How Long Can You Leave Out Soup?

By Shana Bitterman

In our busy day-to-day, it's easy to get carried away and leave a meal on the counter for a while, but when that meal is soup, it's tricky to tell whether or not it's still good. And depending on how long it took to assemble (as well as how delicious it looks), it might be tempting to re-heat your bowl and go to town. But when is it too risky to dive into that forgotten soup?

Squash Soup
credit: Fudio/iStock/Getty Images
Bowl of hot squash soup out on counter

Food Safety First

When it comes to food safety, disease-causing bacteria is the biggest culprit, multiplying quickly in the "Danger Zone" between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If cooked food, including soup, can't be kept at 140 degrees or higher, you must cool it quickly to room temperature and refrigerate or freeze within two hours. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends throwing out any food that's left at room temperature for more than two hours, and after one hour if the room is above 90 degrees.

Special Considerations for Soups

Because of their volume, divide soups into smaller quantities for quicker cooling and refrigerate as soon as possible. The refrigerator should be at a temperature of 40 degrees or below. Store soups no longer than four days in the refrigerator or three months in the freezer.