How Long Does a Cooled Hamburger Keep?

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Whether it’s cooked in a frying pan or flame-broiled on the grill, if you live for the taste of a juicy hamburger, no other cooked convenience food comes close. If you have any hamburgers left over after chowing down and want to save them for good eats down the road, pay special attention to where they cool. A hamburger that cools without any care may not be the best choice for a late-night snack later on.

On the Table

  • Once you cook a hamburger and it begins to cool on a picnic platter or on the dinner table, the time clock starts ticking. The longer it cools, the more bacteria grow and multiply. Above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the hamburger only keeps for two hours. Left uneaten in temperatures that top 90 degrees F and higher, the same hamburger only keeps one hour before bacterial growth becomes so out of control, that the meat is unsafe to eat.

In the Fridge

  • A cooked hamburger that cools in the refrigerator lasts longer than one that cools at higher temperatures. In the cool environment of the refrigerator -- about 40 degrees F -- bacteria in the meat multiply at a slower pace, buying you more time to enjoy the cooked hamburger for a future meal. Wrap the cooked hamburger in foil or slip it into a sealed plastic bag or airtight container and the hamburger lasts three to four days.

In the Freezer

  • Pop the cooked hamburger into the freezer to cool and time and safety no longer become factors. In freezer temperatures of 0 degrees F and below, bacteria in the meat no longer multiply. Wrapped in an airtight container, sealed plastic bag, freezer wrap or foil, the cooked hamburger cools and stays safe enough to eat for up to six months. After six months, the hamburger is still OK to eat, but the texture and taste may change somewhat.

Foodborne Illness

  • The bacteria that cause foodborne illness are naturally found on foods that are of animal origin, such as hamburger meat. During the grinding process, any bacteria found on the surface of the meat mix throughout. A hamburger that cools under less than ideal conditions develops enough bacteria to make you sick if you eat it. If you suspect that a hamburger has cooled under inadequate conditions, throw it away -- don’t eat it.

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