Chili is a perishable food and should never be consumed after being left out all night. Even if chili left out for a long period still smells fine, leaving it in the temperature danger zone for over two hours allows bacteria to grow to levels that can make you quite ill. Take care to always properly store leftover chili after making it so that you are able to enjoy the leftovers for days to come.
Chili Storage Basics
Chili must be held at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter to prevent spoilage. Once you are done serving chili, it is important to cool it quickly to prevent any bacterial growth. Place leftover chili in a shallow dish or dishes and place it in the refrigerator to quickly cool it. If any chili is left out for over two hours at room temperature it should be discarded. If the room temperature is over 90 F, chili must be stored within one hour. Use the leftover chili within four days.
Chili Danger Zone
Chili is a highly perishable product because of the meat and beans. For this reason it must never spend more than two hours in the danger zone between 40 F and 140 F. If serving chili in a buffet or similar setting, care must be taken to ensure that the temperature remains above 140 F by using a kitchen thermometer and some sort of warming dish such as a slow cooker or chafing dish to keep the temperature constant.
Long Term Storage
If you do not plan on eating your leftover chili within four days, consider freezing it for long term storage. Within two hours of lowering the temperature of your chili below 140 F, place it in a shallow container that is freezer safe, being sure to allow some room in the container for expansion as the chili freezes. Frozen chili can be stored in the freezer for two to three months with no affect on its quality.
Reheat leftover chili on the stove or in the microwave. When reheating, ensure that the chili heats uniformly. On the stove, stir chili occasionally as you bring the temperature up and use a kitchen thermometer to ensure the chili temperature reaches 140 F or above. In the microwave, rotate your dish so that the chili is heated throughout and stir several times throughout the process. Check the temperature of your chili before serving to ensure its safety.
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Based in Portland, Ore., Maxine Wallace is a writer with more than 12 years of experience. With a bachelor's degree in journalism and experience working on marketing campaigns for large media agencies, she is well-versed in multiple industries including the Internet, cooking, gardening, health, fitness, travel and holistic living.