Anyone who has discovered a forgotten container at the back of their fridge and dubiously poked the contents will have wondered how long it is okay to store meatloaf in the fridge. It isn’t always easy to estimate how long home cooked foods will last, but having an idea can help you to reduce food waste, so it’s worth understanding.
How long does meatloaf last in the fridge? Most safe estimates for meatloaf say that you should not store it in the fridge for longer than three to four days, although some people claim that it will last for much longer than this. If you plan to eat meatloaf that is past this point, make sure you are inspecting it for signs of mold before consuming it.
How Long Should Meatloaf Last in the Fridge?
Most of the time, meatloaf should last for at least three or four days in the fridge. If your ingredients are fresh, you may find that it is safe to eat for longer than this, but this is a good rule of thumb to abide by. Don’t risk eating meatloaf that is older than this, especially if you are vulnerable to foodborne illnesses.
The faster you can refrigerate meatloaf, the better it will keep, so be prompt about putting your meatloaf in the fridge if you want it to last well. If you leave meatloaf on the counter, it will go bad far faster than if you refrigerate it as soon as you can.
It’s therefore a good idea to cool down meatloaf once it has been cooked. Place it in a cool environment that is not the fridge, and tip it out of its original container and onto a cold plate so that it will cool down faster.
Don’t put the meatloaf in the fridge until it has reached room temperature. Putting warm food in the fridge will compromise your other food and may increase your risk of food poisoning, so always be sure that food is suitably cool before you put it in the fridge.
How Can You Tell If Meatloaf Has Gone Bad?
To check whether meatloaf has gone bad, take it out of the fridge and inspect the surface of the food. Little fuzzy flecks of mold may appear on the surface of the meatloaf if it is no longer safe to eat. You might also find that it develops a strange flavor and smell.
Try to avoid any risk of eating meatloaf that has gone bad by thoroughly inspecting it before you eat it. You may also find that it helps to heat the meatloaf up in the microwave and then smell it. Heating will help to release the scent and make it easier to tell if this is unusual.
You may also be able to determine whether meatloaf has gone bad by its texture. If the meatloaf has gone slimy or squishy, it’s no longer safe to eat. This happens because bacteria have begun breaking down the meat, which means it is definitely bad.
Don’t taste meatloaf if you think it has gone bad. Even if you thoroughly heat it, moldy meatloaf will not be safe to consume, and should be thrown away.
What Happens If You Eat Bad Meatloaf?
If you eat meatloaf that has gone bad, you are likely to get sick as a result of food poisoning. This could result in a whole range of symptoms, varying in severity. The common symptoms include vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea, and some people get hospitalized with really bad cases of food poisoning.
It’s important to treat all food, but especially meat-based foods, with some caution to minimize the risks. Do not eat food if you suspect it has gone bad, and don’t leave food in situations that are more likely to make it go bad (e.g. meat in a warm environment).
Do You Need to Store Meatloaf in the Fridge?
Yes, you need to store meatloaf in the fridge. Like almost all cooked foods, it needs to be kept below 40 degrees F in order to stay safe. Bacteria breed far more quickly in environments above 40 degrees F, and will thrive in meatloaf left at room temperature.
Meatloaf that has been left at room temperature for more than two hours needs to be thrown away. If you have accidentally left meatloaf out overnight or all day, do not consider eating it. It will have dangerous levels of bacteria in it and could make you very sick.
Even if the meatloaf looks and smells fine, you should not eat it if it has been left out. It may take a little time for the warning signs of mold flecks and a bad smell to develop, but the bacterial presence will be high and the food needs to be discarded.
Can You Reheat Meatloaf?
It’s fine to reheat meatloaf that has been stored correctly, although you should only do so once. Some people do reheat it more than once, but this is generally considered less safe, and the Food Standards Agency recommends just one reheating cycle for any kind of food.
A Classic American Meatloaf recipe is a great example of a meatloaf that heats up great when stored correctly.
It’s best to decant some meatloaf into a smaller container or onto a plate before reheating it. This will allow you to only heat as much as you need, rather than the entire meal. Reheat the meatloaf until it is hot through, rather than just warm, as this should reduce the risk of any foodborne illness.
If you do decide to reheat meatloaf more than once, make sure you are cooling it properly in between and storing it in the fridge at all times. You can safely eat cold meatloaf if you would rather not reheat it.
Meatloaf lasts reasonably well if it is kept in the fridge, although you should be aiming to use it up by day four. Some people keep meatloaf for longer than this, but it isn’t recommended, and should be done with caution. If you know you aren’t going to use meatloaf up quickly, consider freezing it instead.