Can You Leave Food In The Microwave Overnight? (Answered)

Categorized as Microwave Nutrition
can you leave foods in the microwave overnight

Hey there foodies! Have you ever found yourself in a late-night snacking situation and decided to microwave some leftovers from dinner? But then you got distracted and forgot to take it out before heading off to bed? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. But the burning question remains: can you leave food in the microwave overnight? Is it safe to eat the next day?

In this article, we’ll explore this common question and give you some practical tips on how to handle your midnight munchies in the safest and most delicious way possible. So, let’s dive in!

Can You Leave Food In The Microwave Overnight? 

Leaving food in the microwave overnight is not safe according to USDA as bacteria can grow on food left at room temperature for more than two hours. Even reheating food in the microwave may not kill all the bacteria present and can cause food poisoning. Therefore, it is recommended to store perishable foods in the refrigerator and reheat them before consuming.

Ensuring your food is handled and stored correctly is crucial if you want to keep harmful bacteria at bay. Simply tossing your food in the fridge and hoping for the best won’t cut it.

To prevent any unwelcome growth, you need to make sure your fridge temperature is set below 40°F (4°C). And when it comes time to reheat your food, be sure to heat it to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to give those sneaky bacteria the boot.

By adopting these simple food safety practices, you can greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and enjoy your meals without any worries. Don’t let those pesky bacteria get the best of you! Take control of your food storage and handling to stay healthy, happy, and worry-free.

The Danger of Leaving food in the Microwave Overnight

The USDA says that food that has been left out of the fridge for more than two hours should be thrown away.

That’s because bacteria can start to grow on food that is the temperature between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (room temperature) and reheating will not always kill all of the bacteria present just reduce their rate of growth.

So even if you reheat your food in the microwave until it’s piping hot, there’s a chance that some bacteria will survive and make you sick.

You Might Be Exposed to Foodborne Illness

Bacteria that grow on food can cause foodborne illness. Foodborne illness is a term used to describe illnesses that are caused by eating contaminated food.

There are many different types of foodborne illnesses, but the most common ones are caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter.

These bacteria can cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. In some cases, food poisoning can lead to serious complications, such as dehydration, kidney failure, and even death.

Foodborne illness is no joke. According to the CDC, foodborne illnesses are a serious problem in the United States.

Every year, an estimated 48 million people get sick from contaminated food, and 128,000 are hospitalized. In addition, 3,000 people die from foodborne diseases each year.

This is why it’s so important to practice food safety and to make sure that food is stored properly.

Some Simple Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illness

There are a few simple rules to follow when it comes to preventing foodborne illness.

First, always make sure to wash your hands before you prepare food. This will help to reduce the risk of contamination.

Next, be sure to cook food thoroughly. This is especially important for meat and poultry.

Finally, be sure to store food properly. This means keeping food that needs to be refrigerated in the fridge and food that needs to be frozen in the freezer.

It’s also important to keep food covered and not leave it out at room temperature for more than two hours.

But Some Foods Are Ok To Leave In The Microwave Overnight

Although it may be contradictory to what we just discussed above, the truth is that there are some types of foods that don’t need to be refrigerated and are actually safe to leave them out for a while.

These foods include:

1. Bread

Many people store their bread in the refrigerator, thinking that it will stay fresh longer. However, this is actually a myth. Bread kept in the fridge actually goes stale faster when stored in the fridge. The cooler temperatures dry out the bread, causing it to become hard and crumbly.

So if you want your bread to stay fresh, don’t put it in the fridge. Keep it in a cool, dry place, and it will be delicious for days. On the counter is usually the best place for bread if you’re planning on eating it within a few days but if you want it to last longer, pop it in the freezer where it will stay good for months.

Freezing bread helps to preserve its flavor and texture, and it can be stored for up to six months. Bread can be frozen either whole or in individual slices, and it can be thawed quickly by placing it in the oven or microwave.

2. Fruit Pies

Pies are a delicious dessert that can be enjoyed all year round. While most pies contain some type of fruit filling, there are many different variations, including cream pies, meringue pies, and savory pies.

Out of all the different types of pies, many people are surprised to learn that fruit pies can be safely left at room temperature for up to two days as long as they are properly covered. After two days, you can extend their shelf life by storing them in the fridge for another two days.

Custard, cream, and egg-based pies should always be kept refrigerated, as these ingredients are more prone to spoilage.

3. Pasteurized, Salted Butter

Butter is a popular staple in many kitchens, but it can be tricky to store. If the butter is left out at room temperature, it will quickly become rancid and unusable.

However, this only applies to homemade, unpasteurized butter. Once the butter has been pasteurized and salted, it can safely be stored at room temperature for up to 10 days.

This is because the high-fat content of butter acts as a natural preservative. The salt also helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria.

As long as the butter is repackaged in a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, it will remain fresh and flavorful for several days.

4. Condiments

While some condiments, like ketchup and mustard, need to be refrigerated, others, like soy sauce, vinegar-based hot sauces, and honey, don’t need to be refrigerated at all.

Soy sauce, in particular, has a very high salt content which acts as a preservative, so it can safely be stored at room temperature. The same is true for vinegar-based hot sauces.

Honey, on the other hand, is a natural antimicrobial food, which means it contains substances that inhibit the growth of bacteria. For this reason, honey doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can actually stay fresh for years when stored properly.

5. Uncut, Raw Fruits

Most of us are used to keeping our fruit in the fridge, but did you know that there are a number of uncut, raw fruits that can be kept out of the refrigerator?

This includes bananas, grapefruit, lemons, limes, mangoes, oranges, papaya, pineapple, pomegranates, watermelon, and apples. The key is to keep them out of direct sunlight and to store them in a cool, dry place.

After seven days, you should move your apple avocados, peaches, plums, nectarines, and kiwi to the fridge to keep them fresh.

If you cut or cook any of the aforementioned fruits, they should be immediately stored in the fridge to avoid bacterial growth no matter what type of fruit it is.


Leaving food in the microwave overnight is not recommended since harmful bacteria can develop on food left at room temperature for more than two hours. Consuming contaminated food can lead to severe and fatal foodborne illnesses. 

To prevent these illnesses, it is crucial to follow simple guidelines such as washing hands before handling food, cooking food thoroughly, and storing food appropriately. While most foods require refrigeration, some food items, including bread, fruit pies, pasteurized salted butter, condiments, and uncut, raw fruits, can be safely kept at room temperature. 

Practicing food safety measures is essential to avoid foodborne illnesses and savor delicious and healthy meals.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!