This Is What Really Happens When Steak Gets Cold

We can all agree that letting your steak sit around for hours on end is a bad idea. That's not to say you can't make a cold steak palatable, though. You can toss cold grilled steak with ginger and soy sauce for a savory, cold, and flavorful dish (via The New York Times). Or, you can head into salad territory and slice your rare steak super-thin, according to Serious Eats. There are many options for steak-centric dishes, hot or cold.

But whether your steak will arrive chilled or steaming on its platter, you can't get sloppy by letting it sit out in the open. If your steak is meant to be served warm, keep it heated. And if it's served cold, keep it in the fridge. You have to pay attention to temperature control. This is for your own good. Letting your steak sit and get cold won't just make it unappetizing — it can give you food poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maybe you're letting your steak marinate. Maybe you've just served 20 guests at a barbecue, and you're so exhausted, you left the leftovers on your kitchen table. Maybe you couldn't find room in the fridge. While these are all relatable scenarios, letting your steak sit around for a few hours will plunge it into the danger zone.

Highway to the danger zone — of food temps

We're not being dramatic. The danger zone is a real thing in the food world. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food that falls between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F qualifies for the "danger zone," meaning it's in a temperature range that allows the growth of bacteria like salmonella and E. Coli. If you have leftovers, place them in the refrigerator immediately. You can always reheat your steak later — on a skillet or in the oven, according to Delish. If you're marinating the steak for some carne asada tacos or some Sriracha-honey stir-fry, place your marinade bag in the refrigerator, according to The Kitchn. See how easy life can be when you keep your food safe?

Of course, there's the issue of letting your steak rest — after you cook it, you want to leave it alone at room temperature to seal in those flavorful juices. In that case, you're fine to leave your food out at room temp, because you shouldn't be waiting more than maybe 10 minutes per pound of steak, according to The Spruce Eats. That isn't nearly enough time to let bacteria grow — if you've left your steak out in the open for under two hours, you're fine to dig in, according to the Food and Drug Administration — danger zone avoided.