By: Marissa Perrella
How long does leftover food last in the fridge for? How long can food stay out of the fridge for without going bad? Can you eat yogurt a few days past the “best before date”? How do I know when this chicken is done?
These are all common questions that anyone who is learning to cook on their own may have while living away from home during university. Heck, these are questions that most adults don’t even know the answers to!
Today, I am sharing a little bit of my passion with you about food safety. As a fourth year Public Health and Safety student here at Ryerson, I have acquired a great deal of (extremely) detailed, wordy and extensive information about things that wouldn’t make sense to the average person (sometimes I don’t even know what the professors are talking about). So what I am going to do is break this blog down into a few different questions covering a few topics in food safety which may be most relevant to “the university student learning how to cook and wanting to not throw out any leftover of potentially spoiled food and keep it in the fridge forever because it cost them a lot of money”.
- How do I know when this meat is cooked enough?
- First of all, get yourself a food thermometer in your kitchen- looking at the colour of a piece of meat is not enough. Second, when you take the temperature of a food ensure you stick the thermometer in the thickest part without it touching the hot pan or any bone.
- Steaks require the least amount of cooking due to the fact that bacterial contamination may just be on the outside of the whole cut of meat and not on the insides. Cook until internal temperature is 63°C.
- Fish must be cooked to at least 70°C. The reason why you can eat fish raw at a sushi restaurant is because this fish has been frozen for a period of time in order to kill off any pre-existing parasites in the flesh, so don’t think that under-cooking fish is okay just because you can eat raw fish at a sushi restaurant! Totally different.
- Pork must be cooked to 71°C (colour is not a good indicator of when a meat is to proper temperature, so make sure to get a food thermometer!)
- Ground beef (burgers) must be cooked to 71°C as well. If a restaurant ever asks you how you want your burger done, well-done is always the safest answer. Ground beef is particularly susceptible to bacterial contamination and should never be eaten under-cooked.
- Egg dishes (quiches, etc.) must be cooked to 74°C as well.
- If you are cooking just a chicken breast, the internal temperature must reach 74°C, however if you are cooking a full portion of poultry (duck, turkey, etc.) then the temperature of the thickest part of the meat (the breast) must rise to at least 85°C.
- How long can food stay at room temperature for?
- The rule of thumb for this is that “food can stay in the DANGER ZONE (4°C to 60°C, which is room temperature), for 2 HOURS”.
- After those 2 hours at room temperature have passed, the bacteria on the food has now been able to grow in ideal temperature conditions and will begin to multiply more rapidly, therefore deeming that food as unsafe.
- Even if you microwave the food after to 74°C which is the recommended temperature to reheat leftovers, this is not sufficient enough to kill all of the pathogens because some bacteria form toxins which are heat stable and can’t be killed in microwave temperatures.
- How long does leftover food last in the fridge for?
- It can probably “last” a week or so… but after a few days you should definitely toss it out.
- Like cooking temperatures, each meat/dish has a slightly different lasting time in the fridge as leftover food (however if you freeze your leftovers, they’re safe for WAY longer).
- Don’t forget that if you are planning to reheat your leftover food, it must be reheated to 74°C in order to ensure safety, and must not have been previously exposed to temperature abuse (aka- left out of the fridge after you cooked it for more than 2 hours!).
- If something is past the “best before date”, is it safe to eat?
- Something you may not have known is that there is a big difference between an “expiry date” and a “best before date”.
- An EXPIRY DATE tells you about the safety of the food- if something is EXPIRED, then it is NOT safe to each anymore. The only foods that really have expiry dates are baby formula, nutritional supplements, meal replacements and formulated liquid diets.
- BEST BEFORE DATES actually don’t relate to the safety of the food at all- they guarantee freshness! The best before date tells you about how long the food will keep it’s nutritional value, flavour and appearance- but has nothing to do with its safety.
- So with that being said, if something is a couple of days past the best before day, it might be safe to eat, but only if it is SEALED in its original packaging and has not yet been exposed to air or other food pathogens (ex. Sealed yogurt, an unopened carton of milk, etc.)
- Once a food has changed colour, appearance or develops a bad smell, it should be thrown out.
- If the end of your brick of cheese has gone mouldy, its recommended to throw out the entire thing because the mould has likely progressed through the cheese but it just hasn’t grown enough for us to see yet.
- Once something has been opened, the best before date is rendered to be no longer in effect because the food is now exposed to air which can permit bacterial growth.
- “When in doubt, throw it out!”
So that’s all I’m going to cover in this blog. There’s definitely tons of other messages that I could write about in terms of food safety, but to keep it short and sweet for this week I will end this blog post here!
Thank you for taking the time to read, and safe cooking RAMS! 🙂