How Long Does Chinese Food Last?

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Chinese food is both my comfort food and guilty pleasure. Like a lot of people, it is one of my favorite cuisines, and when not ordering it, I’m attempting to make it in my kitchen. But most weekends and weekdays you’ll find my kitchen covered in Chinese takeout containers that I will attempt to then wrangle into my fridge. This is a common scenario across households around the world because we love Chinese food and we’re hoping our icebox in the kitchen will keep it good forever. 

Many of us think that if there is vinegar, salt, and enough oil in food then these ingredients will act as preservatives and keep the food longer. Unfortunately, any dish is going to last only as long as its most easily perishable ingredient.  

A number of factors go into determining just how long Chinese food is going to last, like when it was prepared, how long it has been left out, quality of ingredients, and storage conditions. Takeout Chinese food is especially susceptible to spoilage and decay and needs to be put away as soon as possible. Read on further to find out just how long you should have your takeout and when it is time to toss it.

How Long Does Chinese Food Last?

  • If you want your Chinese food to not spoil quickly, the first thing you have to do is put it in the fridge as soon as possible.
  • Take-out Chinese food that has been stored properly and promptly will last in the fridge for about 2-4 days.
  • Chinese food that is made at home should be cooled and refrigerated within 2 hours of making it and it will last for 3-5 days in the fridge.
  • If the food, takeout, or homemade is left out for too long, then it will start deteriorating after 2 hours. Once any kind of contamination sets in, then that is the end of the Chinese food, it has to be thrown out.
  • If you want your Chinese food to last for a lot longer than a few days, you can freeze it. It will be good for about 3-4 months, but the quality would have deteriorated.
Type of Chinese FoodCounterFridgeFreezer
Homemade Chinese Food2-3 hours3-5 days3-4 months
Takeout Chinese Food2 hours2-4 days3-4 months

The above table is just an estimate, there are a number of factors that will determine just how long Chinese food will last. 

If you want your food to last long, you will have to take some precautions for proper storage, which will ensure longer shelf life. Both homemade Chinese food and store-bought food need to be refrigerated in the right kind of container, at the right temperature at the right time. Since there are so many variables determining how long your food is going to last, a few extra steps are worth it.

How To Store Chinese Food?

There are a few things you can do to make sure that your Chinese food not only lasts longer but still tastes good as well.

  • Store your food in the fridge within two hours of making or getting it. Whether you’ve made it at home or bought it from your favorite Chinese restaurant, cool down your food and then store it in the fridge within two hours of bringing it home. Your food will last comfortably for about 2-5 days
  • Do not leave your food overnight or for extended hours outside on the counter. Contamination sets in quickly. 
  • Make sure you store your food in an airtight container so that the food doesn’t dry out.
  • Storing Chinese food open in the fridge or not in an airtight container will make the whole fridge smell of take-out. Also, exposure to cold air in the fridge will cause the food to get hard and dry. 
  • Transfer the food from the takeout containers into airtight containers. This is because most take-boxes are not fully sealed causing air to enter and circulate. This in turn accelerates spoilage. 
  • If you want to use the food you already have in the future, then you can freeze it. If it is store-bought Chinese food, then the first thing to do is to transfer it into an airtight container. Make sure that the food is not still warm.
  • Then place in the freezer. Make sure the food has not reached its expiry date and is well within the 2 to 4-day window. For the freshest result, freeze it as soon as you get it, once it has cooled.
  • Similarly, for homemade food, let it cool and then store it in the freezer.
  • The food will be good in the freezer for about 3-4 months
  • To thaw the food, let it sit in the fridge overnight or you can blitz it in the microwave. The best way to heat and thaw frozen Chinese food is over the stove. Bonus points if you have a wok that you can reheat the food in. This is because the food is spread out and gets cooked evenly. Warm it up on low heat.
  • The consistency and texture of Chinese food will change once it is frozen and thawed. The food might be mushier, but it should still taste good.
  • Do not refreeze thawed Chinese food as this will further alter the texture and the food is only going to be mushier and less appetizing. 

Will Chinese Food Go Bad and How To Tell If Spoiled?

Yes, Chinese food will go bad. But if you follow some of the steps mentioned above, you can enjoy your favorite cuisine a little bit longer. But when it does eventually spoil, here is what to watch out for:

  • Smell: Chinese food usually smells of spice and deliciousness. If it develops an overwhelmingly pungent and bitter smell, then your food has got to go. Chinese food generally has a pretty strong smell, but if it smells “off” then it has turned.
  • Texture: Depending on what you are eating, be it rice, noodles, meat, or vegetables there will be a change in the texture. Gravy will get clumpy, rice and noodles will harden, and meat and vegetables will get slimy and dry. A little bit of drying out from the fridge is normal, but if it is a discernible change then your food has spoiled. Do not consume spoiled Chinese food.
  • Coloring: If your food looks cloudy or discolored then it has most likely gone bad. 
  • Similarly, if you see anything growing or floating on the surface of your food then it has definitely not consumable anymore. Bacteria and other contamination will set it and spread quickly. 

Do not eat spoiled Chinese food as you will get food poisoning, resulting in diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, chills, and fever to name just a few. If you want to enjoy your Chinese food, take care of preparing it and storing it with as much precaution as possible. Your food will be safe for longer and the taste and quality will remain good.

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