Here's How Long It's Still Safe To Eat Leftover Pizza

Pizza is one of those incredible foods that is appropriate for any meal. The cheesy pie is suitable for family dinners, school lunches, and is often the choice of a college student's breakfast. An easy selection for kids parties and for entertaining house guests, with many toppings to choose from, pizza can satisfy nearly everyone's taste buds. Being left with extra slices makes late-night snacking and future meals a no-brainer.

Another mentionable pizza perk is the familiar cardboard box it is delivered in. Everyone can appreciate eliminating another dish to be washed. It is effortless to leave the leftovers in its original packaging, on the counter for late-night noshing, or thrown in the refrigerator for the future. 

But how far into the future is too far? How long is too long to leave your pizza out? While some believe pizza is the food that never spoils, science does not agree.

When in doubt, throw it out

According to Meredith Carothers, a specialist at the USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service (via Eat This, Not That!), "All cooked foods and leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days." As for pizza that has been left in its box on the counter, Business Insider gives us the scoop. Food sitting out for more than two hours should be thrown away as it has entered the "danger zone" (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit). This is when foodborne bacteria grows quickly and can even double every 20 minutes. 

Eat This, Not That! also suggests the box the pizza comes in may not be a perk after all. The safest way to store your leftovers is in an airtight container or bag, which helps keep bacteria from growing on your food. 

The USDA guide Cold Pizza For Breakfast says 76 million people become sick with foodborne illnesses every year and it only takes 10 bacteria — one tiny bite — to make you sick. That's some strong bacteria! 

Don't worry though, leftover pizza can still be enjoyed. Get rid of the cardboard box. Ensure the pizza is properly sealed and refrigerated before entering the "danger zone." It is safe to consume for up to four days, and if you're the forgetful type, label an expiration date on it. And remember, when in doubt, throw it out!