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Posted in Food Safety on March 31, 2022
Like all other food, mac and cheese can only sit out at room temperature for two hours before entering the “danger zone.” If temperatures are high, above 90 °F, mac and cheese should not be left out for longer than one hour.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food poisoning bacteria rapidly grow at temperatures between 41°F and 135°F (the temperature danger zone). Therefore, minimizing the time that food is stored at these temperatures to two hours max is recommended to keep food safe. There are 48 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. each year, resulting in 3,000 deaths and 128,000 hospitalizations. If you or a loved one became sick due to eating contaminated foods, contact a food safety lawyer to explore your legal options.
When mac and cheese is stored correctly, it can last for three to five days in the fridge. It must be placed in the fridge within two hours of cooking in a shallow airtight container. To extend the shelf life even further, mac and cheese can be stored in the freezer. When frozen, mac and cheese will last indefinitely. However, it will remain at its best quality for about one to two months. After that, the quality will begin to deteriorate.
Frozen mac and cheese can be thawed in the fridge, microwave, or in cold water. The fridge is the best option, but it will take overnight to thaw. Then it can be safely consumed for another three to four days. Alternatively, you may use the defrost setting on your microwave or submerge the mac in cheese in a sealed plastic bag in cold water. If you thaw by using the microwave or cold water, the mac and cheese should be eaten immediately.
When cooked mac and cheese has gone bad, you will notice the following:
Spoiled mac and cheese will have an off smell, unlike its usually creamy and cheesy smell. It should be discarded if it has a sour, rancid, or rotten smell.
The most apparent sign that mac and cheese is bad is the growth of mold. If you see fuzzy white spots or green particles, discard it immediately.
Fresh mac and cheese should not have any discoloration. If it is a faded gray or green color, that is a good sign that it is spoiled.
The taste of mac and cheese should be creamy, cheesy, and flavorful. Spoiled mac and cheese is sour tasting with abnormal lumps in the sauce.
Mac and cheese purchased from the grocery store in pre-packaged boxes (e.g., Kraft mac and cheese) has a very long shelf life and can last years without going bad if uncooked. As a result, it can sit in your pantry well beyond the expiration date. However, if the packet of cheese powder that comes along with it is discolored, the mac and cheese should be discarded.