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How Long is it Safe to Hold Normally Refrigerated Items at Room Temp?


OB
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I know  this may be a *rookie* question....but here it goes...

When bringing something to room temp before roasting or whatever...is there an amount of time that should be avoided....I mean...too long...sitting out on the counter before it goes bad?

This Christmas I made a 6.5 lb. tenderloin....I let it sit out on my counter for 2 hours...when I stuck my thermometer in, it registered 50 degrees...hardly room temp.

On thanksgiving, my 22 lb.  bird sat out for 3 hours and was 58 degrees....

I understand most recipes aren't going to tell you to let such and such a cut of meat sit out for more than x hours ...probably because of liability..but ....

How long should larger birds and/or cuts of meat sit out to reach room temp before cooking?  without going "bad" (if that's possible in these time limits)

When  I grill or broil filets, I have no problem...they come up to room temp fairly easily.....and cook marvelously...

I do have a lot more *rookie* questions, but I may compile them in the bio section...I'm gonna try hard to be a good egullet citizen :)

thanks

Tom

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i forget the exact temps, but there is a "danger zone" of temps that where microorganisms thrive.  i think it's approximately 50 to 90 degrees, or something like that.  i'm sure a basic cookbook might have this range, but i don't have one handy.

so, it's not a matter of time really, but a matter of temp.  unless food is frozen, i rarely let it sit out before cooking.  if anything, i'll keep it in the fridge.  i don't know of any reason to do otherwise, especially if you're roasting or doing any kind of slow cooking.  hope this helps.

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As my refrigerators (three in one kitchen, one in the other) can be quite cold, I'll set out a rib eye or one bone prime for at least two hours. Duck breast about one hour. Chicken at least half an hour in a marinade. Large shrimp with the shell on half an hour.

I'm not looking for room temperature, just so that it doesn't feel chilled to the touch.

Anything with bone in or shell on keeps cooler and warmer longer.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Quote: from Jinmyo on 11:20 am on Jan. 5, 2002

As my refrigerators (three in one kitchen, one in the other) can be quite cold, I'll set out a rib eye or one bone prime for at least two hours. Duck breast about one hour. Chicken at least half an hour in a marinade. Large shrimp with the shell on half an hour.

.

I think that's about what I do more or less...I think the results are better when the meat isn't chilled from the frig and then inserted directly into the oven...

I appreciate your comments and my mistake was taking "room temp" concept literally...

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It might help to define room temperature.

Today, in the average New York City apartment, the typical room in the middle of winter is at about 85 degrees. That same room in the year 1890 probably would have been around 60 degrees, and lower at night.

This comes up all the time when people are told to serve wine at room temperature. There is no wine I know of that tastes its best at the real room temperature of most modern buildings with central heat and space-age insulation. So when you think about room temperature, think low-sixties.

I like to start with meat in the fifties. Even with slow roasting, it seems to work better. The danger zone is an issue, of course, but it's mostly something I worry about when cooling food. Obviously, most bacteria don't double as quickly at 40 degrees as they do at 140 degrees. I think if you go from low-thirties refrigerator temperature to mid-fifties just-below-old-style-room-temperature you're relatively safe and your meat will for the most part come out better.

Do you have a marble or granite surface available? These sorts of very dense stone surfaces work well to equalize the temperature of whatever you put on them with the ambient temperature. Put something hot on marble and it will cool quickly. Put something cool on it and it will rise quickly to the ambient temperature. At least, more quickly than if you put it on a wooden board.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Fat Guy, you are definitely right about wines. Good point. It brings together a few things for me.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Thanks for your insight Steven...that's exactly what I was curious about...I also agree, results are better when starting to cook at those temps as opposed to right out of the frig...

85 degrees in your apartment?  Really?  Yikes, that's h.o.t.

My house is low 70's in the winter...I guess with forced air it's a little different...even with a humidifier on my furnace, it still would be dry if it were to go any higher...

Tom

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One of the great ironies of Manhattan apartment life is that my home is substantially warmer on the coldest day of February than on the hottest day of July.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Quote: from Fat Guy on 6:31 pm on Jan. 5, 2002

Do you have a marble or granite surface available? These sorts of very dense stone surfaces work well to equalize the temperature of whatever you put on them with the ambient temperature. Put something hot on marble and it will cool quickly. Put something cool on it and it will rise quickly to the ambient temperature. At least, more quickly than if you put it on a wooden board.

A year ago I got stone countertops and I've discovered that for rolling out pie dough, they suck the coolth right out of refridgerated dough. Anybody know what the story is on the legendary superiority of marble for pastry?

P.S. OB, there are no rookie questions. It's often the most basic information that goes unquestioned too long.

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B. Edulis, it's the same issue I raised in my post: Central heating has changed the rules of the game. Stone surfaces are now warmer than most pastry ingredients need to be. In professional pastry kitchens, either the temperature is kept lower or the surfaces are refrigerated.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 12 years later...

I keep my house in mid sixties in the winter.  I often leave lamb or red meat out til it's lost it's really lost its cool so that I can go black and blue. I reason that if I do get a few extra bacteria doing this, they're all on the surface and will be killed off by the heat. I'm more careful with chicken and fish.

 

Once the meat is cooked more caution is useful.

 

May I say, I've reached a venerable age without food poisoning despite this slap dash.

 

Some reflections. :

-- Some of the fanaticism about food safety is our importing professional cooking techniques - and safety standards - into the home kitchen may lead us to be overly concerned.. In a clean kitchen two hours at my room temperature will not fester a T-Bone. Also, note that I salt the meat before I let it come to room temperature. I do it to encourage flavor, but it doubltless adds to the safety.

 

--The other, and I think more important, problem is the change in the way food is processed since I began cooking in the 50's. Factory farming for flora and fauna doubtless puts us all at geater risk. I hardly buy fresh foods at the supermarket. Even at Whole Foods I see produce I won't buy because it's obviously been mishandled. Greeens in celopacks shipped in from the other coast?  And I NEVER ever buy preground meat anymore anywhere.

 

On the other hand, the novice cook should always err on the side of caution.

Edited by Mottmott (log)

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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I been told by the butcher  that if the meat goes from chilled  into hot pan, the fiber can explode or contract due to what type of meat and that changed the results.  And I leave it out for 40 minutes it is all it most often needs.

Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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Tom, I actually think yours is a really excellent question; I see many, many recipes that tell you to bring meat, poultry, etc. to room temp before cooking.  I pretty much do what others here say and leave things out for 30 to 60 mins. depending on the size, etc.

Since I'm a bit of a lazy cook, I often don't take my protein out of the freezer until the morning that I'm going to cook it.

I let the item thaw on my granite counter and sometimes I'm a little careless about how long I let it hang out there.

Haven't gotten sick yet.

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I arbitrarily define room temperature as 68F. As such it is impossible to bring a large solid muscle, taken from the fridge, to room temp. In less than four hours and probably much longer. I tried it. A 10lb bone in prime rib of beef had not budged from 40F in the centre of the muscle after 4 hous. And my ambient room temp was already higher than 68F. I was following a recipe called High Temperature Rib Roast (google it if interested).

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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The USDA's guideline is that two hours total at room temperature (including prep time) is the functional limit. After that, you're living dangerously. (Doffs his "food safety instructor" hat.)

Of course that's not taking your ambient temperature into account, but the surface of your food will be in the "danger zone" for a long time before the middle warms appreciably. Seriously, unless you're talking about a steak or a chop -- and not a very thick one at that -- the benefit is minimal. If you want to try it on seriously, get a roast and a bunch of instant-read thermometers and poke them into the meat at 1/2 inch or 1-inch depth increments and see how warm the middle gets within two hours. 

 

I know this is one of those bits of orthodoxy that counts as insider, line-cook wisdom, but I'm a skeptic. 

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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The USDA's guideline is that two hours total at room temperature (including prep time) is the functional limit. After that, you're living dangerously. (Doffs his "food safety instructor" hat.)

Of course that's not taking your ambient temperature into account, but the surface of your food will be in the "danger zone" for a long time before the middle warms appreciably. Seriously, unless you're talking about a steak or a chop -- and not a very thick one at that -- the benefit is minimal. If you want to try it on seriously, get a roast and a bunch of instant-read thermometers and poke them into the meat at 1/2 inch or 1-inch depth increments and see how warm the middle gets within two hours. 

 

I know this is one of those bits of orthodoxy that counts as insider, line-cook wisdom, but I'm a skeptic.

I was not seriously concerned. Was a single instance and I knew the meat was going to be blasted up 500°F for at least 45 minutes and that the interior was sterile (until of course we poke all kinds of thermometers in there!).

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Tom, I actually think yours is a really excellent question; I see many, many recipes that tell you to bring meat, poultry, etc. to room temp before cooking.  I pretty much do what others here say and leave things out for 30 to 60 mins. depending on the size, etc.

Since I'm a bit of a lazy cook, I often don't take my protein out of the freezer until the morning that I'm going to cook it.

I let the item thaw on my granite counter and sometimes I'm a little careless about how long I let it hang out there.

Haven't gotten sick yet.

Don't sit it on granite. Put your (cold) frypan on the (cold) range and let it thaw on there. The metal has much better thermal conductivity than granite and thus will transfer ambient heat into the meat much quicker, causing it to thaw faster.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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