How Long Can Cooked Potatoes Sit Out? | Proper Storage of Sweet, Mashed, Baked & Scalloped

Potatoes are a fantastic dish. They are easy to prepare, taste great with a variety of toppings, and are inexpensive. You can store potatoes for longer than most other vegetables and they don’t require any special preparation or care. But that doesn’t mean that you should follow food safety guidelines when eating cooked potatoes. If you have ever wondered how long cooked potatoes can sit out, then this guide is for you.

Cooked potatoes can sit out for up to four hours. This guidance applies to all kinds of potatoes, including baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and roasted potatoes. If you have added ingredients like butter, cream, or cheese, you may need to store your dish in the fridge or freezer earlier, usually within two hours for items containing dairy or eggs.

Consult our guides on food safety to keep your dishes delicious and reduce your risk of food poisoning.

How Long Can Cooked Potatoes Sit At Room Temperature?

Generally, potatoes can be left out for up to four hours without worrying about a high risk of bacteria growing on their surface and making you sick.

One of my favorite ways to eat potatoes is to toss chopped potatoes in olive oil, season with some salt and pepper, then roast them in the oven until they are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Yum! Because there are minimal ingredients added and this dish is dairy-free, I can follow the four-hour guidelines and get any leftovers stored within that time frame.

For things like potato salad that have the addition of eggs, mayo, or butter, you should stick to a shorter timeline. Get these items into the fridge or freezer within two hours to avoid any bacteria growth. This applies to after the cooked potatoes are mixed with other ingredients.

How Long Can Baked Potatoes Sit Out?

Baked potatoes are a delicious and easy way to make dinner for a crowd (or just yourself). All you need to do is poke a few holes in the potato, wrap it in foil, and stick it in the oven. The result is tender and delicious, plus has minimal cleanup. These are so easy that you can even cook them over an open campfire outside.

Eating and storing baked potatoes comes with a few extra cautions. Food safety recommendations state that letting a baked potato cool in its aluminum foil can allow botulinum bacteria to grow. These bacteria need an environment with little oxygen and wrapping your baked potato in foil creates their perfect little home.

It’s easy to avoid these conditions, however, by simply removing the foil after your potato is done baking. While in the oven or fire, the bacteria can’t grow. After removing the potato, unwrap it and you can follow the same four-hour guidelines for leaving your unwrapped baked potato out.

Tip: Use an oven mitt or pad to remove the foil and handle the potato. It will be hot when it comes out of the oven!

How Long Can Mashed Potatoes Sit Out?

Mashed potatoes without any additions can be left out at room temperature for up to four hours. But most of us like to spice up our mashed potatoes by mixing in butter, milk, or cream. If you add in these delicious extras, it’s best to follow the two-hour guidelines to get your mashed potatoes in the fridge.

Mashed potatoes are one of the best dishes to reheat and serve later. If you are preparing mashed potatoes for a special occasion or feeding a crowd, you can cook them ahead of time, then warm them right before serving.

How Long Can Cooked Sweet Potatoes Sit Out?

Although they look a bit different from other potatoes, sweet potatoes still fall under the same guidance: four hours for cooked sweet potatoes and two hours when eggs or dairy are added. This also applies to other varieties of potatoes, including purple potatoes, yellow potatoes, and small fingerling potatoes.

How Long Can Cooked Scalloped Potatoes Sit Out?

Most scalloped potatoes recipes call for butter, milk, and lots of cheese. These ingredients all spoil easily, especially in hot temperatures. Scalloped potatoes can sit out for up to two hours, but you should pay extra attention to the environment that you are in. If you worry about the dairy ingredients spoiling, it’s best to get your scalloped potatoes into the refrigerator sooner rather than later.

Can Cooked Potatoes Sit Out Overnight?

You should store cooked potatoes in the refrigerator or freezer within four hours. This means that they cannot sit out overnight without being at risk for food poisoning-causing bacteria to grow. If you have prepared potato salad or another dish that includes eggs or dairy, you should get them into the fridge or freezer within two hours.

The Best Types of Potatoes To Leave Out

Baked potatoes are the best potatoes to leave out, but only after you have removed the cooking foil. Leaving baked potatoes out still wrapped in foil as they cool makes them one of the worst types of potatoes to have sit out. The best way to leave potatoes out is to remove the foil from baked potatoes as soon as they come out of the oven or fire, then stack them on a tray or plate for serving.

Potato dishes like casseroles, mashed potatoes, or scalloped potatoes can sit out for up to two hours, but you should take extra care with any potatoes that have added eggs or dairy. If your home is hot or you are letting these dishes sit outside, you may want to put them in the fridge before the two-hour window is done. How Long Can Cooked Potatoes Sit Out?

Best Ways To Store Potatoes

Potatoes do take a few special considerations when storing safely. Because harmful bacteria can grow on potatoes as they cool, you should let them cool completely before storing them in a low-oxygen environment, such as wrapped in foil or saran wrap or in an airtight container.

How To Cool Potatoes

Hot potatoes (above 135 degrees F) aren’t a great place for harmful bacteria to grow. Cold potatoes (below 41 degrees F) aren’t great for these pathogens either. So how do you allow your potatoes to go from hot to cold safely?

The key is to keep them uncovered as they cool. Harmful bacteria like botulinum love low-oxygen environments like wrapped baked potatoes. They grow rapidly in these conditions. By keeping your hot potatoes unwrapped as they cool, you lower the risk of letting the bad bacteria grow.

When you make dishes like potato salad, it’s best to let your potatoes cool completely before mixing them with cool ingredients or putting them in a sealed container in the fridge. This lets them go through that potentially dangerous temperature zone without putting them in that low-oxygen environment. It may take longer, but you’ll know that you have prepared your dish safely.

Aluminum Foil

After your potatoes have cooled, you can rewrap them in aluminum foil for easy storage. This works best for baked potatoes or larger pieces. Aluminum foil can be used in the refrigerator, freezer, or recycled once you are done. If you have baked potatoes in aluminum foil, it’s best to use a fresh sheet for storage to reduce the chance of any bacteria getting onto your potatoes.

Airtight Container

For smaller dishes, storing your potatoes in an airtight container will keep them fresh. These can also be easy to transport, making them a perfect place to put leftovers that you plan to bring for lunch the next day. Like with any storage, make sure that your potato dish has cooled completely before placing them in an airtight container.

When storing potato dishes in the freezer, a plastic storage dish is a convenient and inexpensive way to keep your leftovers fresh. You should still make sure to cool the dish completely before putting it into the freezer.

What Happens If I Eat Potatoes That Have Gone Bad?

The food safety risks associated with potatoes come from two main places: bacteria that cause food poisoning and botulinum bacteria.

Food Poisoning From Potatoes

Leaving cooked potatoes out for too long can allow harmful bacteria to grow on them. This leads to food poisoning, a common but unpleasant illness that results from improperly stored or handled food. Symptoms can include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

Bacteria that can cause food poisoning may include:

  • Listeria
  • Salmonella (from other ingredients in potato dishes)
  • Botulinum

With the exception of botulinum, food poisoning is not generally life-threatening, although it can feel like it in the most severe cases. The risks from food poisoning are often the result of dehydration. It’s important to monitor your symptoms and check your temperature. If you start to run a high temperature (over 105 degrees F) or are unable to keep liquids down, call your doctor for further guidance.

Botulism From Potatoes

While food poisoning may not be serious, if it comes from the botulinum bacteria, it can be deadly if left untreated.

Botulinum bacteria can grow on baked potatoes wrapped in foil that have not properly cooled. This is why it is important to remove the foil after they are done baking and only wrap them again (with a fresh piece of foil) after they have completely cooled.

If you do ingest botulinum bacteria, it can lead to botulism, a serious medical condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Blurry vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea

Many of these symptoms are similar to those from other foodborne bacteria. The only way to know what is making you sick is to get checked out by a medical professional. If you think that you have botulism, call your doctor right away or go to the emergency room. It can be treated, but symptoms will get worse if left untreated. It’s always better to be safe than sick!

Final Thoughts

Potatoes can sit out for up to four hours when cooked and up to two hours when eggs or dairy are added to the dish. It’s important to cool and store your potatoes properly, taking special care to avoid wrapping cooked potatoes while they are still hot or warm. Following these food safety measures will keep you and your guests enjoying hearty, delicious food at your next gathering.

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