How Long Can Chili Sit After You Make It?

Chili, with its tantalizing blend of spices and hearty ingredients, is a favorite comfort food for many. But as delicious as it is, it’s essential to handle and store it properly to ensure both safety and taste. In this article, we’ll explore the recommended timeframes for leaving chili at room temperature after cooking, how to store it correctly, and the best methods for reheating it without compromising on its rich flavors.

how long can chili sit out

The Safe Timeframe for Leaving Cooked Chili at Room Temperature

The USDA Guidelines

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), cooked chili should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours. Beyond this time frame, the risk of harmful bacteria multiplying increases significantly. To avoid any potential health hazards, it’s crucial to adhere to this guideline.

Keeping Chili Hot on the Stove or in a Slow Cooker

However, there is an exception to the four-hour rule. If you intend to keep your chili hot on the stove or in a slow cooker, you can extend the safe time frame to up to six hours. The heat from the stove or slow cooker will prevent bacterial growth and maintain the chili at a safe temperature.

The Importance of Temperature

Heating Chili to the Right Temperature

Before serving chili, it’s essential to ensure it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). This temperature is crucial to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present in the food.

Preventing Bacterial Growth

Bacterial growth can occur rapidly in food that is left at room temperature, especially in the “danger zone” of temperatures between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C). By adhering to the recommended guidelines for cooling and storing chili, you can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and keep your chili safe to consume.

Storing Chili Properly

Allowing the Chili to Cool Down

After cooking, it’s essential to let the chili cool down for approximately 20 minutes before transferring it to storage containers. This step helps to avoid condensation, which can contribute to the growth of bacteria during storage.

Airtight Containers and Freezer Bags

For proper storage, use airtight containers or freezer bags. These containers will help preserve the flavor and prevent the chili from absorbing other odors in the refrigerator or freezer.

Chili Storage Duration

Refrigerator Timeframe

Chili can be safely stored in the refrigerator for three to four days. Beyond this period, its quality may deteriorate, and it may become unsafe to consume.

Freezer Timeframe

If you wish to store chili for an extended period, the freezer is your best option. Chili can be stored in the freezer for up to three months without compromising its taste or safety.

The Correct Method for Reheating Chili

Thawing Frozen Chili

When reheating frozen chili, it’s best to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Slow thawing in the refrigerator ensures that the chili maintains its taste and texture.

Stovetop or Microwave Heating

Once thawed, you can reheat the chili on the stovetop or in the microwave until it boils. Ensure that the chili reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before serving.


In conclusion, enjoying a hearty bowl of chili can be a delightful experience, but it’s crucial to handle and store it properly. Following the USDA guidelines, make sure not to leave cooked chili at room temperature for more than two hours. If you plan to keep it hot, extend the time frame to six hours. Always heat chili to at least 165°F (74°C) before serving to prevent any bacterial growth.

Proper storage is also vital to maintaining chili’s quality and safety. Let the chili cool down before storing it in airtight containers or freezer bags. In the refrigerator, chili is safe to consume for three to four days, while in the freezer, it can be stored for up to three months.


Can I leave chili out at room temperature for more than four hours if it still smells okay?

It is not recommended to consume chili left at room temperature for more than four hours, even if it still smells fine. Harmful bacteria may not always alter the smell or taste of the food.

Can I store chili in the refrigerator for more than four days?

While it may still be safe to consume, it’s best to consume refrigerated chili within three to four days to ensure its taste and quality.

Can I freeze chili multiple times?

It’s not advisable to refreeze chili once it has been thawed. Each thawing and refreezing can affect the quality and safety of the chili.

Can I reheat frozen chili directly in the microwave?

It’s best to thaw frozen chili in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Can I double the recipe and freeze the extra chili for later use?

Absolutely! Doubling the recipe and freezing the extra chili can save time and provide a convenient meal option for later.

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