How Long Do Cooked Meatballs Last in the Fridge?

by Charlie
Published: Last Updated on
How Long Do Cooked Meatballs Last in the Fridge

Leftovers can be tricky to handle, particularly if they are meat-based, because it’s very easy to contract food poisoning if you do not store food properly, or if you eat it when it has gone off. Because some of the bacteria found in meat are extremely unpleasant, you should be especially cautious.

How long do cooked meatballs last in the fridge? Cooked meatballs will last for three or four days in the fridge, and after this time, they should be thrown away, even if they smell fine. This estimate assumes that the meatballs have been stored properly in an airtight container, in a fridge that is below 40 degrees F.

Are Cooked Meatballs Safe to Refrigerate?

It is safe to store cooked meatballs in the fridge as long as you put them there promptly after cooking. Allow the meatballs to cool down first, and then transfer them to an airtight container and place them in your fridge.

Don’t put warm meatballs in the fridge, because they will warm up other foods. Instead, tip them into a wide container so that they (and any sauce) can spread out and cool down, and then transfer them to a Tupperware once they are cool. Spacing the meat out will help it to cool down more quickly.

What Happens If You Leave Cooked Meatballs Out?

Cooked meatballs will quickly become infected by bacteria if they are left at room temperature. Although cooking kills off bacteria temporarily, it will soon grow in the meat again, and if the meat is not chilled, it will spread fast.

At room temperature, bacteria can double itself in just twenty minutes. If you leave meatballs out for more than two hours, the bacteria are likely to have reached unsafe levels, and the meatballs could make you sick if you consume them.

Room temperature is usually between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F, but if your room is over 90 degrees F, you need to be even more careful because the bacteria’s growth rate will massively increase. In an environment over 90 degrees, meatballs need to be refrigerated within an hour.

This is annoying because it means you have to leave them to cool and then come back to clean up later, but it’s crucial not to just leave meatballs sitting on a counter overnight. By morning, they will not be safe to eat, and should be thrown away.

Is it Okay to Freeze Cooked Meatballs?

Yes, you can safely freeze cooked meatballs, although you should do so as soon as they are cool. Place the meatballs on a tray, leaving a little space between each one, in a single layer. They can be transferred to a Tupperware after they have frozen.

This makes it easy to separate the meatballs when you want to get them out. Leave around a centimeter between each and put them in your freezer, and allow them to freeze for a few hours. Once they have completely frozen, simply tip them into an airtight container to maximize your freezer space.

You can thaw cooked meatballs in the fridge. Do not let them defrost at room temperature, as bacteria may start to spread in the outside of the meat before the inside has defrosted.

How Do You Tell If Meatballs Have Gone Bad?

To check whether meatballs are bad, you should smell them and check their texture. It is also worth inspecting the surface to see if there are any hints of mold growing on them.

Allow the meatballs to warm up a little before conducting a “sniff test,” as cold meatballs will not have much scent. Place them on the counter for ten minutes or so, and then come back and see if you can detect any smell. If the meatballs smell sour or unpleasant, throw them away. The scent of rotten meat is usually pretty distinctive and off-putting.

If you’re still unsure, gently poke a meatball. It should feel firm and reasonably dry. If the meat is squishy or wet or slimy, it has gone off and should be thrown away.

Inspecting the surface may also help to confirm whether it is okay to eat. Flecks of green, blue, or white mold are a sign that it has gone off.

It’s important to note that meatballs might show none of these signs and still be unsafe to eat, especially if they have been improperly stored. If they have been in your fridge for more than four days, you should throw them away, even if they seem safe to eat.

How Long Will Raw Meatballs Last in the Fridge?

You should only store raw meatballs for around three days before using them up. Ground meat does not keep as well as full cuts do, so don’t try to keep the meatballs for longer than this; they will go off quickly.

Although the fridge slows the spread of bacteria significantly, it does not stop it, and the meatballs will soon be unsafe to cook. If you make your own meatballs, it is best to do so only when you are ready to use them. Store the meat in the fridge or the freezer until this point, and cook the meatballs promptly.

Will All Meatballs Last for the Same Amount of Time?

Usually, poultry meatballs will not last as long as ones made from pork or beef, and you should only store them for two days, unless they are extremely fresh – in which case, they might last for three. 

It’s important to check how fresh the meat you have bought is when you’re assessing how long you can store the meatballs. Meat that is less fresh should be used up more quickly.

Final Thoughts

In general, cooked meatballs will last for three or four days in the fridge, especially if you use fresh meat and you cool and refrigerate them directly after cooking. Do not leave cooked meatballs at room temperature, as bacteria will quickly spread through the meat. If you think the meatballs have gone off, throw them away; eating them could cause food poisoning.

You may also like