Wondering what happens to a baked potato if you leave it out overnight? We have the answer to your question, and more!
Maybe you’ve baked more potatoes than you and your family can eat, and now you’re wondering where to store them. Or maybe you left some baked potatoes overnight, it’s the next day, and you want to know if they’re still safe to eat.
So, what’s the verdict? Can a baked potato be left out overnight or not?
Baked potatoes, like all cooked foods, shouldn’t be left to sit out overnight, or disease-causing bacteria may form on their surface, making them unsafe to eat. Leftover baked potatoes should be cooled and stored in the refrigerator, where they will keep for 3-4 days.
If you’ve ever wondered why you shouldn’t leave baked potatoes (and cooked foods in general) on the dining table, on the counter, or in the oven overnight, read on, because that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about in this article.
Why You Shouldn’t Leave Baked Potatoes Out Overnight
Leaving food out at room temperature can cause harmful bacteria, like Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, and Escherichia coli, to grow to dangerous levels that can cause food poisoning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million Americans contract foodborne diseases every year. Of them, 128,000 get hospitalized, and an unfortunate 3,000 die.
To keep yourself and the members of your family safe from food-borne illnesses, you need to handle and store raw and cooked foods properly.
How Long Can Baked Potatoes Sit Out?
Bacteria grow the quickest at temperatures between 40°F (4.4°C) and 140°F (60°C). So quickly that within this range, which food safety experts have dubbed “the danger zone,” the bacteria on your food double in count every 20 minutes.
Bacteria are a fact of life, and our bodies know how to deal with them. But they are dangerous when they get the chance to multiply in numbers that are difficult for our immune system to handle, and that is what leaving food out overnight does.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that cooked foods, which include baked potatoes, shouldn’t be left for more than 2 hours. In summer, when the temperature is above 90°F (32°C), this time is reduced to 1 hour.
How to Store Leftover Baked Potatoes
Leftover baked potatoes should be left to cool and then put in the fridge, where they will stay good for 3-4 days.
Place the baked potatoes in an airtight storage container or ziplock bag and seal it tightly. If you don’t have one on hand, you can also wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil or plastic wrap to keep them cool in the fridge.
You can also freeze baked potatoes for long-term storage. Frozen food stays safe to eat forever and can be kept indefinitely, but potatoes dry out over time and lose their best quality, so you should eat them up within 3 months.
If you’ve prepared a large batch of baked potatoes, divide them into several meal-size portions before freezing so that they’re easier to thaw. This way, you will only have to defrost as many potatoes as you can eat, and the rest will keep their top quality in the freezer.
How Long Do Baked Potatoes Last?
Kept at room temperature—whether on the kitchen counter, dining room table, or in the oven—baked potatoes will keep for 1-2 hours. The hotter the weather, the sooner you and the family should eat them all up.
Properly refrigerated, baked potatoes will stay good for 3-4 days. Store them in the bottom compartment of the refrigerator, the one that’s right above the crisper drawer, where it is coolest.
Frozen baked potatoes stay safe to eat forever, but they only retain their best quality for up to 3 months. After this time, the potatoes begin to dry out and lose their flavor.
How to Tell If a Baked Potato Is Spoiled
If you leave a baked potato for more than 1-2 hours or keep it in the refrigerator for more than 3-4 days, throw it away. Unlike spoilage bacteria, the bacteria that cause food poisoning (called pathogenic bacteria) don’t make food smell or taste bad. So the potato may still look good, but not be edible.
With that said, let’s take a look at the most common signs that your baked potatoes have spoiled.
To tell if your baked potato is spoiled, look for a sour odor, signs of discoloration, as well as a sticky surface. If the potato smells off, is sticky, or has mold on it, it means it is rotten, and you should throw it away.
Contrary to what some people think, cutting off the spoiled parts doesn’t really help, since the mold and the bacteria have probably spread throughout the potato. Heating (or another round of cooking) doesn’t help either; the heat kills the bacteria but doesn’t inactivate the poisonous toxins that they’ve left behind.
How to Reheat Leftover Baked Potatoes
Of course, you can eat baked potatoes right out of the fridge. But they taste better when they’re hot, and reheating them is quick and easy!
Keep in mind that microwaving baked potatoes isn’t the best option. Southern Living’s Patricia York warns against this method as it will dry out the potatoes in no time. Reheating potatoes in the microwave is convenient, but it may end up sacrificing the crispy outer skin.
Instead of reheating leftover baked potatoes in the microwave, use one of the methods that we’re about to discuss below.
Reheat baked potatoes where you cooked them: in the oven.
Here’s how it works.
Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) for about 15 minutes. Then take the baked potatoes out of the fridge, place them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and bake them until they turn out hot, which takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.
Another quick way to reheat leftover baked potatoes is on the stove. Whip out a frying pan with a lid, add a generous glug of olive oil, and preheat over medium-high heat until the oil starts to glisten and shimmer in the pan. Place the potatoes cut-side down in the pan and cover with the lid. After 3-4 minutes, flip them over and repeat.
In summer, you can simply place the baked potatoes on the hot grill. Close the lid, wait for 5 minutes, then flip them over and repeat until they’re ready to remove from the heat and send to the table.
Regardless of which reheating method you choose, you can use a sharp knife to check that they are warm through and through. The knife should slide right in and come out steaming hot when you pull it out of the potato.
One of the biggest questions people have when it comes to storing baked potatoes is, can they be left out overnight?
The answer is a clear and resounding “no.” Baked potatoes, like all cooked foods, can only be kept at room temperature for 1-2 hours before disease-causing bacteria grow to dangerous levels on the surface and make them potentially unsafe to eat.
So cool and store the leftovers in the fridge, where they’ll keep for 3-4 days as we discussed. For long-term storage, put them in the freezer and eat them up within 3 months.