April 12, 2024

How Long Can Rice Sit Out?

People don’t usually think about rice when considering the possibility of food poisoning, but that doesn’t mean rice is 100 percent free from danger. So, how long can rice sit out? If you leave rice out for more than two hours after cooking, it could lead to cramping, diarrhea, and other symptoms of food poisoning.

white rice in bowl
  • Cooked rice should not remain at room temperature for more than two hours to prevent bacterial growth and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
  • Promptly refrigerate leftover rice to maintain its freshness and safety, especially if it won’t be consumed immediately.
  • Reheating rice thoroughly before consumption can help kill any bacteria that may have developed during storage, ensuring it’s safe to eat.

Rice is a popular ingredient that people often cook in bulk, so it is critical to understand how to store it safely. To help keep your family safe, you should also understand how long rice can sit out, how to reheat it safely, and when to throw away leftovers containing rice.

If you become sick because someone served you contaminated rice, Keep Food Safe can connect you with an experienced food poisoning lawyer to discuss the possibility of pursuing compensation through a food poisoning lawsuit. Read on to learn more.

How Can Leftover Rice Make You Sick?

Bacillus cereus is a bacteria that forms spores on rice, pasta, and other foods. It is usually harmless in small numbers. However, if you leave food containing the bacteria at room temperature for too long, the spores multiply quickly and release toxins.

Unlike most other bacteria and contaminants that lead to food poisoning, Bacillus cereus toxins are heat-resistant. They also survive the digestive process and can even grow within the intestines.

Other Ways You Can Get Food Poisoning From Rice

Other bacteria and viruses that cause food poisoning can also transfer to rice due to poor handwashing practices, using tainted utensils on rice, or placing contaminated foods next to rice. Common pathogens that cause food poisoning include:

Fried Rice Syndrome

Fried Rice Syndrome” refers to food poisoning caused by Bacillus cereus because reheated rice is often the culprit. However, the name is a bit misleading, as this bacteria also thrives on other starchy foods, such as pasta. It can also be found in meats, vegetables, and other foods.

Room-temperature rice and pasta are particularly good breeding grounds for bacteria because they provide abundant surface area and nutrients for spores to grow and release toxins. Bacteria also thrive in the moist, warm atmosphere found in bowls and containers used to serve rice and pasta.

It is difficult to gauge the number of cases of “Fried Rice Syndrome” annually, as its symptoms resemble the flu. For example, people who contract this sickness may experience fevers, severe vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, and dehydration.

If you experience dehydration, diarrhea lasting more than two or three days, or a fever over 100.4 °F, seek prompt medical attention. These are signs of a more severe case of food poisoning. While ill, avoid close social contact and preparing food for others.

How To Store Cooked Rice Properly

Never store rice while it is hot. Once cooked rice is cooled to near room temperature, seal it and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. If you have significant amounts of leftover rice, separate it into shallow containers rather than larger ones so it cools faster. Instruct your family to promptly put it back in the fridge after removing portions, especially if you have children who are more likely to leave food out.

How Long Can Cooked Rice Sit Out?

Be mindful of the food temperature “danger zone” when eating all foods. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40–140 °F. At these temperatures, bacteria can double in as little as 20 minutes, increasing the risk of Bacillus cereus contamination and other foodborne pathogens.

Further, do not store cooked rice if it has been out for more than two hours. If the air temperature is 90 °F or higher, do not leave it out for more than one hour. If the rice has been out too long, toss it. Do not store it.

How Long Can Rice Stay in the Fridge?

Never eat rice left out overnight or that wasn’t sealed properly. Cooked rice can stay in the refrigerator for three to four days in a properly sealed container. Before storing it, transfer the rice from takeout containers to something with a tight seal. You can safely freeze rice for one to two months.

Remember to consider cooked rice when deciding how to handle refrigerated food during a power outage. Your refrigerator will stay cold for a few hours while closed. You can also transfer food to a cooler or add dry ice to your fridge. However, throw out anything that is not 40 °F or colder when you take it out.

How To Reheat Rice Properly

When you reheat rice, bring it up to 165 °F and eat it immediately. Do not reheat it more than once. Before you eat rice in a restaurant, consider asking about their cooking, storing, and reheating process.

Restaurants that serve lots of rice may cook it in bulk. If workers leave it out in a hot kitchen (above 90 °F) for more than an hour, it may already contain enough Bacillus cereus and other pathogens to make you ill. Also, be careful of rice at buffets or catered events, especially when left at room temperature.

If you have cooked rice delivered to your home, throwing out leftovers is safer than reheating. You cannot tell if the restaurant cooked the rice in bulk and reheated it before having it delivered to you.

How To Tell if Cooked Rice Has Gone Bad

Do not eat cooked rice that shows signs of spoilage. If it is hard and dry, has a foul scent, or shows signs of mold, do not eat it. As with any other food you are unsure of, “When in doubt, throw it out.” Remember, you cannot safely eat most foods just by removing moldy portions.

How Long Can Uncooked Rice Sit Out?

How long you can store uncooked rice depends on the type of rice. If you seal its container correctly, uncooked white rice lasts almost indefinitely. Store it in an airtight container to reduce moisture and keep out bugs and rodents.

Though the same storage rules apply, brown rice only lasts about six months because it contains oils that cause it to spoil faster. If you remove rice from its original packaging, mark your containers with the date so you know when to discard it. If you want uncooked brown rice to last longer, store it in the refrigerator or freezer.

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