Can You Leave Meat Stock on the Counter Overnight?

When making or prepping stuff to make a delicious meal, we can go to meal staples such as meat stock. It’s glorious as a base for soups and other things, boosting our meals. Sometimes, situations arise that prevent us from putting away the perishable food items and it leaves us wondering whether or not to risk it if the food will have gone bad yet.

Meat stock shouldn’t be left on the counter overnight. Bacteria will grow at room temperature and will contaminate the stock. It is better to toss that meat stock out and start fresh rather than risk getting sick from the bacteria. Leaving it out for four hours is the max it should be left out.

Stock pot full of boiling meat stock with beef and carrots
Stockpot full of boiling meat stock with beef and carrots

Meal prep with any sort of meat is complicated and difficult to do, and we may have dodged bullets on using or eating meat stock that’s been left out for several hours and been just fine. However, if you want concrete evidence, there are some scientific facts to back up why it is not a good idea to let that food sit out so long.

What is meat stock?

Meat stock is made by boiling meat bones for a long time at low heat, usually at something you would call a simmer. The little bits and pieces of meat or fat that are still on the bones will be boiled off and sometimes vegetables, seasonings or herbs, and salt is added. Most of the time though it’s just the straight meat bones and a bit of salt to enhance the meat flavor.

Meat stock can sometimes be mistaken for broth, and seeing as they are made from similar processes, it is completely fair to mistake stock for broth. The difference is that broth is made more from vegetables and meat, whereas stock is made from bones. The bone broth, or stock as it is more correctly referred to, is thicker than a regular broth and is a good base for soups.

Why can’t you leave it out?

While meat stock is cooked and boiled, it is exposed to the same sorts of toxins and bacteria any other food is when it is left out. The bacteria grows inside of the meat and the foods, and meat especially is susceptible to the bacteria that would grow. It’s the beginning of the decomposition process and is completely natural; however, it is harmful to human bodies and will make us sick. Unfortunately for us, the red zone for when bacteria grows best is usually right at room temperature.

I talked to a dietician from Utah and she gave me the bare bits of why it’s bad to leave meat stock out. She said that meat stock, or more accurately, meat or any meat drippings shouldn’t be within room temperature for over four hours. Two hours is most likely safer, but four hours is the maximum amount of time you’ll want to leave it out.

Simmering beef stock in a pot with a ladle
Simmering beef stock in a pot with a ladle

Science Behind the Bacteria

The bacteria specifically found growing in raw foods are called microbes, and it’s tiny little living organisms that are looking for anywhere to grow and develop. They might also be referred to as microorganisms. Basically, the science behind what happens is that these little microorganisms begin to grow and ferment as well as start the decomposition process on the foods they grow in. Some fermentation could be good for the human body or are at least tasty and not likely to make us incredibly sick, but these kinds can make us sick.

Bacteria grow best at between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and it grows rapidly in these conditions. Not only that but there are already certain bacteria on raw meats. The good thing is that you don’t use a full-on raw chicken thigh for stock; you use the bone.

The types of bacteria that grow in meats can lead to outbreaks of the E. -Coli virus. A nasty stomach bug that has one feeling awful. This is why it is incredibly important to have food safety regulations followed, even in your own kitchen. You’ll want to wash everything that the raw meat has touched and keep things from being cross-contaminated by washing the things you’ve used as well as sanitizing the surfaces they sat on.

This can help to ensure that those bacteria don’t grow more in unhealthy ways that could make you and your loved ones sick. It’s the same way for even a cooked meat stock. It’s important to have it stored and put away properly, covered when needed to be out, and used soon so it doesn’t go bad.

White mug of beef stock
White mug of beef stock

Health Benefits to Meat Stock

The health benefits of making and eating meat stock are numerous. They depend somewhat on what you put into the meat stock, but regardless of how you make it, there are benefits to the bones that will be simmered in the stock. The bones of animals are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Our bodies need these minerals greatly and a lot of the time we end up taking vitamin supplements for magnesium and calcium. Having it in our diets in a more natural way is always a good health benefit.

We won’t know the exact mineral count of each batch of stock, but each one contains various minerals that boost our immune systems and generally help our bodies to feel better. Using these as a basis for your meal and making your own bone broth rather than using store-bought is not only more cost-efficient and less wasteful, but also much better for your body.

Another great reason to make meat stock is what you can use it for and how it can help if you don’t have the stomach for anything solid. A good-tasting, warming meat stock incorporated into a soup is perfect for someone who isn’t feeling the best but wants something delicious to eat that will still give their body energy to get better.

Not only that, the bones in the meat stock due to the boiling process release some amino acids, especially when you include the joint ligaments of, say, a chicken. These amino acids are also something you won’t find often naturally in most foods that we eat, and eating them through meat stock is a great way to get those amino acids.

The healthy and hearty meals these stocks make are often weight-loss friendly, or even weight-gain friendly. Each person has their own unique circumstances, and the meals made from the various meat stocks are healthier and just as filling as some other meals might be.

How to make Meat Stock

Now that you know what not to do, and even what it all is about. How about making the meat stock? Usually, when preparing this base, you’ll have already eaten or been eating the turkey or chicken, and in some cases, you might use beef. Don’t toss out the bone so that you can use it here.

Making a meat stock could take a while, so make sure you have time to dedicate to making sure that there is someone near the stovetop when you make meat stock. The recipes for making a meat stock are pretty much up to you and you can take the time to experiment with the most optimal recipe that you enjoy the most. Depending on what you use, you’ll put it all in a pot and simmer it on low heat for up to several hours. The most common is anywhere from two hours to six hours and even up to twelve hours.

You’ll finish cooking it over low heat for that long simmer period and strain the stock through a sieve to ensure that any of the bits of meat or vegetables if you included those, don’t get into the stock after you’ve drained it. The most common vegetables to include in a meat stock recipe range from onions, celery, carrots. You could include seasonings, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt, or your own favorite blend of herbs. From there you can immediately use it to start up another recipe or stow it away for later use. I found a relatively simple recipe online for how to make chicken stock from simple recipes and this might help you on your way.  (The recipe).

The internet is full of amazing ideas and will more than happily recommend a few different ways to make a meat stock with a variety of different meats. A perfect base for cold weather or something that is both filling and warming.

Bone broth made from chicken in a glass jar, with carrots, onions, and celery root in the background
Bone broth made from chicken in a glass jar, with carrots, onions, and celery root in the background

Storing the Meat Stock

When storing the meat stock, you can pretty much store it anywhere refrigerated and colder than room temperature. Stick it in your fridge, put it in the freezer, and pull it out later to use. It’s incredibly versatile when kept at safe levels of temperature. You should never stick your meat stock right into the fridge or freezer when the meat stock is still piping hot. You need for it to cool before you do that.

You should use it when it’s fresh. However, if you’re not going to be using it all that quickly, you can also put it in freezer-safe containers and freeze it for upwards of six months. Usually, three is better, but you can pull out what you need, heat it up, and use it to create nutritious meals for your family and friends.

One thing to keep in mind, when you heat up your meat stock, you should only heat up what you’re going to immediately eat since heating it up exposes it to that danger zone where bacteria likes to grow and each time you do that, the threshold for how long it lasts is going to lower, even if you refreeze it.

What to Use Meat Stock for

The best things to use meat stock in and for. If you’ve ever taken a cooking class, you’ll be pretty familiar with the term ‘base’. This is what some meals all start off of. Base’s are broths and stocks for things like gravy, a ramen noodle dish, soups, stews, etc. They’re the very basis of the meal and without them, you can’t really create or cook a very nice meal.

The dietician I talked to said she likes to make meat stock out of chicken and usually goes for chicken noodle soup. Chicken noodle soup is a great thing to make out of meat stock and is quite delicious. Another thing she makes is the topping for Hawaiian haystacks with the chicken stock.

Chicken noodle soup with carrots and celery in a bowl
Chicken noodle soup with carrots and celery in a bowl

One of my personal favorites with a stock or broth is chicken noodle soup. It’s been a heartwarming meal for my entire life and reminds me of happy things. The best part is getting a stock that is perfectly flavored and can soothe a sore throat or warm a stomach up with how good and well-made it is. It might take a few tries to get the optimal recipe that you like the most, but this recipe is a good start for a chicken noodle soup that uses chicken stock.

My ideal meat stock is a turkey meat stock used to make a variation on chicken noodle soup. I like to keep the bone from a turkey, usually the Thanksgiving turkey, and let that simmer for quite a while. I usually include some ground pink Himalayan salt, parsley, and some onions, celery, and carrots. Simmer for around six hours, and then strain and put the stock into jars if I’m storing it in the refrigerator and usually a gallon size Ziploc bag if I’m putting it in the freezer. I always date my batches so I know which ones to use first and then I’ll usually use my fridge batches to make a good chicken noodle soup to have ready for dinner the following day. It’s a great way to do some meal prep and get a delicious and nutritious meal!

Anna Silver

Anna Silver is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to new go-to original recipes. Inspired by her grandmother’s love of cooking, Anna has a passion for treating the people in her life to delicious homemade food and loves to share her family recipes with the rest of the world.

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