We all know leaving your pizza out overnight isn't OK, but truth be told, pizza isn't safe to eat after a couple hours on your countertop even if it's still in the box — and that's the rule of thumb for everything. The United States Department of Agriculture is warning consumers that two hours is the limit on just about all food left out at room temperature.
Whether you have an at-home snack spread or buffet-style smorgasbord for a crowd, it's important to keep track of how long your food has been out on the table. Throw things away once they hit the two-hour mark because after that, your pasta salad becomes a breeding ground for bacteria waiting to give you a bout of food poisoning.
To extend the lifespan of your feast, keep hot food at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer with chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays. Cold food should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler. You can accomplish this by placing dishes over ice or using small serving trays to replenish food from the fridge — but things can turn sour there too. Here’s how to tell whether your ingredients have gone bad.
Let’s say your party is outdoors and it’s a gorgeous sunny day. This is where everything changes: Nothing should sit out for more than one hour. Even then, there are some things you shouldn’t serve in the summertime. No barbecue would be complete without hot dogs, cheeseburgers and fresh fruit, but deviled eggs, macaroni salad and fatty steaks are just a few foods you should never serve at a cookout.