For many of you, Thanksgiving dinner will still be sitting out in the kitchen Thursday night. But before you head for a midnight snack, we have something that might turn your stomach and make you throw out those leftovers. Might our meals make us sick? How long can Thanksgiving leftovers sit out at room temperature before the begin teeming with dangerous bacteria.
We dished up five plates and left them out for a length of time. Then put what was on the plates into petri dishes.
At zero hours, the control sample of in the case of this experiment... dressing was hardly spotted by bacteria colonies.
The rule of thumb is that two hours after cooking is generally safe for foods at room temperature. At two hours, it looks basically the same, a small amount of bacteria growth.
Brenda Elrod, Northeast Texas Public Health District: "After four hours, they've truly adjusted and they can just explode off the chart."
Explode they did. Four hours of room temperature and the stuffing can become dangerous. And it gets worse.
"After you leave it out all day and come back for a late night snack, and at ten hours they'd be too numerous to count."
Ten hours and the dish is covered with countless colonies of bacteria. And if a toxin was released while it was cooling down, then you can't kill it by cooking.
After the meal is done, make sure everything's kept at a 140F or hotter. Or be sure you refrigerate it quickly at 41F or below.