Does the pizza go bad?

You’ve ordered a couple of large pizzas for a party and haven’t finished all of them. Leftovers sat on the counter overnight, and now you’re wondering if they’re still safe to eat. Leftover pizza going bad?

Or maybe your last guests just left and you’re cleaning up. You’d like to save that leftover pizza half for breakfast and wonder how to do it.

If any of these situations sounds familiar to you, you’re in the right place. Next, we talk about conservation, shelf life and the signs that the pizza is spoiled. Keep reading.

Pizzas on a wooden table with different ingredients.

How to store pizza

Once you’re done with the pizza, any leftovers should go in the fridge (USDA:FH). And the sooner they get there, the better.

To be safe, you should refrigerate them within two hours (or one hour if the temperature is above 90°F) from the arrival of the pizza. This is because perishable foods should not stay longer at room temperature to remain safe (USDA:FH).

When food is neither hot nor cold, it is in the temperature danger zone. This is when bacteria (such as Salmonella or Escherichia coli) multiply rapidly and can grow to levels that can cause food poisoning (USDA:DZ).

If your pizza tends to sit on the counter from the time it arrives until the last few people leave, consider changing your strategy.

Perhaps, once everyone is full, you could ask your guests if anyone wants any extra helpings, and if not, you can clear the table and refrigerate the leftovers. You can always reheat them later. Pizza is not popcorn: it shouldn’t stay on the counter for the entire party.

Pizza in a wooden pizza pan

The two-hour rule is definitely not one of the hardest and fastest. Pizza doesn’t go bad immediately or be unsafe to eat when you’re out for more than two hours, but the chances of that are much higher. In other words, it’s your decision whether you eat it or throw it away.

If pizza for breakfast isn’t your thing, and you’re not sure when you’re going to eat leftovers, freeze them.

Pepperoni and cheese pizza

How to freeze leftover pizza

Freezing leftover pizza couldn’t be easier. All you need is aluminum foil, and maybe some freezer bags. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Wrap each serving in aluminum foil. If you plan to store the slices for more than a couple of weeks, put those slices wrapped in freezer bags.
  2. (optional) Place portions in an airtight container. If you are afraid that the pizza slices will squash before freezing, put them in a container that will keep them intact.
  3. Put everything in the freezer.

Voila, that’s it. Frozen leftovers can stay in the freezer for a couple of months without losing much in terms of quality.

When it’s time to defrost, leave the frozen slices in the fridge overnight.

You can put the frozen slices directly into the oven, and thaw and reheat them there, but the quality is often better if you thaw slowly (i.e., in the fridge).

Pizza and beer on a table

how long does pizza last

This one is quite simple. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA:FH), leftover pizza is safe for two hours at room temperature, and four days if refrigerated.

As stated, these periods are not rigid, and you can often keep food for a little longer. By longer I mean an extra hour or two on the counter, or an extra day in the fridge. This is especially true of fairly “dry” pizzas, that is, those with no toppings and lots of water. But if your pizza sat on the counter all night, throw it away.

However, for safety, I suggest that you stick to the USDA guidelines. If you want to push those rules a bit, go ahead, but don’t push them too far.

Counter Fridge
leftover pizza 2 hours 4 days

home made pizza room

How do you know if the pizza is bad?

In addition to following the shelf life guidelines above, you should always give leftover pizza a good look before eating it. Seeks:

  • Mold or any other organic growth. If there is any, get rid of it. If the pizza looks bad, like the mushrooms have changed color, don’t risk it.
  • Unpleasant smell. If there is a problem with the smell of the leftovers, discard them. One thing to keep in mind here is that the pizza can pick up odors if it’s not properly closed. That’s why your Hawaiian pizza smells like sausage or pepperoni on the same shelf.
  • Bad taste. If, after reheating the leftover portions, you don’t like them at all, it’s okay to throw them away. In fact, I advise you to do so, since it is possible that there is something wrong with them.

Last but not least, if the leftovers have dried out and seem stale, it’s normal if they haven’t been sealed properly. It’s up to you whether you try to reheat them and eat them anyway, or accept the losses and throw them away.

Homemade pizza before baking


(USDA:FH) United States Department of Agriculture: Food Safety Basics
(USDA:DZ) United States Department of Agriculture:Danger Zone

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