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Cupcake's avatar

Would you eat meatballs that were left out overnight?

Asked by Cupcake (11956 points ) April 16th, 2012

Here’s the process:

- mixed raw ingredients
– baked in oven
– simmered in slow cooker in tomato sauce for hours
– slow cooker was turned off around 9pm last night
– they were still on the counter this morning.

Would you eat them? It’s such a painful waste to throw them away.

If you’d eat them… what would you do now? Put them in the fridge? Heat them back up?

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35 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

What would I do? I’d eat them. No way would I waste that food.
I figure they were baked in the oven, then simmered in acidic tomato sauce for hours. The cover remained closed. Think of it like buying canned meat sauce.
Whether to freeze it or not is up to you. What were your plans for it? If it would make you feel better you can eat some for lunch and see how you feel. You will be fine. Then serve it for dinner.
Heck, I’ll eat it for you if you’re afraid! ;-)

elbanditoroso's avatar

99.9% chance they are fine.

I would be more worried about mice walking through the kitchen than that food being out overnight.

Question: Were they covered in the slow cooker?

Cupcake's avatar

I actually cracked the cover open last night so that they could cool a bit before putting them in the fridge (which obviously never happened).

@LuckyGuy come on over a couple of hours before dinner time… :)

elbanditoroso's avatar

@Cupcake – if they were mostly covered, they’re fine. My experience is that sometimes they taste better the second day.

Keep_on_running's avatar

It’s highly unlikely you will get ill. I wouldn’t eat them though because I’m a bit paranoid about leaving food out for long periods of time. I just don’t like the thought of bacteria doubling every hour, or something like that. Perhaps the acid in the tomatoes and salt in the meatballs is enough to preserve them a little bit.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Absolutely! I’ll be right over!
Like @elbanditoroso said, they taste even better the second day.

GoldieAV16's avatar

I think they are probably fine, but I wouldn’t eat them. Even if the chances that they incubated harmful bacteria are very small, and that reheating them to a high temperature for a sufficiently long period of time would kill any bacteria anyway? It’s not worth even a slight risk of food poisoning.

FluffyChicken's avatar

I sure would.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I will eat food that has been left out for 2–3 hours, but not if it’s been left out overnight. I doubt they will actually make anyone sick, but I personally wouldn’t risk it.

Cupcake's avatar

@GoldieAV16 You haven’t had my husband’s meatballs. wait, that didn’t sound right…

JLeslie's avatar

I wouldn’t most likely. If it was winter time I might because my kitchen area gets down to almost 60 degrees at night, but in the summer it is around 78, and I probably would not risk it, but I tend to be very very paranoid about food illness. Probably nothing is like to happen, maybe if you heat them well it kills off anything that might have been a problem. I think it is something like 75–120 degrees is the temp bacteria multiplies the best, and I figure those meatballs were at those temps for hours. However, the original cooking process had probably killed off most everything, so there would not be much to be dividing and multiplying right away, it would need exposer to the air for a while I think to be a problem.

People eat meat covered pizza the next day cold while the box sat out all night, this can’t be much different.

I’m not a scientist, that information above is just out of my paranoid memory on the topic.

marinelife's avatar

I would eat them that next day. I would put them in the fridge as soon as I noticed them.

jrpowell's avatar

I just ate some lasagna I made around seven hours ago that sat uncovered in my room. I do it all the time and have never gotten sick from it.

YoKoolAid's avatar

I think you’re in the clear, I’ve eaten food in similar and much worse scenarios. Show those balls whose boss.

jca's avatar

I would. I am pretty brave about eating stuff like that. The only times I’ve ever experienced illnesses related to food has been restaurant food. I used to have a boyfriend who would make eggplant parm, leave it uncovered in the oven and eat it for a few days, and he was always fine.

ccrow's avatar

I would bring them back to a boil and simmer them for awhile; then, yes, I’d eat ‘em.

Hain_roo's avatar

I agree with @ccrow. I knew a guy who would make a big pot of soup and leave it on the stove for days, reheating nightly until it was gone. He never got sick.

Keep_on_running's avatar

@Hain_roo Even cabbage soup? Eww…

Sunny2's avatar

I eat things I’ve left out on the counter overnight and not gotten sick. I’d be concerned if it contained mostly eggs and milk, but that doesn’t include meatballs. I’d re-heat them to boiling point and then cool them before freezing. (And don’t leave them on the counter all night again.)

Hain_roo's avatar

@Keep_on_running Eeeuu is right, I did not partake. He never made cabbage soup to my knowledge.

Keep_on_running's avatar

@Hain_roo Phew. Because I left some out one night and did not want to touch it with a ten foot pole after lifting the lid.

YARNLADY's avatar

I would eat them.

rooeytoo's avatar

I belong to the paranoid club, I wouldn’t take the chance. I would rather feed it to the birds or put it in the compost. Despite what my mother told me, I don’t think my eating it would help the starving children in China.

wildpotato's avatar

Nope. I would have before last year, but I had this chat with a friend who works for Kraft growing and researching food bacteria cultures to develop new preservatives. He actually grimaced at the thought of eating pizza that had been left out overnight – something I used to do a lot – and said he would never do that because of the bacterial growth. Nowadays I’ll try to eat food accidentally left out and be unable to, thinking back on that conversation.

bewailknot's avatar

I would reheat and eat. I lived for several months without a refrigerator and got a feel for what I could and couldn’t do. Cooked meat – reheat every day, keep only 2 or 3 days, less in hot weather. Never had food poisoning, but I was probably lucky. Always drank the milk right after I bought it.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

How cool was the house overnight? Me, I’d heat and eat them.

jca's avatar

Just because food has bacteria on it doesn’t mean it’s going to make you sick.

wildpotato's avatar

@jca No, but it does mean that it could. It may be a very small percentage of the time, but it does happen. Ever read an article or see a news clip about how E. coli is on most things around you, all the time? I remember one with Anderson Cooper and his smartphone. And here’s a more in-depth article.

This is not to say I think there is probably E. coli on the meatballs – I’d peg it at a smaller than average likelihood, because people usually wash their hands before cooking and because the meatballs were heated.

wilma's avatar

Years ago I had a pretty bad bout of food poisoning. Because of that I wouldn’t take the chance.
I lost eleven ponds in one night and I only weighed 125 pounds to begin with.
It was horrible and I never want to go through that again.
Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

JLeslie's avatar

@wildpotato Yeah, but those meatballs are not likely to have e. coli, they have been cooked to death. Not unless the OP has been very unclean in her handling of the meatballs since they were cooked. Don’t get me wrong, I am one of the more paranoid people, but the bacterias you reference probably won’t be the problem from being out overnight unless they are floating through the air. Or, if she mixed the meatballs as they were cooling and the spoon was contaminated.

Which brings me to remind people, wash your hands before unloading your dishwasher.

wildpotato's avatar

@JLeslie I edited in my second paragraph as you were writing, I think. Wanted to make it clearer I was responding to jca, and to not freak out the OP! Thanks for the dishwasher tip; that’s one that never occurred to me before.

JLeslie's avatar

@wildpotato Yes, you must have been editing. No problem :).

Cupcake's avatar

I thought washing your hands before handling clean dishes was a given

We ate them. They weren’t as good as usual (I think this was more related to them being slightly overcooked than anything to do with them being left out). I had my husband quarter the meatballs and boil the heck out of them in extra tomato sauce and we ate them in sandwiches. It was way too hot last night to enjoy possibly dangerous hot sandwiches with overcooked meatballs. :(

No one got sick, but I don’t think they were worth it.

Hain_roo's avatar

@Keep_on_running Freshly cooked cabbage smells awful all by itself! I remember my mom making ‘boiled dinner’—shear nastiness.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Cupcake – That’s one reason I wouldn’t have eaten them. First I would have talked myself into getting salmonella and was probably going to expire any minute, then I would have had to talk myself out of having salmonella and it was all just my imagination. It would have been an exhausting experience, so the birds would have been eating meatballs.

Glad you survived!

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