Bulletin E3257
Handling Take-Out Foods Safely


October 24, 2022 - <lmessing@msu.edu>

This Document is offered in: English Arabic, Espanol,

Take-out and delivered foods have become routine and often necessary in today’s busy world. However, take-out foods that are transported need time and temperature control to avoid foodborne illness. Following safe handling procedures will help keep your take-out food safe to eat. 

Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 °F and 140 °F. It’s best to keep food out of this “Temperature Danger Zone.”



Handling hot take-out or delivered food safely.

  • Keep cooked hot food at an internal temperature of 140 °F or above
  • Use a food thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of food
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions, and place into shallow containers in the refrigerator

Handling cold or refrigerated take-out or delivered food safely

  • Keep cold foods at 40 °F or below
  • Refrigerate perishable food within two hours after purchase or delivery
  • If perishable food is out in air temperatures above 90 °F, refrigerate within one hour
  • Pack cold food in a covered cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs

Thawing meals safely.

  • Thaw wrapped, cooked meat or poultry in the refrigerator
  • Allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of meat or poultry
  • Eat cooked meat or poultry within 3 to 4 days
  • Eat thawed meals cold or reheated

Note that you may place frozen food directly into the oven without thawing.

Reheating meals safely.

  • Always reheat meat and poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 °F.
  • Use a food thermometer to check internal temperature.
  • If reheating in the oven, set oven temperature to no lower than 325 °F.
  • Do not reheat meals in a slow cooker
  • Cover and rotate food for even heating when using a microwave



U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. (2013, June 13). Safe handling of take-out foods. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food- handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/safe- handling-take-out-foods




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