Does Cheesecake Need to Be Refrigerated?

We've got the answers for just how long cheesecake lasts at room temperature.

Classic New York-Style Cheesecake
Photo: Kritsada Panichgul

There is nothing like a decadent slice of classic New York-style cheesecake to finish off a meal. Whether it's homemade or from your favorite bakery, it's of course best enjoyed chilled and served right out of the fridge. But does cheesecake go bad if left out? Sorry to break it to you, but the answer is yes. Whether you made it yourself or took home leftovers from dinner, we don't recommend eating cheesecake that's been left out for a long period of time. Creamy foods made with eggs and milk such as pumpkin pie, custard pie, and cheesecake must first be safely baked to a safe internal temperature between 150ºF and 160°F. Then, they must be refrigerated after baked and cooled to room temperature (about 1 hour) to set.

Eggs and milk have high protein and moisture content. So when baked goods such as cheesecake are left at room temperature, conditions are ripe for bacteria to multiply. Note: It's not necessary to refrigerate most other cakes, cookies, or bread unless they have a perishable filling or frosting. According to the USDA's Food Keeper App, cheesecake should be consumed within 5 to 7 days of refrigeration.

Related: How to Tell if Cheesecake Is Done Without Ruining the Surface

While we wish we had better news, if you accidentally went to bed and left your cheesecake cooling on the counter, it's best to not risk illness by consuming it. When you have cheesecake that's already baked and chilled, the absolute max time you could let it sit out to avoid the USDA's "danger zone" is two hours. Save yourself the stress of wasting that by putting it in the fridge as soon as everyone's grabbed a slice or it's cooled enough after baking to chill.

If you've been practicing to perfect a rich and creamy homemade cheesecake, it's important to know exactly how to store your cheesecake so it stays fresh. Since cheesecake can absorb other odors, wrapping it correctly is key to ensuring the best flavor possible. We recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap and then placing in a storage container. Use our Test Kitchen's complete guide to making cheesecake to know the proper times and temperatures for every step of the process.

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