During the holidays, you are often left with leftover food such as lasagna or pie. Leftover lasagna especially makes for a pretty delicious breakfast the next day. But how long can a lasagna sit out? And how exactly can you tell whether the dish has gone bad or not?
You can leave your lasagna out in the open for 6 hours, but no more than that. You can preserve it for longer by freezing it or storing it in the refrigerator. Otherwise, the dish will begin to deteriorate. If you leave it one day out, it will get a sour smell and taste, dried pasta, the appearance of mold, etc.
Eating rotten food is no joking matter. It can lead you straight to the emergency room at a hospital with your life potentially on the line. That is why you should know how long certain foods will last either in the open or in a frozen state.
And in this article, we are going to discuss in detail the shelf life of lasagna under various conditions as well as the means by which you can tell whether it has exceeded its validity.
How Long Can You Leave Lasagna Sit Out?
After you bake a lasagna dish, you always need to let it cool down. This helps you to handle and slice it apart better. Plus, you are not likely to eat the pasta right as it comes out of the oven. But there is a limit to how much time you can keep lasagna, or any food for that matter, out in the open.
Typically, a lasagna will stay fresh for 2 hours in the open after taking it out of the oven. The residual heat in the dish means that it is less susceptible to bacterial infestation. After about two hours, that heat will almost completely vanish. And after 5-6 hours, your lasagna will become vulnerable.
This time can vary drastically based on the condition you keep the dish in. If it is in a cold environment, it will lose heat quicker, which means you have to store it quicker as well. Lasagna will last longer if the room you left it in is cool. In the summertime, it is better to put it in the fridge as soon as it cools off.
Also, not using fresh ingredients can play a factor in how long the lasagna lasts. Fresh ingredients tend to last longer.
So, if you see the lasagna sitting out in the open for any more than 2 hours, immediately preserve it in the fridge.
If it’s left to sit out for a couple of hours, you can reheat it to kill any bacteria that may have already infiltrated. After you are done heating it, store it in the fridge or freezer, depending on how long you want to keep it.
Note that lasagna is even more vulnerable if it has seafood, ricotta or similar cheese in its content.
Should You Let Lasagna Cool Before Refrigerating?
You should let your lasagna cool down a bit before placing it in the refrigerator. About 45 minutes of rest time is enough. This will give you ample time to enjoy the dish while not risking any contamination.
Because the dish is still hot in this period, it will not be vulnerable to bacteria nor will it give fungus time to grow on it.
So, take your time with the meal and enjoy the lasagna. Then, once you are done with eating, wrap the dish tightly and store it in the fridge.
Can You Eat Lasagna if Left Out Overnight?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA, you should discard any lasagna that has been left out in the open overnight.
Lasagna contains perishable ingredients such as meat, pasta, and cheese. And if it stays out overnight, it will remain at room temperature, which is an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria.
The growth can be very extensive if you give it an entire night. So, eating that lasagna in the morning is a very bad idea. Even if you try to heat in the morning, it may not prove the best result. The taste and texture of the dish may have already disintegrated to the point where they are not edible anymore.
How Long Is Lasagna Good For?
How long is lasagna good for depends entirely on the method you use to store it. if you simply leave it out in the open, it has a high chance of going bad within 7-8 hours.
1—2 hours is considered a safe period, meaning any significant germ growth is unlikely. But any time more than 6 hours and you are opening yourself up for severe food poisoning.
If you keep the lasagna in the refrigerator, it will last longer. Be it homemade lasagna or one you bought from a deli, a refrigerated lasagna can last for 3-4 days. Before eating, check for the sour odor to make sure it is safe to eat.
If you want to keep the lasagna for even longer, you would need to freeze. Properly frozen lasagna will comfortably last you 3-4 months.
Now, the exact time will depend on many other factors. You should always preserve the dish in an airtight container. The more inhibit the airflow, the less chance there is of an infestation. This also prevents bugs from entering the food.
Aluminum foil or insulated lunch boxes are another way of preserving lasagna. If you only want to keep it stored for a few hours, these are the best solutions. Because not only will they prevent contamination, they will also preserve the freshness and some of the warmth. Even then, you will need to store the dish in a fridge after 3-4 hours or so.
How to Tell If Lasagna Is Bad?
As we have already discussed, eating bad or rotten lasagna is not a good idea, no matter how you hate wasting food. It is just not worth it.
But often, the food may look perfectly fine on the outside. Even in those cases, there are certain signs you can look for to tell whether or not the food has gone bad. Here are some of the common ways you can tell if the lasagna has gone bad.
Many say the best way to test a lasagna is to taste a little. But in many cases, you do not need to advance to that point at all. You can simply tell that the dish has gone bad just from the smell.
Lasagna is commonly made with cheese, tomato sauce, and meat. All of these foods are perishable and all of them give a notably bad smell when they do perish.
So, take your nose close to the dish and try to tell if the food smells funny. If it has indeed become rotten, it will most likely give off a sour smell. That is a clear indicator that you need to discard that lasagna immediately.
Changes in Appearance
This is particularly relevant if the pasta is invaded by any type of fungus. The color will turn greyish blue.
You will also notice that the pasta texture has gotten slimy or gooey. This is usually a clear indicator that mold has started to grow on top of the pasta. Another thing you can look out for is patches of dark spots.
Taste Just a Fraction
Though not the most reliable technique, your palate can often easily pick up on rotten food. And rotten cheese, tomato sauce, or meat give off a very different taste than when they were fresh.
Now, eating rotten lasagna is a clear danger and you should always avoid it. But tasting just a little amount should be fine. And that is usually all you will need to tell the status of the dish. Plus, you can just spit the piece out the moment you realize that it is bad. Wash your mouth with plenty of water afterward.
Can Frozen Lasagna Go Bad?
Frozen lasagna can go bad, but it usually takes much longer than if you were to keep it in the fridge.
Freezing something is arguably the most reliable way of storing it for a long time. And we are not talking about simply keeping it in the cooler. We mean freezing it to the point where it becomes completely solid, which is usually done at 0 degrees Celsius.
At such a low temperature, even the water will freeze. And bacteria need water and moisture to survive. So, by denying germs this moisture, you can ensure the survival of your food products for months, possibly years.
But even this is not a full-proof method. And even frozen lasagna has a shelf life. Frozen lasagna can last up to 6 months, provided you have stored it properly. Meaning the container must be airtight and the cooling process must be complete. Otherwise, some residual bacteria may survive and drastically lower their shelf life.
Even after all this effort, your frozen lasagna can still go bad after several months. This is because the moment you take it out and thaw it, you are undoing all the preservations.
Now, if you keep the lasagna in the freezer indefinitely, it will likely survive. But the quality of the dish will deteriorate fast after a couple of months. So, if you want to enjoy the lasagna, you should try to thaw it out and eat it after 3-4 months in the freezer.
Can Lasagna Give You Food Poisoning?
Rotten lasagna can definitely give you food poisoning, similar to most other perishable foods. We humans are not the only species that find a good lasagna delectable. The bacteria and similar germs in your surroundings do too.
So, if given the chance, they will start feasting on the leftover food. Pasta is mostly carbohydrate, which is especially vulnerable to bacterial outgrowth. Once you reach this point, eating the lasagna will transfer those germs and their metabolized products into your body. And that is when the problems really begin.
Eating bad lasagna will likely cause abdominal pains and cramps. This will eventually lead to diarrhea and/or vomiting as your body tries its best to expel the rotten food particles.
If the contamination is severe, your problems will not stop just there. You will experience nausea, hallucination, as well as increasing stomach pain. The problems may only worsen over time. At that point, you need to visit the hospital or get professional medical help.
One of the more common pathogens that affect pasta, in particular, is B. cereus. This germ can lead to stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. In rare instances of severe poisoning, this germ can even cause death.
To conclude, food should be enjoyed fresh and warm. Keep it out in the open for too long and put yourself in much danger. So, try to eat your lasagna as fresh as possible. And if you have to store it, do it properly so that no pathogens or bacteria can invade.