Can Leftover Pizza be Left Out?

Stuck with leftover pizza after a great night of pizza party and don’t know what to do with it?

If anything, don’t leave it out overnight. It’ll become a habitat for bacteria to colonise and therefore turn unsafe for consumption. 

Leftover pizza should always be refrigerated because refrigeration helps extend the shelf life of perishable commodities (like pizza) by slowing down the activities of spoilage bacteria.

In the rest of the article, you’ll learn exactly why leaving out leftover pizza is a bad idea and how you can package and store it properly in the refrigerator.

How long can leftover pizza be left out?

For any food commodity that contains perishable elements such as sauces, meat, cheese etc., the moment you bring it down from heat, apportioned servings and discover that there are remnants, you should immediately package the remnants and put them inside the refrigerator.

Now between realising that you have leftover and packaging and putting it inside the refrigerator, you have the grace of two hours to keep the pizza out if the ambient temperature isn’t in the excess of 90°F. 

If it is greater than 90°F, then it is advisable to refrigerate immediately or within the next 1 hour especially when the pizza has chicken or any type of meat or meat based food on it. 

Doing so will slow down the activities of bacteria which will therefore reduce the risks of illness when the pizza is consumed.

How do you preserve leftover pizza?

When it comes to preserving leftover pizza, the only option you have at home is to refrigerate it.

The reason why you are refrigerating is because when you leave pizza out to sit for a very long time or even overnight, it would be dominated by bacteria in as little as 2 hours after preparation, and the presence of bacteria will heighten the risk of illness even after you heat up the pizza before you eat it, because you might not necessarily heat up the entire piece evenly especially when microwaving. 

In addition to that, the pizza might begin to spoil due to the activities of spoilage bacteria especially when the ambient temperature is hot.

This is because pizza contains perishable commodities like cheeses and meat on it and its surface isn’t dry but moist which presents the perfect medium for spoilage bacteria to thrive in. 

Putting the pizza in the refrigerator however, will slow down the activities of bacteria there by extending the shelf life of the pizza and minimising the risks of food borne illness.

Refrigerating a leftover pizza is as easy as your ABC’s.

All you have to do is simply get the leftover pizza and put it in a plastic bag or container and seal properly. Put the sealed pizza in the middle shelf of the refrigerator and you’re good to go.

Make sure there is no meat dripping juice from above or the pizza isn’t placed close to a food item that smells otherwise it will pick up the smell during storage. 

How long is leftover pizza good in the fridge?

Leftover pizza that has not stayed out for more than 2 hours on the counter or for more than 1 hour at temperatures above 90°F should be good in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 days.

After 2 to 3 days, you should expect spoilage bacteria to begin their activities, and that is because refrigeration only slows down bacteria activities, but never completely stops it.

When you notice the sliminess of the pizza or a certain offensive smell oozing out when you move the pizza after refrigeration, you should know that it has already begun to spoil and it should be dumped in the bin outside.

Can you freeze leftover pizza?

Leftover pizzas are not advised to be frozen because freezing destroys the structural integrity of food. 

What freezing does is basically create ice crystals in the cells of food items (or in the case of pizza, every single element that makes up its composition rom crust to cheese etc.), which would cause them to rupture and therefore become mushy when thawed due to melting of the ice crystals. 

Aside from that, the rupturing of the cells also means destruction of the original texture of the food and so no matter what and how you try, it won’t be as enjoyable as if it was fresh out of the oven.

So in general, foods that have been frozen, especially foods that have been processed like pizza, would taste nothing like their original.

Can you eat cold leftover pizza from the refrigerator?

Whether or not you wish to eat cold pizza from the refrigerator is quite subjective. 

Some people like their pizza cold (for example straight out of the fridge) while others feel safe from inside when consuming pizzas that are hot and the cheese is bubbly.

The popular opinion however is that pizzas should be enjoyed hot as that is the best way to really get the taste of every element in the slice, since chilling to some extent, mute flavours. 

Heating would also make sure that any bacterial growth on pizza is halted and eliminated, provided the internal temperature of the pizza registers 165°F after heating.  

So this implies that eating your pizza hot carries much less risk of illness compared to when you eat it cold from the refrigerator because the pizza slice may have already turned into a hotspot for bacteria due from the way you handled it prior to refrigeration and also when refrigerating.

How do you heat up leftover pizza that was stored in the refrigerator?

Heating up a leftover pizza is quite simple. 

Simply take out the pizza and microwave it on high for about 30 seconds or until the pizza registers 165F° on a food thermometer.

You can also reheat leftovers in the oven by baking for at least 10 to 15 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 165°F. 

If using the air fryer for reheating, bake for 6 to 7 minutes.

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