For all the non-vegetarians of the world, meat is a great source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. It's also delicious, and there are tons of ways to serve all the various types of meat available to us. 

But, like so many other foods, meat can get some pretty serious bacteria on it, including listeria, E. coli, and salmonella. All of those can cause really nasty foodborne illnesses, and nobody wants to catch one of those. 

The best way to prevent bacteria-related illnesses is to simply make sure that you prepare the meat correctly. This mainly involves not keeping it outside of the fridge for too long, as that's when bacteria really begin to multiply. The temperatures on counters are conducive to bacteria growth, and cause bacteria  to almost double in numbers after only 20 minutes. 

So how long is too long for meat to sit out? It actually depends on the temperature in the area. Meat should never sit out for more than two hours, but if the temperature is above 90ºF, it shouldn't even sit out more than an hour. 

meat, fish, seafood
Jocelyn Hsu

Due to the risks of food-borne illness, it's also recommended that you don't thaw meats out on the counter. Don't leave cooked meat out on the counter for too long either, as bacteria still can thrive in cooked meats too. 

Heat doesn't remove toxins caused by bacteria on meat, so even cooking meat that has been improperly stored might still cause serious illness. The best thing to do if meat has been exposed to warm temperatures for longer than the recommended guidelines would be to throw it away, rather than risk getting sick. 

Remember, food safety is super important. No one likes to throw out bad food, but it's definitely not worth getting sick over. Food-related illnesses are painful, messy, and never a good thing.