Can I eat chicken soup that has been left out overnight?

by Ceejay

If you’ve ever left soup in a plate or pot overnight and wondered if it’ll get you sick if you ate it, you’re not alone.

Some have even wondered what would happen if they left the soup out (accidentally or intentionally) overnight, and then decided to reheat it in a bid to salvage the situation.

Could it work? Would it be safe, would it affect the taste? Can I eat chicken soup that has been left out overnight?

I can understand the people who leave their soup out overnight by accident, anything can happen, but I was quite surprised to know that there are actually people who choose to leave their soup out overnight, on purpose.

Turns out the rationale behind such thinking is that, since it’s going to be boiled eventually, any residing bacteria and harmful microbes would have been long destroyed. There’s actually some sense in that, and as a matter of fact, the logic applies to E.Coli and Salmonella; these kinds of bacteria cannot stand the heat of boiling.

However, there are much more resilient types of bacteria out there, like the type that causes botulism— that type of bacteria can withstand really high temperatures and could even survive boiling.

Once the soup cools down, the spores that were inactive (in an attempt to survive the boiling process) will become active and spread quickly.

See also: How to handle your depression and deal with stress with good ol garden therapy 

If you boil the soup or stock for one minute, you’ll end up killing any active bacteria, apart from the botulism toxin. However, if you extend it for a period of 10 minutes, you’ll end up rendering the botulism toxin inactive.

Okay, I’m digressing, big time

Can I eat chicken soup that has been left out overnight

Can I eat chicken soup that’s been left out overnight? In theory, you should be able to eat chicken soup that’s been left out overnight, as long as you boil it thoroughly and either eat it immediately or refrigerate it.

Surprisingly, in theory (again), if it’s been left out for a day, a thorough boiling will render it safe to eat, however, the taste will be badly affected.

This is because soup, after a day, has been heavily infested with dangerous bacteria which would have successfully broken down the sugars, made the fats very stale, as well as eaten up the savory amino acids.

Your soup will be littered with the “corpses” of millions (even billions) of dead bacteria and other harmful microbes. That cannot be good for it’s taste at all.

What of in reality?

All I mentioned above are what should be expected on paper, however, reality can get very unpredictable, most especially if we’re dealing with living things like bacteria.

The United States department of agriculture (USDA) and the food and drugs administration (FDA) know this, which is why they expressly advised that soup or stew that has been left out overnight should be discarded. This is because, even though you kill the bacteria themselves, they would have already made toxins, some of which can’t be destroyed by heat.

You could go ahead and take the risk by reheating before eating, you could get lucky. But I heavily discourage you doing that.

It might shock you to hear all this, considering the fact that you eat soup left out for hours all the time without getting sick, I get it, I do too.

But here’s the thing: bacteria produces toxins, and while most bacteria can easily be destroyed by heat, there are some toxins that can withstand it just fine.

If the bacteria in the soup has already produced the toxin, and that toxin happens to be one of the toxins that can withstand heat, the bacteria will die but the toxin will still stand.

It’s kind of like a lottery system. This is why according to the FDA, there are over 48 million cases of food-borne diseases each year in the United States alone. Don’t you think some of them reheated the soup too? This is why I called the whole thing a risk.

Can I leave my chicken soup in the crock pot overnight?

If your soup is being constantly heated at a temperature above 140⁰F, you can be able to eat it. Why 140⁰F? Well, temperatures between 40⁰F and 140⁰F are known as the sweet spot for the growth and multiplication of bacteria.

If you leave your soup overnight in that temperature, the bacteria inside it will multiply very rapidly. So if you want to leave your soup in the crock pot, be sure to not turn it off to prevent the soup from cooling down to that temperature.

But what if I put it in the refrigerator or freezer? Can I reheat?

The idea is to either make it too hot or too cold for the bacteria to thrive, leaving the temperature in between is a big no.

If you’re going to refrigerate, do not leave the soup out for up to two hours before later stuffing it in the fridge, the whole purpose would have been defeated.

What if the soup dosen’t have anything to do with meat or milk?

The mindset behind that is due to the fact that meat and milk tends to spoil very quickly. However, whether or not the soup contains meat or milk doesn’t affect how it should be treated.

Even if it’s tomato soup or vegetable stew, If it was left out overnight, throw it out.

How can I tell if my soup is bad already?

One common mistake most people make when finding out if their soup is bad is depending entirely on their sense of smell.

Most people either look out for physical signs of spoilage or hold the pot of soup close to their nose to try and detect any sign of rancidity.

That’s not a bad method at all, and if you end up seeing or smelling any sign of spoilage, you’re advised to toss it out. However, you shouldn’t totally depend on your senses, this has been further explained by a statement the FDA released:

“You may be surprised to learn that food can make you very sick even when it doesn’t look, smell, or taste spoiled. That’s because foodborne illnesses are caused by pathogenic bacteria, which are different from the spoilage bacteria that make foods go bad.”

The best way to know if it’s bad is by judging just how long the soup was left out in the “sweet spot” (40⁰F to 140⁰F) after being cooked.

Also, if it’s been in the refrigerator for 5 days, it should be thrown out.

How long will chicken soup last in the freezer?

If it’s properly stored in the freezer and the freezing is at a constant level, that is, without serious interruptions, it should remain in good quality for up to 5 months. It has to be kept at 0⁰F constantly though.

Do I need to cool hot chicken soup before I refrigerate?

You don’t need to cool it down before you refrigerate it, you can stuff it in the refrigerator or freezer while it’s still hot. However, if you’re going to do that, be sure to serve up the soup in different smaller plates to make it easier for them to be refrigerated or frozen.

Does rapid and sudden temperature changes affect food? (chicken soup in this case)

No, a sudden temperature change will not in anyway affect your chicken soup, which is why I earlier stated that it’s safe to just stuff it in the refrigerator or freezer without waiting for it to cool down. However, you should be worried about the container it’s stored in, there are some vessels that cannot withstand sudden changes in temperature.

What happens if I eat chicken soup that has gone bad?

Eating chicken soup that has already gone bad could give you staph food poisoning. This would make you have stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and constant vomiting.

If you’re unlucky enough, you could get attacked by E.coli, Salmonella, and botulinum toxin which could land you in the hospital, or worse.

Can I eat vegetable soup left out for 12 hours?

12 hours is a pretty long time after you’ve prepared your meal to be worried about the health implications, most especially if you left it outside the fridge. That being said, can I eat vegetable soup left out for 12 hours?

Well, there are too many factors at play here for me to just give you a clear and definitive answer. Did you cover it properly? Was it outside at room temperature? What was the type of vegetable used? Is it dairy based? These factors can determine how long your vegetable soup will last inside and outside the fridge.

Instead of trying in futility to go through all the factors, I think it’ll be best to give you some things to look out for so you’d apply it on your own.

How quickly a particular food will spoil depends on whether it’s a high risk food or a low risk food. According to, while all foods can cause food poisoning if not handled properly, bacteria can grow faster and better in some foods than others.

High risk foods and low risk foods

Can i eat vegetable soup left out for 12 hours

Foods that can easily support the growth of bacteria are known as high risk foods. These need to be cooked at high temperatures for long periods of time and then stored properly in a freezer or fridge.

Some examples of high risk foods include
  • All dairy products,
  • Poultry,
  • Meat or meat products,
  • Fish,
  • Seafood,
  • Eggs.

On the other hand, low risk foods don’t easily harbor harmful microbes due to being low in water content, high in sugar, acid, or salt. They typically don’t spoil easily.

Common examples include
  • Candies,
  • Bread,
  • Most other baked goods,
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables,
  • Pickles,
  • Syrups,
  • Vinegars,
  • Jam,
  • Honey.

Low risk foods lose most of their high shelf life when they get cooked. They could also get contaminated through food handling.

Now that you’ve gotten the basics, let’s try a particular scenario. Let’s say you decide to use potato as the vegetable here, according to this recipe I found from all recipes, the main ingredients are potato, celery, carrot, onion, mixed vegetables, parsley, condensed cream of celery soup, etc.

If you leave this one out for 12 hours in a well covered pot at room temperature, you should be able to warm it up and eat it. This is because a lot of the ingredients are low risk. However, It’s not going to be a 100% safe as there’s still a chance it could be contaminated through improper handling and storage.

If you open it after 12 hours and it doesn’t smell bad, isn’t sticky, or doesn’t have bubbles, it’s most probably okay to warm it up and eat it.

Now imagine there was dairy product in that (what I’m saying doesn’t only apply to the type of soup I mentioned earlier), or chicken/beef broth? Since those are high risks, the chances of them spoiling and harboring harmful microbes will be much higher and you’d have to be more careful in handling them.

Can I eat vegetable soup left out for 12 hours?

What I’ve been trying to say ever since is this: if it doesn’t smell bad, doesn’t have bubbles, isn’t sticky and showing other visible signs of spoilage, you should be able to warm it up thoroughly and eat it. However, bare it at the back of your mind that if the soup contains high risk foods or food products like dairy, meat, etc, you should expect it to spoil faster.

How long does home made vegetable soup last out of the fridge

The USDA will quickly say “Anything kept outside the fridge at room temperature for more than 2hrs should be discarded.” Well let’s face it, unless your annual salary is more than half a million dollars, that’s not a very practical thing to do. I mean, you’re here because you searched for whether you can eat vegetable soup left out for 12 hours.

If you need a straight answer from experts, then vegetable soup should not be consumed after 2hrs of being out of the fridge at room temperature.

Frequently asked questions

Is the soup completely safe if it shows no visible signs of spoilage?

Hate to break it to you but no. The USDA wasn’t kidding around when they made that 2hr rule. The thing is that when you begin to eat food that has been left out of the fridge after long hours, at room temperature, you’re basically taking a gamble. Bear it at the back of your mind that even though it looks and smells fine, it doesn’t mean it’s totally free from microbes and the toxins they produce.

You might get away with eating food, in this case vegetable soup, left out for long hours outside the fridge without getting sick much more times than not, but note that there’s a small chance that even though it looks and smells fine, you could still get sick. Most people don’t take this seriously because it’s something that hardly happens, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Can I leave stew overnight to cool?

Leaving stew overnight to cool isn’t really a good idea. If you need it to cool, why not leave it in the fridge? You’re just exposing it to the risk of attracting harmful microbes that could make you sick.

Chicken soup left out overnight (covered)

If you’re asking whether you can eat chicken soup left out overnight (covered), I explained it thoroughly in this article.

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