I left chicken out on the counter all afternoon. Is it safe to eat if it smells OK?

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If you have a cooking question, our expert, Marge Perry, can answer it. Marge teaches home cooks in her classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She is an award-winning food writer, longtime contributor for Cooking Light and a number of other leading food magazines, author of the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, columnist for Newsday, and has contributed to over 20 cookbooks.

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Whether raw or cooked, food can be chock-full of dangerous bacteria long before you can smell it. Perishable food (like chicken and other meats) should be tossed if left out at room temperature more than two hours (much less if in a warm room). For straightforward guidelines on food safety and handling, consult the USDA Web site.

Next time you serve a buffet (or eat one elsewhere), bear this in mind. If the food is not kept warm in chafing dishes (or stored on ice, when served cold), it is no longer safe to eat after two hours of sitting on the table.

Marge Perry
Apr, 2010
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