How Long is Leftover Pizza Good For?…Because I’m Hungry!

Belinda Woodhouse
Belinda Woodhouse

Belinda Woodhouse

Belinda Woodhouse is an award-winning food and travel writer. Her writing is heavily influenced by her experiences with a wide range of international cuisines. She regularly writes for the International Living Magazine.

Last updated:

Some of our posts contain affiliate links. If you buy through our links, we may receive compensation - at no cost to you.

how long is leftover pizza good for

DISCLAIMER: THIS PAGE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE.

This page is intended for informational purposes only. No material on this page is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before changing your dietary or cooking habits.

You ordered pizza on Monday. Now it’s Thursday… is that leftover pizza still good? If you’re like me you’ve asked yourself the “how long is leftover pizza good for?” question more than once.

Great news: your Monday leftovers are still good to eat! If you’ve followed the USDA “2 hour rule” (leftovers were refrigerated within 2 hours of cooling down) then your pizza is good in the fridge for up to 4 days. It’s good even longer if you freeze it. 

Didn’t think of freezing leftover pizza? It’s great, and it reheats so quickly! We’ve got more fun tips like that in this article so you can never waste another slice. We’ll cover:

  • How long is leftover pizza good for?
  • Do you need to refrigerate leftover pizza?
  • How to store leftover pizza.
  • How to tell if leftover pizza is still good to eat. 
  • How to reheat leftover pizza properly

But when pizza is left out overnight, sorry pizza lovers, it’s a no-go. Cleveland Clinic’s registered dietician Fawziah Saleh, MS, RDN, LD, says that “perishable foods like pizza are not safe to eat if left sitting out at room temperature overnight.”

Room temperature is within the temperature range that the USDA calls the “danger zone” (40-140°F). This range is, unfortunately, the perfect environment for foodborne-illness-causing bacteria to grow. If pizza is left out too long, these bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels and increase your chances of getting sick.  

Do You Need to Refrigerate Leftover Pizza?

Yes. According to the CDC’s Food Safety Chart, leftover pizza needs to be refrigerated at temperatures of 40°F (4°C) or lower within 2 hours of cooking or reheating. After 2 hours left at room temperature, bacteria and mold can grow to harmful levels.

Do You Need to Refrigerate Leftover Pizza

The only thing that changes this time is if your pizza has been exposed to hotter temperatures. Say, in a hot car or at a picnic. If the pizza is left at higher temperatures 90°F (32°C) or higher, then refrigerate it within an hour of cooking for optimal food safety. 

If your pizza has been sitting at room temperature for almost two hours, you can “restart” the clock by reheating your pizza. Heat it to 160°F to reduce bacteria populations, and then refrigerate it within two hours.

Can I Get Sick from Pizza If I Don’t Refrigerate It?

Yes, you can get sick from pizza left out. Unrefrigerated pizza runs the risk of high bacterial growth leading to food poisoning. Symptoms of foodborne illness, depending on severity, can be as simple as an upset stomach or more serious nausea, vomiting, and either stomach pain or diarrhea.

Serious illnesses and infections can come from bacteria that thrive at room temperatures. Examples of these include:

Symptoms don’t always show up straight away. They can present within hours of eating or several days later.

Which Pizza Toppings Spoil Fastest?

Sweet or savory, meat or veggie, all pizza toppings will spoil if not refrigerated. That is why the 2 hour rule exists. And all pizza’s number one ingredient is that melty goodness – cheese. Unfortunately, bacteria that can make you sick love protein-rich cheese just as much as we do!

Which Pizza Toppings Spoil Fastest

Toppings with a higher sugar or water content –like pineapple and peppers – may spoil faster than those with a higher salt content like processed meats and pepperoni. This doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat if it’s been left out all night. 

So, no matter what toppings are on your pizza, it is NOT recommended you eat it if it’s been left out all night. As soon as the pizza cools, store it in the fridge. Then you can enjoy your cold-pizza-for-breakfast without worrying that it will make you sick.

How to Store Leftover Pizza 

Leftover pizza will stay freshest if wrapped in plastic wrap or foil then placed in the fridge. Shallow containers also work well. 

How to Store Leftover Pizza

You can also freeze your leftover pizza. This seals in the most flavor for optimal freshness and longevity. 

According to the CDC cold food storage chart, you can keep leftover pizza for 3-4 days in the fridge and 1-2 months in the freezer. Another handy resource is the USDA app, FoodKeeper. To check how long a food – like leftover pizza– will keep fresh, simply search FoodKeeper and find your answer.

How to Tell If Leftover Pizza is Still Good To Eat

If you’ve followed the 2 hour rule and it’s been a few days then you’re within the safe zone and yes, your leftover pizza should still be good to eat.

But are there exceptions? There are telltale signs that pizza could be spoiling. Use common sense:

Sight

  • Look at the pizza. Is it dry and starting to curl at the edges?
  • Does the cheese look gummy, faded, or pale?
  • Are there any little fuzzy spots? That means visible mold is growing so definitely throw it out!

Smell

  • Does the cheese smell?
  • If there’s meat, how does the meat smell?
  • Is there an overall funk?

Touch

  • Does the topping feel slimy?
  • Is the base hard and dry?

As a rule of thumb if your pizza smells or has visible signs of molds growing, then straight in the trash it must go. If you’re unsure then it is best to be safer than sorry and discard it. 

How to Tell If Leftover Pizza is Still Good To Eat

If you are a one-slice-and-done kind of pizza eater, then it is best to freeze the rest so you can just pull a piece out whenever you want a slice or two. 

If you’re a eat-half-the-pizza kind of pizza eater, like me and just about everyone I know, then it’s up to you if you freeze the leftovers. In my house, I know leftovers will definitely be eaten in the next few days before any chance of spoilage. 

Just make sure to plan ahead and remember to freeze pizza within 2-3 days if it’s not going to be eaten.

How to Reheat Leftover Pizza – Testing Four Methods

There’s nothing worse than pizza with a soggy bottom. Or, with hot edges but still cold in the middle. So what’s the best way to reheat leftover pizza – microwave, skillet, oven, or air fryer? Let’s find out.

No matter which method you use, heating leftover pizza to a minimum of 160 °F is the best way to prevent food poisoning. 

How to Reheat Leftover Pizza

For maximum flavor, a crispy crust and an overall awesome-the-next-day slice, two of these four methods stand up well. I’ve tried and tested them all and found that the two that didn’t give me the crispy crust I love were the microwave and air fryer.

Reheating in the oven or in a skillet both yielded good results with a crisp crust. Depending on the crispiness of the crust you would like to achieve, from perfectly crunchy crisp to a medium crisp with some softness inside, these two methods will deliver. 

Microwave

Reheat Leftover Pizza using Microwave

The microwaved slices came out floppy with that distinct it’s-been-microwaved-hasn’t-it chewy bottom. Ieven tried the water trick (placing a glass of water in the microwave to absorb some of the energy) but to no avail. The scorching burn-the-top-of-your-mouth cheese combined with a floppy slice and slightly soggy bottom put the microwave at the bottom of the list for me.  

Air Fryer

Air fryer slice was slightly better but didn’t achieve the crisp I was looking for. Delivering an all-round great way to reheat, the cheese was melty and hot but the crust was still quite floppy. I ended up putting it in a skillet to crisp up the base.

Oven

Reheat Leftover Pizza using oven

The trick with the oven is to reheat your leftover pizza with foil. This stops it from drying out and heating from the bottom gives a crispy crust and beautifully melted cheese. Trick number 2 is line a small tray with foil then place foil over the top. The raised edges of the tray keeps the cheese from sticking to the foil. 

Skillet

This is my go-to. Throw your slice in a skillet on medium heat and cover. Skillets heat so rapidly that it is faster than an oven – and in five or six minutes you’ll have a beautifully crisp bottom with gooey melted cheese. 

If you don’t have a lid that’s okay, this trick will make your slice amazing. Heat your slice in the skillet for about five minutes then add a few drops of water before placing a larger pot over your skillet to form a cover. This seals in the steam and turns the cheese into gooey goodness.

Conclusion  

Pizza is one of the most popular foods in the world – but the last thing you want to do is get sick from it. To avoid this, always refrigerate leftover pizza within two hours if it’s been at room temperatures of 40 -140°F ( 4 – 60°C). If the temperature has been higher – like it’s been in a hot car – then refrigerate after just one hour. It will keep for 3 – 4 days in the fridge. 

If you’re going away, or not sure you’ll eat the leftovers within the 3 – 4 days recommended by the CDC and USDA, then put the pizza in the freezer. It will keep for up to two months. 

After all, who doesn’t want pizza when you get home after a long day and don’t feel like cooking!

We’d love to hear from you if you have any other tips, tricks, or handy hints for perfect pizza so just leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we finish cooking. 

Did you find this post useful?

Give it a star rating and let us know!

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Recommended Posts
Belinda Woodhouse
About The Author
Belinda "Bel" Woodhouse is an award-winning food and travel writer celebrated for her global culinary narratives. As International Living's Mexico Correspondent, she blends Yucatán flavors with her European aspirations. Every piece she pens is a passport to the world's culinary treasures.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.