Chinese food takeout can be a lifesaver after a long day at work. But, most of you will probably admit to ordering more than they could stomach and ended up refrigerating the Chinese leftovers. Days passed, and your cravings for Chinese food crept in again. Now you’re trying to remember when you ordered the Chinese food in your refrigerator and are torn between trashing it or heating a bowl to quiet your rumbling stomach. So, how long is Chinese food good for? Read on for answers.

How Long Is Chinese Food Good for?

Generally, you should not leave food sitting out on the counter for more than two hours. According to the USDA, the 2-hour rule should serve as a safety precaution to prevent bacteria from growing.

On hot days, you shouldn’t leave Chinese food out on the counter for more than an hour since bacteria thrive in warm temperatures.

If refrigerated, Chinese food can last up to four days. It’s a good idea to transfer the food from the containers they came from to clean ones.

If you don’t think you’ll be eating the leftover food any time soon, consider freezing it. It can stay good for up to three months! 

Following are tips on how to safely store Chinese leftovers so you can enjoy them again:

  • Pepperoni pizza, Kung Pao chicken, or tuna salad must be refrigerated within two hours from when they were served. This helps minimize the risk of ingesting foodborne pathogens.
  • Store small portions of Chinese leftovers in airtight containers. This ensures they cool evenly and faster.
  • Fridge Chinese leftovers as soon as you’re done eating. Cool temperatures delay the growth of bacteria.
  • Wrap leftovers that won’t fit in airtight containers with plastic wrap to prevent air exposure.

How to Properly Freeze Chinese Food

It’s not difficult to order too much Chinese food given how delicious they are. When you get your fill, you can freeze them for up to three months. However, if you don’t do this the right way, ice crystals can grow and ruin the food with freezer burn.

To avoid this:

  • Date your food. This way, you’ll know when the three-month deadline elapses and throw out the food for your safety.
  • Make sure you store food in air-tight containers to prevent water molecules from escaping.

How to Reheat Chinese Food

The microwave offers the best method to reheat Chinese leftovers. Just be sure to use a microwave-safe dish and let the food cook on high heat for a few minutes. If it was completely frozen, you might want to stir the food and let it cook a second time to ensure every part is evenly heated.

You can also use a frying pan on your stovetop or slow cooker to reheat Chinese leftovers like General Tso’s chicken. Noodles or curries can be reheated but reheating leftover rice isn’t a great idea. Usually, rice from restaurants is cooked and then reheated when your order. That’s why it isn’t advisable to eat rice if you have to warm it more than once.

Useful tip: When reheating food, especially rice, add a little water to remoisturize it. If using a frying pan, add a little oil to enhance the overall flavor.

Useful tip: Only reheat leftovers once. If you don’t plan on eating all the leftovers in one sitting, break them into portions and only reheat what you’ll eat right away. Reheating Chinese leftovers can affect their texture and taste.

Keep in mind that the microwave doesn’t always reheat food all the way. So, to make sure you kill any bacteria that might be in the food, the food should be extremely hot. In addition, if your Chinese leftovers have stayed in the fridge for longer than four days, don’t assume microwaving will kill the bacteria.

That’s a risk you don’t want to take since some types of bacteria can thrive in extreme heat. The rule of thumb when handling leftovers is: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

How to Tell If Chinese Food Has Gone Bad?

It’s quite simple to determine whether the Chinese leftovers have gone bad. Here are some tips:

Check the Texture

If the leftover food hasn’t gone completely bad, it may not show signs of damage. However, if the texture seems different, for example, the noodles feel clumped together and seem chewier than usual, you might want to dispose of them.

There’s Some Discoloration

When bacteria contaminate your food, you’re likely to see discoloration. Avoid taking food with signs of discoloring.

Pungent Odor

If the Chinese leftovers have a rancid and foul smell, you should dispose of them. It means it has stayed longer than the four days in the fridge and has gone bad.

There’s Mold

One sure way to tell food has gone bad is when there’s visible mold. If you notice little spores on your Chinese leftovers or the underside of your container, the food belongs to the bin.


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