How Long Can Cooked Steak Sit Out? A Strict Schedule

March 22, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

A cooked steak can sit out for 2 hours at room temperature – however, if the surrounding temperature is above 90 degrees F, then it can only be kept out for an hour.

I am very serious about food safety – working in the culinary world, I have first hand experience with what can happen when you don’t pay attention to safety guidelines. I am here to teach you how to keep you and your family healthy.

In this post, I will discuss how long can cooked steak sit out, why it is important to follow the rules, and other tips for keeping your steak safe. Let’s get started!

how long can cooked steak sit out

How Long Can a Cooked Steak Be Unrefrigerated?

Cooked steak – or any cooked meat, really – can sit out at room temperature for no more than two hours.

Now, the key word here is room temperature – this is typically defined as an ambient temperature of less than 90 degrees F. If it is warmer in the kitchen or your home and the temperature is above 90 F, then the cooked steak shouldn’t be left out for more than one hour.

Keep in mind, that this time frame also includes how long your steak is on your plate, even while you are eating. In total, your cooked steak should not be unrefrigerated for longer than one to two hours.

This means under no circumstances that the steak can be left out overnight.

How Long Can Leftover Steak Sit Out?

As I said above, cooked steak can’t sit out for longer than one to two hours in total.

You should start the clock from the moment that the steak leaves the pan and starts cooling down.

So, if you want to figure out when to put leftover steak away, think about when the steak was cooked. It should be packed up and placed in the refrigerator or freezer before the two hours are up. It must be kept in the fridge overnight if you are planning on storing the steak for this long.

How Carefully Do You Need to Follow These Guidelines?

I get it, these guidelines can seem a little strict. Do you really have to follow these rules?

Yes, you do, and let me tell you why:

This is all due to something that is known as the danger zone.

See, harmful bacteria thrive in a temperature range between 40 F and 140 F. Within these temperatures, bacteria can grow rapidly. This means that your food can become unsafe to eat fairly quickly.

If you try to eat cooked steak that has been left out for longer than 2 hours, there is a good chance that you may get food poisoning.

You should also keep in mind that young children and older people have weaker systems and may be at higher risk for food poisoning. So, just because you don’t get sick doesn’t mean others won’t.

Can You Reheat Steak After Keeping It Out?

Now you may imagine that there is a pretty simple solution to leaving meat or steak out for too long. Can’t you just reheat the meat so that the bacteria are killed and the steak is safe to eat once more?

Unfortunately, this trick isn’t going to work.

See, what a lot of people don’t realize is that bacteria release toxins that cause food poisoning. And, while bacteria can be killed with high heat or even low heat, these toxins cannot. So, the meat is still unsafe to eat even if you reheat the steak.

Roasted Beef Steak

How Long Can Raw Steak Sit Out?

Now that you are aware of how long to let the cooked steak sit out at room temperature, the next question is what about raw meat?

The guidelines are the same for raw meat – you can keep it sitting at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the ambient temperature.

There are some people who say that you can keep fresh meat or perishable food out for up to four hours, but I would discard this advice. The risk of getting ill from eating meat that has been left out for that long is too high.

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How to Know If Your Steak Has Gone Bad?

The problem is that if you are eating steak that has only been left out at room temperature for a few hours, it isn’t always easy to tell if the meat has gone bad.

Steak that has been improperly stored overnight or for a day may start giving off more noticeable signals. This may include an unpleasant odor. You may also notice a weird color and texture.

And, if you try to eat steak that has been left out, the taste is certainly going to reveal all.

These telltale signs don’t show up when the meat has only been left out for a few hours. This doesn’t mean that the meat is safe to eat, though. It is best to be cautious and throw this meat away.

How to Avoid Cooked Steak Going Bad?

My best piece of advice would be to wait until the last minute to cook and serve your steak. This is because it doesn’t take too long to cook steak. And, by doing so, there is no need to worry about cooked beef left out at room temperature.

If you are preparing a rare steak, it is going to take 2 to 3 minutes. Preparing a medium rare steak? 7 minutes at most. In case you want a well done steak, then it will 10 minutes tops.

In case you are planning on adding any sauces or compound butter, prep for these ahead of time.

Once you have taken the steaks off the pan, allow them to rest for up to 5 minutes. Then, serve steak immediately and have everyone eat steak then and there.

Not only does this make for a healthier steak, but it also makes for a much tastier one too!

Grilled Beef Steak

Tips for Storing Steak Safely

OK, so you have leftover steak – here is how you are going to keep it properly stored:

Start Packing It Up Quickly

Did you accidentally prepare too much steak? If so, don’t wait until the end of the meal, start wrapping it up for storage right away. The less the meat is exposed to bacteria at room temperature, the better.

If you have proper leftovers, then start to put away the meat the moment that the meal is over.

Store the Steak the Right Way

If you are only planning on storing the leftover steak for a day or two, then you can place it in the refrigerator. Make sure to place it in an airtight glass container so that none of the other food smells will invade it.

Place the container at the back of the refrigerator.

If you need to store the steak for longer, then you will need to freeze steak.

Place the steak in an airtight container or in a Ziploc or freezer bag. If you are using a bag, make sure to squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can. Then, seal it tight. Write the date of freezing on it and freeze until needed.

Defrosting and Reheating the Steak

If you are freezing the steak, it is important to defrost steak properly. Make sure to leave it in the refrigerator until the steak is completely defrosted.

Then, reheat in a pan or in the oven. As you cook the steak, make sure to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat. It should read at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit to be considered safe to eat.

Wrapping It Up

Now you know the answer to how long can cooked steak sit out! Remember, never keep the meat out longer than two hours and it should certainly never be left out overnight! Follow these guidelines and store the steak properly and you should never have to suffer a bad meal!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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