Apparently I have been making a huge food mistake

…and it’s a wonder I’m not dead?

I often cook things overnite in the crockpot, chicken soup the most likely, sometime red sauce. When I get up, it’s cooked but hotter than hell, so I leave it all day on the counter. When I get home, I freeze it in containers. Then when I go to use it, I boil it, or make it just starting to boil.

Thinking, apparently stupidly, that freezing and boiling would kill off any sneaky bacteria that attacked my food.

My BF says I am completely wrong and need to stop doing this ASAP. I really hate putting a super hot crockpot (well, just the liner part) in the fridge, and raising the temp. in there.

Am I lucky to be alive?

I don’t have a factual answer for you. I can tell you that I cook things in a dutch oven often, for dinner, and then leave the whole pot o stuff on the stove overnight (often, some type of lentil stew). I then put the whole thing in the fridge in the morning. Throughout the week, I dip into the pot from the fridge and fill a bowl for dinner or a container for lunch.

So I guess I’m also dancing with death.

It would depend on what was in whatever you’re cooking but very generally, no, it’s not safe. Not everything can be destroyed with the level of heat things get cooked to and keeping them hot or cold prevents them from showing up in the first place. Above 40F and below 140F is the danger zone for microbial growth and something that’s been on the counter since 8 in the morning has had plenty of time to be compromised.

edit: in true take my advice, I’m not using it fashion, I must admit, I rarely refrigerate pizza until the second day.

Food is not supposed to sit between 40 and 140 for more than 2 hours.

However, you’re probably alive maybe because the food sat in the closed crockpot all day? and because food poisoning deaths occur about 1 in 10,000 cases.

So in the name of safety, I’d stop doing that. (He says as he eats his day old pizza)

Keep in mind that the problem is not only the critters in your food at the time you’re eating it, but also any toxins that critters made while they were in the food. Botulism, for example, is a neurotoxin that is produced by bacteria, you don’t actually have to be exposed to the bacteria itself to get it.

Yeah, while the slow cooker is cooking you’re fine as they operate over 170 F and usually higher still. But if you’re planning to freeze your batch of food you need to put it in the refrigerator to cool off to the ambient temp in the fridge, then you can freeze it.

You don’t have to put the whole crock in the fridge. Decant the contents into several smaller containers and put them in the fridge. They’ll cool off pretty fast.

That is going to put a lot of strain to your fridge, and it will probably warm it up. If there is anything else in the fridge at the time, then the safe life time will be reduced.

You need to get it cold, but the fastest way would likely be to decant it into some sort of sealable container and then plunge in cold water.

Apparently we dance with death on a regular basis, then, too.

Fuck it. My immune system needs a workout, anyway.

I’ve never tried this out, because I’m picky about keeping the kitchen clean and because my crockpot switches to warm after my food has cooked for its set time. But…my college bio professor swore that even if food had some bacteria that it would be killed when reheated to the proper temperature. He said the main issue with leaving food out is that we tend to eat it later without reheating or not adequately heating it. Like the proverbial potato salad at the church potluck that makes everyone sick. (Although I’ve never had potluck potato salad made with homemade mayo).

If you want to change up your system so the BF doesn’t freak out, try mixing everything into the crockpot the night before and putting it into the fridge. Then start it cooking before you leave for work in the morning. It will cook for the same amount of time, but you won’t have to leave it cooling for hours unattended. Or get a crockpot with a timer that switches to warm when the cooking is done.

My parents are notorious for leaving the leftover breakfast sausages or bacon out all day and my dad will make a sausage biscuit before bed (if any sausage is left by then). Nobody has ever gotten sick. I had food poisoning once from lasagna left out overnight, but I ate it without heating it up.

When you get up, do you open the container? If not, and it sits sealed all day on the counter, it’s pretty unlikely that something would manage to get into the container to cause food poisoning, assuming that the lid and the air under it are also heated enough to kill bacteria. Of course, it’s not perfectly airtight, and cooking doesn’t completely sterilize everything, so it’s possible for something to be in there and multiply over the course of the day and kill you dead when you consume it, but it’s not likely. Unless you open it.

OTOH, modern refrigerators are supposed to be pretty powerful and capable of handling anything you put in them. I haven’t tested it myself to see. Food safety people will tell you to divide it into smaller containers to cool faster, as people have here, but that increases exposure to the air significantly. Who knows what the actual risk factor vs keeping food in a warm but mostly sterile and mostly sealed container is.

Modern fridges are not designed to chill food down from cooking temperatures and are not capable of maintaining the correct temperature overall when doing this task.

Industrial or commercial fridge units might be capable, it basically comes down to the radiator capacity. You will not that heavy duty units have much larger finned radiators around the back, really heavy duty ones will have water cooled radiators.

Your home fridge simply does not have the heat transfer capacity, and it is not an economic prospect to manufacture them for consumer use.

In addition, it is not just the absolute temperature that is the issue, it is also the volume of material to be chilled, so a small mug of coffee will be ok, apart from the steam condensing on inside surfaces - which makes for an environment for listeria monocytogenes to grow. A 5 litre container of something that is around 30C will take quite some time to cool down and will raise the temperature of the fridge for long enough to reduce the shelf life of other food stored in it.

Yes, you can get chillers that do have the capacity to chill food down very quickly, but you will find these are used in specific enterprises. These are not fridges, they only achieve the same temperatures as a fridge, but they can soak up heat energy much much faster, but they also use a lot of energy in doing so.

Any HVAC engineer will tell you that one of the most expensive commodities in the home is not heating or lighting - it is cold, its not cheap to produce.

If you are oven cooking above 180C then you will likely be safe leaving the sealed container to cool to room temperature, this is because you will kill virtually all bacteria capable of causing illness, even hotter is better.

Low temperature cooking, such as a slo-cooker is known to be an issue, especially with poultry. These things cook at lower temperatures for lengthy periods but it is not enough to kill off certain bugs, although it does prevent them breeding. If you then allow such food to cool at room temperature for several hours, those bugs will start to reproduce.

If you use a slo-cooker, then you should consume the food as soon as possible after the cooking cycle has completed, is isn’t really suitable for chilling down. Cook freeze might be a better option as long as you can get that temperature down - resumption of bacterial growth tends to restart from around 20 minutes after food has returned to below 40C - so ideally you’d get your food to the lower bacterial growth temperature - around 5C in some time less than this, but a couple of hours in a sealed container should be ok - just remember that your shelf life is not going to be the 3 months that you get on commercially frozen food.

I bow to your superior sounds-like-he-knows-what-he’s-talking-about-iness. I’ve definitely been told that modern fridges can handle the load, but the people telling me that didn’t sound nearly as much like they knew what they were talking about!

Although I do have a reasonable awareness of this I can understand that you might not be completely convinced (I used to teach food safety, and also I am a maintenance electrician, and guess what one of the things I used to repair)

So, I will provide a few quotes.

http://shelflifeadvice.com/content/should-hot-food-go-fridge

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/healthsafetywellbeing/guidance/foodhygieneandsafety/storageoffood/

If you want a very basic introduction to some of the numbers, try this,

http://www.beananimal.com/articles/dorm-fridge-aquarium-chiller.aspx

http://www.powerknot.com/what-is-a-ton-of-refrigeration.html

What it boils down to (see what I did there?) is that the heat transfer rate of a domestic fridge is simply not up to chilling significant volumes of hot substances, and to manufacture such fridges would be relatively costly, and the consumer is just going to compare prices, not many will understand the Btu capacity of a fridge, or what it means, and for the few that do - well they are in a position to understand that such capacity is rarely required anyway and would not buy it either.

Thanks, but I was genuinely sincere, just flippant. It’s not like I provided any cites, nor could I!

I’m like the OP, and haven’t died yet. Although during the winter I will sometimes set the crockpot outside for a half hour or so to quick chill,then move it to the refrigerator.

I’m confused why you cook overnight rather than what I always assumed was the standard.

Prep in the evening… put it in the refrigerator. In the morning when you get up, get it set up to cook while you are gone. When you get home you turn it off, have a nice hot bowl of soup (or whatever), let it cool a bit then put it away either in the fridge or freezer.

Quoting this for emphasis. This is the reason that it is not always enough to just reheat food. You can kill bacteria without destroying the toxins.

A lot of people manage to get away with eating old food, but I think there are also many cases where people get moderately ill from food poisoning and don’t even realize it is food poisoning (a lot of cases of what people call “stomach flu” are really food poisoning).

Just put your food in some Tupperware or Pyrex containers and refrigerate for shit’s sake.

No really, once you’re on hour three of food poisoning, involuntarily crapping a stream of water like a fountain at The Venetian, you’ll realize you really are doing this for shit’s sake.