room temperature.
How Long Can Cooked Pork Sit Out?
Food safety is a hot topic these days, and we would never consider serving or eating something which might be past its best.
However, if we’re in a situation where food is left to sit out, it is all too easy to forget about these basic food safety rules.
After all, we all like to make less work for ourselves by preparing as much as possible in advance!
If you have a piece of cooked pork, it should not be left to sit out for any more than two hours at room temperature. This time frame is reduced to just one hour in warmer temperatures.
Cooked pork that is left to sit at room temperature for any longer than this must be discarded. The risk of bacterial contamination is too high and there’s no way it can be made safe to eat.
There are many situations when you might risk your cooked pork being left out for longer than this, and not just when you are preparing a meal.
It is common to cook a joint of meat and leave it as a centerpiece on the table while you all enjoy your dinner.
You then set to clearing away the dishes, and before you know it, the meat has sat out for more than two hours!
Or maybe you buy some pork from the deli counter or refrigerator section of your grocery store, then spend a long time browsing in the store or pop in to see a friend on the way home.
And yes, you’ve guessed it, your pork has been left out of the fridge for more than two hours!
Why Does Cooked Pork Go Bad So Quickly?
Food hygiene advice is very consistent around any type of meat, whether cooked or raw.
Meat should never be left out at room temperature for more than two hours — one hour in a warmer climate. But why is this?
There are two factors at play when meats such as cooked pork are left to sit out.
The first of these is the increased temperature. It only requires a temperature of 40°F or above for bacteria and microorganisms to start to multiply four times faster than in chilled meat.
The second problem is exposure to air, which is a particular problem if you are serving cooked pork as a buffet or part of a potluck brunch.
Cooked pork that is exposed to air will be subjected to a bacteria density twice as high as that stored in a sealed container.
What Happens When Cooked Pork Is Left Out For Too Long?
If cooked pork has been left out for too long, you might not even notice that there is anything wrong with it. But after just two hours, bacteria can multiply to levels that will cause foodborne illness.
The moist, warm conditions of cooked pork are ideal for bacteria to multiply. This creates a huge risk of food poisoning.
Unfortunately, there is no way of making this pork safe to eat again! Chilling, freezing, or reheating your cooked pork will only slow down the reproduction of the bacteria, not eliminate them.
Once bacteria have begun to reproduce out of control, it will take no time at all for your cooked pork to become slimy and rancid. If this occurs, there is no way you would ever consider eating it!
How Can You Tell If Cooked Pork Is Spoiled?
Unfortunately, it will not always be immediately apparent that cooked pork is spoiled. So even if your cooked pork looks completely fine, stick to the golden rule — if in doubt, throw it out!
Any cooked meat that has been left out for an hour or two may appear completely normal, but harmful bacteria may already have multiplied to the point where they could cause food poisoning.
Never eat pork that has been left out for more than two hours at room temperature — one hour in a warmer climate. But what if you can’t be sure about how long your cooked pork has been left out? We’ve been there.
Here are some surefire signs that cooked pork is no longer safe to eat.
Cooked pork should have a very mild pork smell or no smell at all. When it starts to go rotten, it will develop a characteristic putrid smell. This is caused by spoilage of the meat due to dangerous bacteria.
Cooked pork should be a pale creamy color, sometimes with a slight tint of pinkness. Look for any color changes, particularly the meat becoming greyer with a green tinge.
One of the most obvious signs that cooked pork has started to go bad is changes in the texture. If the meat feels at all slimy, tacky, or sticky, this indicates an accumulation of bacteria and tissue breakdown.
It is important to remember that you may not see any of these signs that your cooked pork has gone bad. However, if you are in any doubt at all, throw it out and look for something else for dinner!
How To Safely Leave Cooked Pork Out At Room Temperature
Cooked pork is one of the most popular deli meats to eat cold and often forms the centerpiece of a buffet lunch. So how can we leave cooked pork out at room temperature in the safest possible way?
At a normal room temperature, the maximum time your cooked pork can sit out is for two hours. When the temperature creeps above 90°F, the time frame is reduced to just one hour.
This can be inconvenient if you’re preparing a large amount of food in advance. To get around this problem, you can do whatever is necessary to your cooked pork and then place it back in the refrigerator until your party is set to start.
You can transfer your pork joint to a serving tray, garnish it, or slice it ready for sandwiches. Cover it in food-safe plastic wrap and place it back in the refrigerator. Then sit back and relax until your guests arrive!
The room temperature is critical to how long cooked pork can sit out safely. This can be a particular problem on a hot, sunny day.
One clever tip to keep cooked pork cool is to place it on a plate inside the fridge. The plate will remain chilled when you lift it out of the fridge, helping to keep the pork nice and cold.
When the time comes to set your cooked pork out for your guests, make the most of cool, shaded areas. If you need to transport cooked pork, you can use ice packs or a cooler to keep it chilled.
When serving a freshly roasted joint of pork, it is normally recommended to let it rest at room temperature before serving. Once you have carved and served your pork, let it cool to room temperature as quickly as possible, then refrigerate it.
Exposure to air is a large factor when it comes to leaving cooked pork sitting out. Keep your meat covered up at all times, using an airtight storage container (we love these) or zip lock bag.
How Long Can Cooked Pork Be Stored In The Fridge?
Whether you’ve just cooked a pork tenderloin or bought some slices of cold meat from the deli counter, the best place to store it is in the refrigerator!
Keeping cooked meat chilled will prevent bacteria from multiplying and keep your meat safe to eat for longer.
Cooked pork can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. It should be kept in an airtight container and stored away from strong-smelling foods.
If you have cooked pork leftovers from a roast dinner or barbecue, ideally you want to get it stored away as soon as possible – the best way to do this is to slice the meat and portion it up into smaller containers, then stick it in the fridge.
Remember to let cooked pork cool down before refrigerating it — but don’t wait too long! It is better to chill pork that is slightly warm rather than to break the golden 2-hour-toss rule.