Ice Cream
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How Long Can Ice Cream Sit Out?

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Ice cream is the best dessert in the world. With so many delicious flavors to choose from, it is the perfect indulgence to make your days a little brighter and happier!

It is a frozen dessert that mostly resides in the freezer until right before you want to eat it. When leaving it out at room temperature, you need to be mindful about how long to keep it there as it may start to go bad after a while.

So, how long can ice cream sit out? Ice cream can sit out at room temperature for no longer than 2 hours, after which it becomes susceptible to bacterial contamination and is not safe to eat. However, ice cream will begin to melt only 15-20 minutes after it leaves the freezer. We don’t recommend leaving your ice cream sitting out.

Read on to find out how long ice cream can sit out at room temperature before it starts to melt, how long it can sit out before it goes bad, and more!

How Long Can Ice Cream Safely Sit Out At Room Temperature?

Just like any other perishable food, ice cream cannot sit out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. After 2 hours, the ice cream will not be safe to eat and must be discarded.

You have to keep in mind the type of ice cream, the temperature of the room, and how much time has passed since you opened the ice cream when determining the exact time that you can keep it out.

Regardless, you should not leave ice cream out for longer than 2 hours as bacteria can grow rapidly in temperatures between 40-140°F, especially in dairy products such as ice cream. 

Also, ice cream will start to melt when left out for too long, which will ruin both its taste and texture. For this reason, even if you can leave it at room temperature for 2 hours, it is best to eat it much quicker!

How Long Does It Take For Ice Cream To Melt At Room Temperature?

Ice cream starts to melt as soon as you take it out of the freezer. It will be soft enough to scoop while also having enough ice crystals to hold it together.

Over time, it may melt completely — the time it takes for this to happen is determined by many factors such as the environmental conditions, plus the container size and material.

Environmental Conditions

Ice cream will start to melt 15-20 minutes after it leaves the freezer. The higher the temperature in your kitchen, the quicker it will melt.

Bacteria present in the air can speed up the process, and in the worst-case scenario, the ice cream will spoil within just 1 hour.

Other than temperature, humidity will also play a huge part in how fast the ice cream will melt. High humidity causes heat transfer in the air, which in turn will lead to faster melting and spoilage.

Container Size And Material

Individual ice cream sticks and cones will melt must faster as compared to tubs of ice cream. Due to the large volume of ice cream present in the tub, it will take longer to liquefy.

The container material also has a huge impact on how quickly your ice cream will melt. If your container is made of metal, it will lead to faster melting as metal conducts heat faster. 

Comparatively, a plastic ice cream tub is a much better option as it will keep the ice cream frozen for longer.

If the ice cream and container are frozen properly before being kept out at room temperature, they will take longer to melt.

A thick layer of ice on the container will also be helpful and act as a shield to protect the ice cream from environmental conditions.

How Long Can Ice Cream Sit Out In The Car?

Assuming that you’ve done grocery shopping and bought ice cream to bring home, how long will it last in the car?

Well, it depends on how long it has stayed out of the freezer, how hot it is that particular day, and what type of container it is in.

The general rule of thumb is that ice cream cannot sit out for longer than 2 hours before it starts to go bad. However, before the 2-hour mark, it may melt and turn into liquid ice cream.

There are a few things you can do to prevent your ice cream from melting too fast in the car. 

First, always grab your ice cream at the end of the grocery run so that it can stay in the freezer for as long as possible.

The same goes for bringing ice cream from home to a picnic. Take out the ice cream from the freezer right before you sit in the car.

Second, make sure your ice cream container is well-insulated. You can put it in a cooler with some ice packs, but this of course would require pre-planning. 

Also, always keep it away from direct sunlight as the heat will cause the ice cream to melt faster. If you are at the park or the beach, keep it in a shady spot and always put the lid back on after you’re done scooping it out.

If the ice cream melts completely due to the warm temperature in the car, do not put it back in the freezer as it will not be safe to consume. 

If it has melted slightly, which is often the case when you arrive home from the store, the short time is not considered dangerous and is usually not enough for bacteria to grow.

Regardless, try your best to reduce the time the ice cream stays in the car and come back home immediately to put it in the freezer.

Can Ice Cream Be Left Out Overnight?

No, ice cream should not and must not be left out overnight. As mentioned earlier, the maximum time that ice cream can be left out is 2 hours. Leaving it out overnight exceeds the safe mark and will cause it to both melt and spoil.

It will most definitely turn into a soupy mess because your kitchen is too warm and become more susceptible to bacterial growth.

If you realize that you’ve forgotten your ice cream on the kitchen counter overnight, do not put it back in the freezer as it will most likely be spoiled. Discard it and start fresh with a new pint.

Can You Eat Melted Ice Cream?

Ice cream that has been taken out of the freezer will start to melt. The time it will take for it to melt depends on whether it is kept in the refrigerator, at room temperature, or in the car.

If the melting has happened in the refrigerator, you can eat it for a day. The texture and taste will be affected due to melting, but it will be safe to eat.

If it has melted at room temperature, 2 hours is the maximum cut-off time till you can eat it, after which it becomes unsafe to eat. This time is significantly reduced if the ambient temperature is higher.

When ice cream reaches a certain temperature, between 40-140°F, it becomes a great place for bacteria to grow and spread.

Eating melted ice cream that has been sitting out for too long can make you sick as you risk getting food poisoning.

How To Tell If Ice Cream Has Spoiled?

The best indicator of whether or not your ice cream sitting out at room temperature has spoiled is the time.

If it is left out for longer than 2 hours, it will turn into liquid and will not be safe to eat.

Even when kept in the freezer, ice cream has a best-by date, after which its quality, taste, and texture will all start to deteriorate.

Here are a few ways to tell if your ice cream has gone bad:

  • Smell the ice cream — if it develops a stale smell or smells of cardboard or plastic, it has probably been in the freezer for too long and has gone bad.
  • Check for ice crystals on the surface of the ice cream and the insides of the container. A little bit of ice is fine, but if it continues to form and grow, it is possibly due to freezer burn.
  • Look for any changes in appearance (ex. mold or weird growth) on the ice cream.

Related Questions

Now that you know all about leaving ice cream out at room temperature and how long it lasts, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have!

How long can non-dairy ice cream sit out?

Non-dairy ice creams, such as those made with coconut milk, almond milk, or soy milk, should be kept frozen like regular ice cream.

Although they do not contain dairy, they are still perishable and shouldn’t be left out longer than 2 hours.

What temperature should ice cream be stored at?

The ideal temperature for storing ice cream is 0°F in the freezer. The temperature can be kept at 6-10°F, but should not exceed that.

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One Comment

  1. Hi. I work in a grocery store in the frozen dept. Someone told me that having ice cream out at room temp for more 15 mins is a good safety issue. Is that true?

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