Can raw meat sit out for 3 hours?

Answered by Michael Wilson

Raw meat should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. This is because bacteria can multiply rapidly in the “danger zone” temperature range of 40°F to 140°F (4°C to 60°C). When meat is left at room temperature, it can easily reach and stay within this temperature range, providing an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.

The FDA recommends following the “2-hour rule” when it comes to perishable foods, including raw meat. This means that any type of meat, whether it is chicken, beef, lamb, or pork, should not be kept at room temperature for more than 2 hours. After this time, the meat should be either cooked or refrigerated to ensure its safety.

It is important to note that the 2-hour rule applies to the total time the meat is left at room temperature. This includes any time spent during preparation, cooking, or serving. For example, if you take raw meat out of the refrigerator to marinate it for 30 minutes, then cook it for 1 hour, and let it sit out for another 30 minutes before refrigerating, the total time would exceed 2 hours. In such cases, it is best to discard the meat to avoid the risk of foodborne illness.

Bacteria, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter, can be present in raw meat. These bacteria can cause foodborne illnesses if consumed in high enough quantities. Symptoms of foodborne illnesses can range from mild gastrointestinal discomfort to more severe symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. In some cases, foodborne illnesses can lead to hospitalization and even be life-threatening, especially for vulnerable populations such as young children, pregnant women, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems.

Personally, I have always been cautious about leaving raw meat out for too long. I remember one incident when I forgot to put a package of raw chicken back in the refrigerator after defrosting it. The chicken sat out on the counter for about 3 hours before I realized my mistake. Although I was hesitant, I decided to discard the chicken to avoid any potential risks. It was disappointing to waste food, but I prioritized food safety over convenience.

To ensure the safety of raw meat, it is best to store it in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C) or freeze it if you do not plan to use it within a few days. When thawing frozen meat, it is recommended to do so in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave using the defrost setting. Avoid thawing meat at room temperature as it can promote bacterial growth.

Raw meat, whether it is chicken, beef, lamb, or pork, should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. This is to prevent the growth of bacteria and reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. It is important to follow proper food handling and storage practices to ensure the safety of raw meat and protect our health.