How Long Can You Leave Grilled Fish Sitting Out?

Is there anything better than some fresh fish done to perfection on a grill? Yum!

You need to finish it off though because most foods can only be left out for so long even after they’ve been cooked. They soon become unsafe to eat because of dangerous bacteria. You may be wondering how long can cooked fish sit out at room temperature. Normally, you only have a couple of hours in which to eat it or refrigerate any leftovers for later.

Don’t linger too long over that freshly grilled piece of fish! Grab your fork and dig into that juicy meal straight off the grill.

At room temperature, the USDA recommends that grilled fish shouldn’t be left sitting out for any longer than two hours. If the temperature is over 90°F (32°C) then you should either eat or refrigerate that fish within an hour!

Even cooked fish will quickly become dangerous due to bacteria growing at temperatures over 40°F (4.5°C). If you want to save it for later then pop it in the fridge and make sure your fridge is keeping a steady temperature below 40°F (4.5°C).

Nasty bacteria such as Salmonella Enteritidis, Staphylococcus Aureus, Escherichia coli and Campylobacter can all cause a variety of food-related illnesses. If food is left in the range of temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (4.5°C and 60°C) these sorts of bacteria quickly multiply doubling every 20 minutes in fact.

The UK Food Standards Agency has some great tips on BBQ food safety.

Obviously, raw food will spoil even faster than this so you need to keep a close eye on the time when preparing meals. You should keep your raw fish in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.

The USDA has coined the term “the danger zone” to highlight how important it is to be aware of the 40°F to 140 °F temperature range (4.5°C to 60°C).

To hammer this point home remember that as many as one in six Americans will get food poisoning every year that’s approximately 48 million people! Food poisoning is responsible for up to 128,000 hospitalizations and around 3000 deaths every year just in the United States.

Worldwide as many as one in 10 people suffer from food poisoning and up to 420,000 may die from eating food contaminated with bacteria.

Food safety is an important topic so please take care when preparing and storing food!

So don’t forget you only have a couple of hours to polish off that lovely piece of fish after you’ve grilled it. On really hot days you shouldn’t leave it out for more than an hour before eating it or refrigerating it. Although cooking kills off the nasties fish can only be left at room temperature for at most 2 hours.

How Long Does Grilled Fish Last In The Refrigerator?

Assuming you’ve cooked the fish properly and stored it in an airtight container in a refrigerator below 40°F then it should last for 3 to 4 days. Certain types of fish might go off more quickly than that. Mackerel for example should be refrigerated for only two days.

Unfortunately, even refrigeration isn’t magic and won’t those pesky bacteria from ruining your food eventually. Try to plan your meals as best you can to avoid having too many leftovers or having to throw food away.

Reheating Grilled Fish

Leftover grilled fish can be reheated in the microwave or on the stove. You need to take some care to avoid it drying out though. To be extra safe you can get a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the fish. According to the Minnesota Department of Health you need to get it to at least 145°F (63°C)

Using A Microwave

Probably the least attractive option as it is likely to dry the fish out. To try to combat this splash some water on the fish and then place it on a microwaveable dish. Use a vented microwaveable cover and use low-power 30-second bursts to heat up the fish until it’s hot enough to eat.

In An Oven

Again you need to use a few splashes of water on the fish in an effort to avoid it coming out too dry and rubbery. Wrap your leftover fish in tinfoil and place on a baking tray at 275°F (135°C) for 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t use too much water though.

On A Skillet

If you’re looking for a slightly quicker way of heating up the fish then you can try using a Skillet. Preheat it for a couple of minutes on medium heat. Put a dash of olive oil in the pan and heat the fish for three or four minutes on each side.

Doing it this way should get the fish slightly crispy which some people might prefer!

How to Freeze Fish

Assuming you have already cooked the fish, the process of freezing fish is actually quite simple. Ideally, you want to seal the fish in a freezer bag. It will last up to 3 months although it is best to eat it sooner rather than later as over time the texture and flavor will degrade.

When you’re ready to eat the fish, simply thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat it as you would normally.


Perishable food can go bad surprisingly quickly even after it’s been cooked. If you aren’t able to eat it all fairly soon after cooking try to cool it as quickly as you can and pop it in the fridge.

You have a couple of hours at most before you need to store it. After 3 or 4 days even in the refrigerator, it will need to be thrown out. You can keep it in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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