Has the thought of how long can a pizza can sit out ever crossed your mind? Aren’t we all guilty of eating a leftover stone-cold pizza and loving it? A real pizza lover will enjoy the mutual feeling. But is that leftover pizza really stomach-safe? Or it’s just another word for sitting-in-the-toilet.
Okay, imagine this. It’s 1.30 am and you are craving your favorite classic slice of pizza. And you ordered a lot more than you should have because let’s be real who doesn’t? But you are full, and you can’t get enough of that pie, so you save it for your breakfast. Now we have come up with two situations here. First, that morning pizza slice will be elite. Second, you will have diarrhea. Or both. Sounds a little bizarre, right? Let’s prevent this from happening and dive straight into the facts.
How Long Can A Pizza Sit Out The 2-Hour Rule
Any food can go bad in time. A pizza, cooked or uncooked should be kept inside the refrigerator within a rule. Yes, pizza has a rule; 2-hour rule. If your pizza has been sitting for more than 2 hours now, that my friend is a danger zone. This rule should only be applied if the weather is cold outside.
Let’s consider if the weather is blazing hot, then the 2 hours might be too long. You might want to finish your pizza in less than an hour. If it has been left out for longer, don’t think twice and toss it.
How Long to Keep Leftover Pizza?
Any pizza if left unattended attracts germs, ants, and other pests. According to the USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s okay to keep the leftover pizza for 3-4 days, only if it’s refrigerated under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The ingredients used in your dish will impact its spoilage. If at any moment the leftover piece starts smelling off even after refrigerating, it is a sign of mold growth. This mold growth can be present on your cheese, crust, meat, or veggies. The sign is simple and clear- throw it away.
A meal considered as a breeding ground for bacteria is the combination of salt, PH, nitrates, and water activity. So, a pizza cannot provide a suitable environment for the growth of bacteria. Now you must be thinking how’s your pizza prone to bacteria? Your pizza is prone to bacteria during its preparation. The FDA also stated that it is safe to keep the leftover pizza in the freezer instead of the fridge for 1-2 months. Our advice- good luck defrosting that thing!
Room Temperature and Pizza
All hail our immune system for putting up with that ingested bacteria. It is a proven fact that you are at a high risk of food poisoning while eating an unpreserved pizza. As we know our pizza is a perishable food due to all those products combined in one, collecting all the minute quantities of different bacteria whose consumption can upset your stomach.
These bacteria are collected throughout the process from making the dough, human interaction involving pizza, baking, packaging, topping, and finally handing it to the delivery person. These little bacteria, which seems to be so minute, begin to multiply after a period of 6 hours, making it unsafe for consumption. Think about it!
According to the USDA, any perishable food including a pizza is at risk of food-borne illness when the food is left at room temperature. It is due to the major presence of cheese and meat on it. The bad bacteria tend to grow on food kept between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit which is also called a “danger zone.” And you know what, the bacteria start doubling itself every 20 minutes, how’s that for an FYI..
Correct Way to Store Pizza
The way you store your pizza will determine if it will be eaten by you or your trashcan. You will always want to keep it in a tightly sealed container inside the fridge. Avoid keeping the pizza box as it will tend to dry out super-fast. The reason it is advised to keep the pizza in a sealed container is that it will hold its moisture and will keep its taste up to 3-4 days. If you want to preserve it for more than a month, try keeping it in a freezer, sealed.
The life span of pizza also depends on the kind of dough used. The dough generally lives from 60-180 days maximum, and the dough balls should be used within 2 to 4 days of refrigerating.
According to research, Domino’s Pizza has an expiration of a day if kept outside, around 3-5 days inside the fridge, and 4-6 months in a well-functioning freezer. Most pizzas have the same expiration time frame just like dominos or differ with a few hours or days.
Re-Heating Your Pizza
You can microwave it,( though not recommended) heat it in the oven or just warm it up in a pan. Just follow these super easy steps to eat your crispy and cheesy pizza.
Step 1- After refrigerating your pizza, take it out and rest it at room temperature for not more than 10 minutes.
Step 2- If you like your pizza crispy, put your pizza in a non-stick pan and cover it with a lid.
Step 3- Set your burner to medium for 2 minutes and then turn it low.
Step 4- Do not peek in between and let it rest for at least 8-9 minutes.
Step 5-Another option is the classic toaster oven (Highly Recommended) Until cheese begins to bubble slightly.
Voila! Your pizza is ready. Super easy and super dreamy.
You can even consider microwaving for 30-40 seconds. But it will make your pizza soggy unless you like it that way.
Well, heating up in the oven is also an option but again it is too much work for just a slice of pizza. If you are still up for it then preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit first. This is a crucial step unless you want to eat a burnt pizza. While your oven is heating, you can cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil. You can consider spraying a light layer of cooking spray on the foil so your pizza crust doesn’t stick. Once the oven is fully heated and ready for your slice put it on the lowest rack. Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes. You can be on the safer side by setting a timer for 20 minutes and checking on it.
Story of Cheese
Hear me out; room temperature and cheese are not friends. Leaving the pizza out of the fridge and letting it breathe in your room, will expose it to bad bacteria. But in case the leftover pizza was refrigerated, USDA advises you to not keep it for more than 4 days. You would want to reheat it, but avoid repeating the process more than once.
Leftover Pizza During Winters
Unless there is a continuous snow in your house, there is no way you should leave your pizza out in open. FYI– Never assume winter weather guarantees a 40˚ F temperature or below. So why risk wasting the pizza when you can refrigerate and enjoy it the very next day.
Heating Kills the Bacteria
Practically, it’s safe to reheat the leftover pizza and then consume it. The reason behind this is the bacteria dying off when exposed to temperatures above 140˚ F. And that’s why it’s important to reheat before consuming the slice as it might kill those bacteria off your pizza too.
What If the Bacteria Isn’t Dead?
It is possible that the bacteria have developed resistance to heat if it’s smart enough. Meaning, it won’t die even if you heat it and that my friend, should be thrown straight to your dustbin.
The bacteria staph (or staphylococcus aureus) is heat-resisting and can even survive under high temperatures. It is advisable not to consume the pizza if it has a foul smell as your immunity could be exposed to food-borne diseases.
Consuming Bacteria Topped Pizza
Now, what if the pizza looks and smells okay even after 4 days of refrigerating? Is it still safe to consume it? It’s a strict No-No from our side. Do not think that you’re wasting it. It is better off without you, my friend. If you are still thinking to eat it, let me tell you, pathogenic bacteria are typically asymptomatic and do not affect the appearance, smell, or even the taste of food. One risky bite and you will end up kissing your toilet, never wanting to eat pizza again.
It’s better to listen to your stomach and not order pizzas in bulk rather than throwing those bucks away. In case you still have leftovers, make sure to preserve it right way. Then re-heating of it to avoid any bacterial infections. Buying a pizza can save your time, satisfy your cravings without worrying about cooking or washing utensils. It can even save you from buying another meal but guess what, eating an extra slice can cost more in hospital bills. So why risk leaving that extra slice?
And let me tell you, leaving the last slice of pizza is like leaving the love of your life. In short, don’t do it.