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rgruby

Animal Flesh, Storing in the Fridge

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Thank you Mr. McGee for joining us here!

I've just received my copy of the revised version of On Food and Cooking. It looks fantastic and I'm sure it will be a valued and frequently used resource in my kitchen.

So far, I've read up to the beginning of the chapter on eggs and had a rather cursory flip through the rest. One thing that did catch my eye was the section on the ageing and storage of meat. Certain animal flesh, such as that from cows, is improved immensely from a fairly lengthy ageing period in conditions which are not all that dissimilar to those found in the average fridge. Yet when I buy meat (lets say thin cuts like steaks or chops - not ground or roasts), and leave it in the fridge for more than a couple of days, it gets noticeably stronger smelling, may feel a bit slimy, have a bit of an oil-slick like rainbow colouration to it etc. (Most of the time I purchase meat it would be wrapped in butcher paper, and not in a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic, if that matters). My inclination would be to throw that meat out at that point. Am I being way overly cautious? Avoiding the subject of ground meats, is there anything there that could kill me?

My experience in restaurants has been that if it looks ok (i.e. not fuzzy, dried out) and smells ok (and the tolerance for what smells ok may be a bit wider than what I personally would accept), then out it goes. Is a quick visual and smell test sufficient? If so, is it equally applicable to flesh four-legged, feathered and finned?

Thanks again,

Geoff Ruby

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Thanks, Geoff, I hope you do find the new edition useful.

Regarding meats that have been around for a while—hung meats develop a rancid, microbe-ridden surface too, and that’s one of the reasons that aged meat is expensive. That surface is cut off and there’s a lot of waste. Your precut steaks and chops are almost all surface, and there’s nothing to salvage if it gets slimy and smells off, both signs that you have billions of bacteria helping themselves. Most of those bacteria are harmless, and will be dead anyhow if you fry or grill or braise the meat, but it’s not going to taste very good. The microbes that cause food poisoning—listeria, salmonella, e coli, etc—are not detectable by sniffing or looking. If I were you, I’d keep throwing that old meat out.

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Ok, here's a somewhat related question. Some food safety experts these days seem to think that no precaution is too small. I have heard credible sources say not to leave the mayonnaise jar out on the counter for the half hour it takes you to eat lunch, and to put cooked foods into the refrigerator within 1/2 hour of cooking them. (That last precaution makes me wonder how one is supposed to keep the refrigerator cold, but that's another story.)

To what level do you take your own personal precautions, in your kitchen? Do you have a 'line' defining the difference between reasonably safe and overly cautious?


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Researchers in the US and UK have discovered by trying the experiment that you can inject commercially-made mayonnaise with live cultures of listerium or salmonella, and they will die. The mayo is acidic enough to kill them on contact.

I still wouldn't leave it on the dash of my car or anything, but a half-hour is pretty safe. Homemade mayo requires a little more caution, of course. As far as specific times, well...there I'm out of my depth.


“What is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

 

"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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My father is a former butcher. He suggested if you wanted to age beef in your fridge (which he did not advise because of humidity and temp variables), he advised buying a big hunk, aging it, scraping off the mold and crap, and when aged, cutting up your own steaks.

Further to this thread, potato salad. Everyone I know says that when it goes bad, it is because of the mayo (always purchased mayo). Me does think that it has more to do with the potatoes than the purchased mayo (or, god forbid, miracle whip). Those starches and sugars in potatoes must be a virtual breeding ground, no?


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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The microbes that cause food poisoning—listeria, salmonella, e coli, etc—are not detectable by sniffing or looking. If I were you, I’d keep throwing that old meat out.

Mr. McGee,

Again, thank you for joining us. Just want to add a couple of obvious things to your response. First, we should all use meat before it gets to the point that you have to throw it out. To not do so is not only a waste of your time (shopping) and money, but also of the efforts of the farmers, shippers etc. In North America big hunks of protein are relatively inexpensive, but that doesn't mean we should be nonchalant about waste. Second, even though the bacteria that cause meat to smell off may not kill us, proper storage and appropriate cooking methods are still essential for the reasons pointed out above.

One question I should have asked - uncooked meat gives us notice that it is off, because the bacteria smell offensive to us. Assuming meat or poultry is cooked correctly, cooled quickly and stored in a fridge, is there any hard and fast rule regarding how long it remains good? I've had cooked chicken in my fridge that has been in there for quite a while - like more than a week - that looks ok and doesn't smell off. Will that be dangerous to eat?

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I don't worry a lot about food safety in my own kitchen, but I do try to get things back into the fridge pretty promptly. I once left a fully cooked pot of lentils, covered, on the stovetop for nearly a day, and it was absolutely teeming with mold and bacteria when I took the lid off. That got me to imagining the time-lapse movie, and wondering at what hour the stuff would have been noticeably tainted. Better not to find out.

The refrigerated life of cooked meat depends on a lot of things, including how it was cooked, how long it sat out, how well it's wrapped, how cold the fridge, etc. A week in a good cold place is probably okay, but I'd be surprised if chicken in particular hadn't already developed some rancidity--though that would become more noticeable with warming. You certainly wouldn't want to warm such leftovers too gently and hold them warm. I would probably try to surface-pasteurize the meat by dunking it in boiling sauce.

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