Here’s all you need to know about leftover pizza. Learn how long cooked pizza lasts in the fridge, how long it can sit out, and when to toss it.
So you ordered a couple of large pizzas for a party, and a bunch of leftovers ended up in the refrigerator. And now you’re wondering: how long does leftover pizza last in the fridge?
Or maybe your guests just left, and you noticed a couple of pizza slices left in a box. Are those still safe to eat? And how long can pizza sit out?
If either sounds familiar, you’re in the right place.
For starters, let’s cover pizza sitting out unrefrigerated.
How Long Can Leftover Pizza Sit Out?
According to the USDA, your leftover pizza shouldn’t sit at room temperature for more than two hours. And if your room temperature is over 90°F (or 32°C), that period shrinks to only one hour. Higher ambient temperature means faster bacteria growth.
So to stay on the safe side, you should refrigerate any leftovers within the mentioned period.
When food is neither hot nor refrigerator-cold, it’s in the temperature danger zone. That’s when bacteria (like Salmonella or Escherichia coli) multiply quickly and can grow to levels that can cause food poisoning.
If your pizza usually sits on the table from the moment it arrives to when the last guest leaves, consider changing your strategy.
Perhaps once everyone is full, you could ask your guests if anyone wants any extra helpings, and if not, you clean up the table and refrigerate the leftovers.
You can always reheat any leftover slices later on. Pizza isn’t popcorn – it shouldn’t sit on the counter for the whole party.
This two-hour period is also known as the two-hour rule. And as rules go, it’s one that many people break (including yours truly).
Of course, the pizza doesn’t immediately go bad or unsafe to eat when it’s out for longer than those two hours, but the chances of that happening rise over time. In other words, it’s your call on whether you eat or discard that last slice of pizza that’s been on the table for the last 3 hours.
That said, if you left the pizza out overnight or for more than 4 to 5 hours, discard it no matter what. At that point, eating the thing is asking for trouble (or food poisoning).
Having that covered, let’s talk about how pizza can sit in the refrigerator.
How Long Does Leftover Pizza Last in the Fridge?
Leftover pizza lasts for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. You should wrap your leftovers in plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container and refrigerate within two hours of cooking or picking up the order.
Those 3 to 4 days apply to all perishable foods, so it’s not a guideline specific to pizza. Your lasagna leftovers last 3 to 4 days, too.
As usual, you can stretch it to maybe five days if you want to, but remember that the chances of seeing mold on your slices are higher the longer they are stored.
In my experience, it’s best to reheat the pizza the next day to be done with it. And if that’s not an option, I suggest freezing any leftovers you have, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad.
Next up, let’s talk about storing leftover pizza.
How to Store Pizza in the Fridge
To refrigerate your pizza, wrap your leftovers in plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container. Using aluminum foil isn’t a good idea, as aluminum can react with the acid in tomato sauce, which is the sauce base for most pizzas.
That’s the ideal setup, but there are other options, too.
The original cardboard box is okay if you want to eat the leftovers for breakfast the next day. But if you need more time than that, I suggest something that seals tightly, so the pizza doesn’t dry out before you get to it.
Something as simple as placing the slices on a shallow plate and covering the top with plastic works well. Or you can use any food containers, cake carriers, or what have you. Just keep the pizza sealed tight.
Now, let’s cover freezing.
How To Freeze Leftover Pizza
Freezing pizza leftovers couldn’t be any simpler. All you need is aluminum foil and perhaps some freezer bags. Here’s how to do it:
- Wrap each slice in aluminum foil. If you plan on storing the slices for longer than a couple of weeks, put those wrapped slices into freezer bags.
- (optional) Put the slices into an airtight container. If you’re afraid that your pizza slices will get squished before they freeze, put them in a container that will keep them intact.
- Put everything into the freezer.
Voila, that’s it. The frozen leftovers can sit in the freezer for a couple of months without losing much in terms of quality.
When it comes to thawing, leave the frozen slices in the fridge overnight.
You can put the frozen slices directly into the oven and thaw and reheat them there, but the quality tends to be better if you defrost food slowly (i.e., in the fridge).
How To Tell If Pizza Is Bad?
Besides following the storage time guidelines I outlined above, you should always give the leftover pizza a good check before eating. Look for:
- Mold or any other organic growth. If there’s any, get rid of it. If there’s something wrong with the pizza appearance-wise, like the mushrooms have changed color, don’t take any risks.
- Off smell. If there’s something wrong with the smell of the leftovers, discard them. One thing to note here is pizza can pick up smells if it’s not tightly sealed. That’s why your Hawaiian pizza smells like the Chorizo or Pepperoni that are on the same shelf.
- Bad taste. If, after reheating the leftover slices, you’re not quite enjoying them, it’s okay to throw them out. In fact, I’d advise you to do that, as there might be something wrong with them.
Last but not least, if your leftovers have dried out and seem stale, that’s normal if they weren’t properly sealed. It’s up to you if you try to reheat and eat them anyway, or you accept your losses and discard them.
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