Pizza is as American as Chinese food and tacos.
In fact, 94% of Americans eat pizza regularly.
Since we usually share a pizza or go back for seconds, we leave the pizza on the counter when we first get it for easy access.
What happens when everyone forgets to put the pizza in the refrigerator?
Is the pizza still good for breakfast the next morning?
How about even later?
We will go into detail on how long pizza can sit out so that you know whether the questionable pizza on your counter is safe or not.
How Long Can Pizza Sit Out?
According to the Department of Agriculture, you have two hours to leave cooked food, including pizza, on the counter before it starts to go bad.
Harmful bacteria, known as pathogenic bacteria, thrive in conditions between 40 and 140 degrees.
While the bacteria growth starts small, it becomes alarming quickly since bacteria numbers double every four to 20 minutes.
That’s why time is of the essence.
To prevent these harmful bacteria from developing, all refrigerators are set to 40 degrees or lower.
Once in the refrigerator, the pizza remains good for two to three days.
Of course, your refrigerator can’t help you if you don’t use it in time.
What Pizza Toppings Grow Bacteria The Quickest?
Bacteria tend to favor sweet items, including the sweet pizza sauce and gluten-heavy pizza crust.
For this reason, all pizza is an immediate target.
Pineapple, tomatoes, and other sweet toppings contribute.
Mold also loves cheese.
While you may love extra cheese in your deep dish pizza, other living organisms do, too.
Cured meats, such as pepperoni, hold up the best.
Reheating Pizza To Kill Germs
Some people assume that when you reheat pizza, the heat kills the germs.
Unfortunately, that’s not completely true.
While the heat may kill some types of bacteria, it won’t kill the toxins they leave behind, such as the botulism toxin.
Identifying Bad Pizza
You cannot identify bacteria when it starts growing on your pizza.
The pizza will look the same for long after it’s been contaminated except for a slightly dry texture, which may be difficult to distinguish from poor cooking.
Eventually, you may notice mold growth or dark markings, but by that time, you know the pizza’s no good.
Generally speaking, if you have to question it, it’s best not to risk it unless you don’t mind spending the night next to a toilet.
Bacterial Food Poisoning
What exactly happens when you eat pizza that started growing bacteria on it?
You ingest the bacteria, and if you ingest enough bacteria, you will become affected.
The particular ailments and their intensity vary based on the type of bacteria growing on your pizza and how long you left the pizza out.
Bacillus cereus generates spores that double in numbers every 20 minutes.
Those infected will experience symptoms in about six hours that include stomach pain, diarrhea, and other digestive issues.
The problem usually goes away in about 24 hours.
Heat will not kill the toxins left behind by the bacteria.
Bacillus cereus comes from the raw ingredients in the pizza, such as flour or vegetables.
Once unharmful to food, Listeria evolved from feeding off of cattle and sheep to feeding off of human food.
Bacteria numbers will double in 1.5 days.
While relatively slow compared to some of the other bacteria on the list, Listeria is extremely persistent.
It will continue to grow in both heat and cold temperatures.
Once your pizza becomes infected, that’s it.
Luckily, the flu-like symptoms tend to be rather mild.
While Salmonella, a species of bacteria that attacks the gastrointestinal tract, does not grow on your pizza if you leave it out, Salmonella contaminates cooked food when a contaminated utensil (such as a pizza cutter or a spatula) comes into contact with the food.
You can also get Salmonella if your pizza is undercooked.
Heat can kill salmonella.
While most cases are mild or moderate, S. aureus can cause devastating blood infections and pneumonia.
Since these bacteria can be found in our own respiratory system, they can get on people’s hands when they cough.
If not properly sanitized, it can then get onto your pizza.
If you leave your pizza out, the bacteria produce toxins that cannot be killed with heat.
Is Food Poisoning Contagious? How To Protect Others
Bacterial food contamination can be contagious.
Some bacteria are more contagious than others. S. aureus, for example, can infect someone through simple skin-to-skin contact if the bacteria can find even the smallest cut or opening inside the body.
More often, bacteria spread when someone coughs or when bodily fluids come together, such as during a kiss (saliva and saliva).
While probably not deadly, no one wants to get sick, so here are some ways to protect others from catching your bacterial infection.
1. Inform People
If you got sick from eating community pizza, let everyone else know immediately so that they don’t eat it, too.
Don’t be shy or embarrassed about your infection to the point where you won’t speak up and prevent others from getting sick.
Throw the pizza out right away.
2. Isolate Yourself
While you don’t need to quarantine for two weeks over a mild case of food poisoning, it’s best to suffer alone.
If people want to offer snacks or your favorite drinks to show they’re thinking of you, politely request that they leave the items by your door. You can always chat on the phone or online until you feel better, but you still need the company.
3. Wear A Mask Around People
If you need to get yourself medicine or go to the doctor, wear a mask.
Ignore the politics surrounding masks right now and wear one for everyone else’s safety.
It’s not a statement about anything.
It’s a health precaution.
If you don’t have a mask, at least stay a good distance from people and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
Ask your doctor if they offer telehealth options so that you don’t need to go out into public while contagious.
4. Wash And Sanitize
Regularly wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially when you touch community doorknobs and stair railings.
It’s not enough to wash your hands.
You should also use hand sanitizer to kill germs.
In addition, you can use antibacterial wipes to wipe down all surfaces you touch.
If you share a bathroom with other people while you’re sick, take special precautions to clean the bathroom thoroughly after each use.
People can catch your infection by just a little bit of sweat from your hand getting on the sink faucet or a bit of vomit remaining on the toilet seat.
When To Go To The Doctor For Food Poisoning
Food poisoning, as uncomfortable as it is, usually doesn’t require a trip to the doctor.
Using the example of Bacillus cereus, which subsides in about 24 hours, you’ll likely feel better by the time you get an appointment.
Plus, the symptoms usually aren’t life-threatening.
You will require plenty of fluids to rehydrate you after the vomiting and diarrhea.
However, with some rest, chicken soup, and over-the-counter medicine, you can probably suffer without a trip to the doctor.
In some cases, a doctor is necessary, though.
Here are some signs that indicate you should visit a doctor.
1. High Temperature
Your body uses heat to kill bacteria, meaning a fever usually indicates that your immune system is working properly.
However, if your immune system works too hard and causes your body temperature to increase to unsafe levels, you need to see a doctor.
Most medical professionals recommend going in to see a doctor if your temperature gets higher than 104 degrees.
High-grade fevers that reach 104 to 107 degrees qualify as dangerous temperatures, also known as hyperpyrexia.
When your fever gets this high, it can cause brain damage and hallucinations, so you want a doctor’s help right away.
Have a friend or family member take you to the doctor.
Even if you have a low-grade fever, you should visit the doctor if it persists for more than three or four days.
Your doctor will verify the stability of your condition and probably prescribe antibiotics, assuming they don’t find anything exceptionally alarming.
To assist in the healing process, try these tips on how to reduce your fever:
- Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water!
- Sleep it off and rest.
- Wear loose and breathable clothing.
- Use cold compresses.
- Maintain a high Air Quality Index (AQI).
- Take a cool bath.
The body’s cells require water to function properly.
However, it can be hard to stay hydrated when sick with food poisoning.
If you can’t keep water down, you can’t urinate, and you have a dry mouth, you’re probably severely dehydrated.
If your body continues to reject fluids, the doctor can attach you to an IV filled with fluids, which your body can’t reject.
Once you rehydrate back to optimal levels, you’ll feel a lot better.
However, you’ll need to stay hydrated while you continue to fight the infection.
Tips To Keep Your Pizza Safe While Leaving It Out
It’s impractical to put a pizza in the fridge as soon as you get home.
You need to leave it out for at least a little while so that everyone can grab a slice as they please, especially if you are hosting a pizza party, but you don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting sick!
Try these simple tips to keep the pizza good for as long as possible.
1. Set A Timer
Set a timer on your cell phone for two hours once you put out the pizza.
Most of the time, people don’t necessarily forget about the pizza, but when you have a lot going on, or you’re really into a movie, it’s easy to forget about the time.
The timer will remind you when you need to put the pizza away.
Make people aware of the timer in advance.
2. Wrap Pizza In Aluminum Foil
Wrap the pizza in tin foil to help it retain its heat.
The bacteria won’t develop until the temperature gets below 140 degrees.
Pizza cooked using a brick oven set to 626 degrees will heat the crust to 392 degrees and the top of the pizza to 212 degrees.
Steel ovens can’t heat pizzas at such high temperatures, which is one more reason that brick oven pizzas are better than pizzas baked in a traditional oven.
However, we digress…
The pizza cools down at various rates depending on the room temperature, breeze, and heat retention.
Aluminum foil ensures that the pizza retains its heat longer than if you left it out on its own, as aluminum foil is an excellent thermal conductor.
It forces heat to bounce off it.
When you wrap a slice of pizza, the heat will transfer from the aluminum foil back to the pizza instead of dissipating into the surrounding air.
3. Close The Box
While it may not work quite as well as aluminum foil, you can help retain heat by keeping the pizza box closed when not grabbing a slice.
4. Keep Warm
If you have a pizza warmer, great!
You can keep the pizza warm in the pizza warmer for much longer than two hours.
However, a pizza warmer isn’t exactly the most practical household appliance.
You can opt to put the pizza in a large toaster oven set on low or even your oven.
You can even put the cardboard box in the oven as cardboard doesn’t burn until the temperature reaches 400 degrees, but you will probably feel more comfortable putting the pizza on a cooking sheet.
While not the most efficient method, this will keep your pizza warm and safe.
However, don’t forget that you have the oven running.
Even though leaving a low-heat oven unattended presents a low risk, you also probably don’t want to go too far.
How To Properly Store Pizza
Pizza remains good for up to three days in the fridge, assuming that it’s stored properly and it didn’t already start to go bad.
You can use either a Tupperware container or a plate with plastic wrap.
Tupperware is easier to use and more effective, but it’s always virtually impossible to find the right lid in the cabinet.
Plastic wrap is cheaper, but it’s more difficult to use.
Since it crinkles up so easily, you may leave a portion of the food exposed.
The biggest problem you will run into is making sure that the different slices of pizza don’t stick together.
If you have parchment paper, great! Place the parchment paper in between layers of pizza as you stack them.
If you do not have parchment paper, stack the pizza perpendicularly so that they don’t lay the same way as the row beneath it.
3. Freezing Pizza
Pizza will last almost forever in the freezer, but the cold air will dry it out to the point that it experiences freezer burn after about two months.
When your pizza experiences freezer burns, you can still eat it.
However, it will taste dry and, well, bad.
You can recognize freezer burn by discoloration and dry spots.
Freezing pizza will not kill bacteria.
Instead, it freezes it, too.
Once the pizza thaws, the bacteria will continue to grow.
You can safely leave pizza out for two hours.
After that, things start to go downhill fast.
If your pizza becomes contaminated by a fast-acting or stubborn bacterial infection, you can get sick.
While most bacterial food poisoning cases are moderate, some cases become life-threatening.
Avoid the problem from the beginning by thinking about safe pizza serving at the beginning of your meal.
If you do forget and leave the pizza out for a couple of hours longer than you meant to, throw it out no matter how delicious it still looks.