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Can Chili Be Left Out Overnight?

Ever found yourself wondering what to do with that leftover chili on your stove? Should it stay or should it go to the fridge?

Well, there you are!

You’ve just cooked up a pot of chili, the aroma wafting through your home, triggering the “yum” factor in everyone who’s near enough to smell it.

After dinner, you find yourself with a significant amount left—enough to feed an army… or at least a few hungry mouths the next day. The question now looms large: “What next? Do I leave it out on the stove, nicely covered, or do I chill and pop it in the fridge?”

Can You Leave Chili Out Overnight?

So, what’s the verdict? Is it okay to leave chili out overnight?

Don’t leave chili to sit out overnight. When cooked food is left out for more than 2 hours (only 1 hour on hot days when it’s 90°F and above), harmful bacteria can grow to dangerous levels and make the food unsafe to eat.

If you’ve made more chili than you can eat in one sitting, make sure to cool it down and refrigerate it right after cooking. Leftovers should also be refrigerated within 1-2 hours after they’ve been removed from the fridge to keep bacterial growth at bay.

How Long Is Chili Good For?

Chili left out at room temperature is safe to eat for 1-2 hours. Refrigerated chili keeps for 3-4 days, and frozen chili keeps its best quality for 3-4 months.

Don’t keep your chili for longer than the recommended time, or it may lose its appeal or become unsafe to eat. And always reheat any leftovers thoroughly—until they are steaming hot—before serving them.

When Left Out

Chili is safe to leave out at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.

As a rule of thumb, the warmer the weather, the shorter the time window. Once you’ve cooked chili or reheated leftovers, it’s best to serve and eat it promptly. Any remaining chili should be chilled and refrigerated.

When Refrigerated

In the fridge, chili can be kept safely for 3 to 4 days. To ensure proper storage, refrigerate your chili in airtight food storage containers at or below a temperature of 40°F (4.4°C).

Discard any chili that’s sat in your fridge for longer than this time window. The bacteria that can cause food poisoning don’t always have a noticeable smell or taste. So, even if your chili looks, smells, and tastes fine, it could still lead to food poisoning if not handled properly.

When Frozen

When you freeze chili at 0°F (-18°C), it essentially puts bacteria on pause, and the chili stays safe to eat forever. However, the quality of frozen chili is not preserved indefinitely.

Over time, the aroma, flavor, and texture of chili will start to degrade. So, while frozen chili may be safe to eat for a long time, it’s important to consider that its quality will decline over time. For best quality, consume frozen chili leftovers within 3 to 4 months from the date of freezing.

How to Refrigerate Cooked Chili

To keep your cooked chili tasting its best and maintain its quality, it’s important to know how to cool it. Simply moving your chili from the stovetop to the fridge may not be the most effective way, as you might be surprised to learn.

To speed up the cooling, divide your chili into smaller, shallow containers. This allows for increased surface area, which, in turn, makes the chili cool faster. Place these containers in a sink filled with ice water. Stir the chili occasionally to promote even cooling. Make sure to keep a close eye on it and ensure that no water from the sink enters the containers.

Once the chili is cool enough, remove the containers from the sink, seal them tightly, and refrigerate them promptly. This process ensures that your chili is cooled as quickly as possible to a safe temperature, keeping the home-cooked dish not only delicious but also safe to eat for days to come.

How to Freeze Cooked Chili

If you want to enjoy your chili for longer than the recommended 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, freezing is your best option. Freezing can preserve the quality of your chili for several months, so you can enjoy it on those cold nights when nothing beats a hot bowl of this hearty dish.

Before freezing, ensure your chili is thoroughly cooled. As previously mentioned, dividing it into smaller, shallow containers and using a cold water bath can expedite this process. Never place hot chili directly into your freezer; it can lower the overall temperature of your freezer, affecting the other stored items.

Store your chili in airtight, freezer-safe containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. Make sure to squeeze out any excess air from bags before sealing to prevent freezer burn, which can negatively affect flavor and texture.

Don’t forget to label and date your containers or bags. This way, you can keep track of how long your chili has been frozen and ensure you consume it within the optimal time frame for the best quality—typically within 3 to 4 months.

When you’re ready to enjoy your frozen chili, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. If you’re in a rush, you can use the defrost function on your microwave, but be sure to stir it frequently for even thawing. Once thawed, reheat your chili thoroughly before serving.

Bottom Line

There you have it—a guide on handling your delicious homemade chili.

We’ve tackled the question, “Can chili be left out overnight?” and provided practical guidelines on how to properly cool, refrigerate, and freeze your chili for maximum flavor, texture, and safety.

The key takeaway here is that food safety should never be compromised, no matter how heavenly that pot of chili smells or how eager you are to enjoy it again the next day. Whether it’s dealing with leftovers or preparing for the next meal, proper food handling and storage are integral to maintaining the integrity and safety of your food.

So, the next time you find yourself staring at that steaming pot of leftover chili, remember: cool it quickly, refrigerate promptly, and freeze if you want to extend its shelf life. By doing so, you’re not only ensuring a safe and delicious meal but also extending the enjoyment of your home-cooked chili dish.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.