Storing your chili correctly after you have cooked it is important if you want it to last well. It’s always great to have leftovers for another day; this is both wallet-friendly and time-friendly, because you’ll waste less food and spend less time cooking.
How long does chili last in the fridge? Chili will last in the fridge for about three or four days, especially if you have used fresh ingredients and you put it away as soon as it has cooled down from being cooked. Put chili in an airtight container in the fridge to maximize its shelf life.
Should You Keep Chili in the Fridge?
You should keep chili in the fridge at all times, whether it is a meat or a vegetable chili. Don’t store chili at room temperature or leave it out on your counter overnight, even if your kitchen is generally cool.
The best process for storing chili involves decanting leftovers straight into a food-safe, airtight container and leaving the lid off so that they can cool down. Shallow tubs will promote better cooling. You can also stand the tub in some cold water if you want to increase the rate at which the food cools.
Alternatively, simply leave the leftovers on the counter until the chili is cool, and then put the lid on and place the container in the fridge as soon as possible.
Putting hot food in the fridge is not a good idea, because it will make the whole fridge warmer, so you must let your chili cool down before refrigerating it. However, as soon as it has reached room temperature, put it in the fridge so that it is not sitting in the “danger zone” (40 degrees F to 140 degrees F) for longer than necessary.
Does Meat Chili Last Longer Than Vegetarian Chili?
No, in general, meat chili will not last as well as vegetarian chili. Meat tends to deteriorate more quickly than vegetables, and you will probably find that a meat chili goes bad more quickly than a vegetable one. You need to be more cautious when eating meat chili, too, as meat can harbor more dangerous bacteria.
Cooling your meat chili promptly will be particularly important. Salmonella and E. coli are among the bacterial strains that commonly form in meat, and both of these can cause serious food poisoning, including diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, and nausea. In some cases, food poisoning can cause hospitalization, so treat foods that contain meat with care.
Vegetarian foods are considered lower risk, but you still need to be cautious about vegetarian chili and make sure it’s safe to eat. Don’t eat chili that has been left at room temperature for more than two hours (or an hour if the room’s temperature exceeds 90 degrees F), or chili that shows signs of mold.
How Can You Tell If Chili Has Gone Bad?
Moldy chili will usually show some signs. You may see flecks of mold growing on the surface of the ingredients, or note a strange smell coming from the chili. This smell is likely to be particularly strong when you stir it or heat it.
Chili may also turn slimy or change color when it has gone bad. Keep an eye out for these issues, and throw away chili that shows any sign of having gone bad. Don’t eat it.
You may find that the chili looks and smells okay until you heat it up. However, when warm, it may develop a sandy scent. If this happens, it is no longer safe to eat and it should be discarded.
Do You Have to Reheat Chili?
As long as chili has been cooked correctly to begin with, you can eat it cold if you prefer. You should not need to heat chili to ensure that it is safe to eat. You can just take it out of the fridge and eat it as it is.
Most people prefer to reheat chili, however, and do not enjoy cold chili. If this is the case for you, make sure that you are only reheating what you are going to consume at that time. Don’t reheat the entire container of chili every time you want to enjoy your leftovers.
The more frequently you reheat something, the faster it will go bad. Chili that has been repeatedly reheated and cooled may end up unsafe to eat because bacteria will have a chance to grow in it while it is heating and cooling.
Instead of reheating all of your chili, decant a small portion into a bowl or pan and microwave it or warm it on your stove.
Is Freezing Chili Safe?
It’s safe to freeze chili as long as it is not reaching the point at which you should throw it away. As chili only lasts for a few days in the fridge, it’s best to either freeze it immediately, or within about a day of cooking and refrigerating it.
The best way to freeze chili involves decanting it into small containers so that you can just get out what you need each time. Fill each container to the desired level, seal them to prevent freezer burn, and put them in the freezer.
When you are ready to defrost the chili, make sure you are still observing food safety guidelines. Put chili in the fridge to defrost, or defrost it quickly in cold water or by using the microwave. Do not leave chili on the counter overnight to defrost, or even for a few hours.
Bacteria can grow in the thawed parts of the chili even while the inner parts are still frozen. Always defrost chili in a safe environment below 40 degrees F, or quickly enough to comply with food safety guidelines.
Chili should last for three or four days in the fridge as long as you cool and store it promptly. If you have accidentally left chili out of the fridge for a few hours, you should throw it away, especially if it contains meat. It will no longer be safe to consume and could give you food poisoning.