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Refrigerating canned food is it bad idea?

  • c

A friend has told me that refrigerating canned food is a very bad thing to do. Something about bacteria growth. I don't see any logic in this. I refridgerate stuff like canned tuna that I like to eat cold.

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  1. You should put the food in a non reactive container like Tupperware or a Ziplock plastic bag.

    2 Replies
    1. re: russkar

      Yeah, like that container of vodka sauce...

      1. re: chino wayne

        Like, who's got leftovers?

    2. It is only dangerous if the can has been opened. It is very unwise to store an opened tin can in the fridge. Nasty bacterial growth.

      Unless the can has been damaged it should be problem if it is unopened.

      4 Replies
      1. re: JudiAU
        Richard Gould-Saltman

        OK, somebody's dispensing bad science, or pseudo-science here.

        Canned food is more or less sterile when you open it. That's what canning is supposed to do. Once you open it, you let in de bugs.

        If you "de-can" it into a plastic container, oxidized metal products (which result in that "tinny" flavor) won't be produced by having the food sit in an open can. This has nothing to do with bacteria at all.

        HOWEVER, I can see no reason why (previously) canned cooked food would deteriorate any faster than any other cooked food in a refrigerator, nor can I see any possible reason that refrigeration would speed up, rather than slow bacterial spoilage. That's why we have refrigeration to begin with.

        If anyone wants to offer an EXPLANATION of a contrary view, I'm more than willing to be told I'm wrong.

        Richard G-S

        1. re: Richard Gould-Saltman

          I'd tend to agree. I have no proof one way or th other, but let's look at some facts:

          Cans are generally made from aluminium or steel.
          Cans these days are usually treated on the inside and out with a protective layer to prevent oxidisation.
          Cans are sterile (inside) upon being sealed.
          Both aluminium and steel do oxidize, hence the coating.
          If the coating is removed (by strong acids in the food, or at the point the can is opened) the material is free to oxidize.
          There are no proven health risks to consuming small quantities of rust or aluminium oxide.
          However, I'm not sure whether there are any foods that could react to this? It could all come down to the contents.

          And as an aside, if we get to the bottom of this, we should also get a conclusive answer on how safe dented cans are.

          1. re: Soop

            When I have a dented can, I just let it sit a few weeks and if it doesn't puff up, I feel free to use it. Especially if it makes a vacuum release sound on opening, then you know it's still sealed. If not, hopefully it's something that can be cooked for awhile to make sure. Opposite of conclusive, I know. But the health inspector makes restaurants and institutions get rid of dented cans, they return them to their purveyor, and you know where they go then? Not in the garbage, but to food pantries and homeless shelters etc, they still get used.

            1. re: coll

              I always thought that dented cans were supposedly dangerous because the lining was broken. In retrospect this doesn't makes sense, as there was no lining at one point in history, and it's still a vacuum (presuming it's unbreached as you say)

      2. Oh let's just bring this discussion to it's inevitable conclusion as quickly as possible. You know it's just a matter of time until somebody's gonna say "A Chowhound shouldn't eat food from a can to begin with." So there, I said it. Let's move on.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Monkey C
          Richard Gould-Saltman

          "You know it's just a matter of time until somebody's gonna say "A Chowhound shouldn't eat food from a can to begin with." So there, I said it. Let's move on."

          As I suspect you know, them's fightin' words.

          I'll be ducking now; let me know when it's over....


          1. re: Monkey C

            but what about all that wonderful seafood that they can in Spain/Barcelona? i've had cans of shellfish that have cost over $100 for about 10 ounces of product.

            1. re: Monkey C

              When jfood read the OP he felt the same way. But he will also add that there was a thread a few months ago titled "threads I will not respond to"...good advice on that as well.

            2. I've had this discussion with my mom before, and according to MOM, storing food in an open can in the refrigerator used to be a terrible idea because cans were made differently. Today it's just fine. Is this actually true? You got me.

              1. If you move this thread to the General Topics board--where it really belongs-- you might get more answers.

                1. Bottom Line:
                  Unopened can - ok to keep where you want
                  Opened can - don't use it for storage
                  Enjoy your cold tuna!

                  1. People recommend changing to another container mostly because leaching of the tin flavor once opened. I do it sometimes and know others that do and we are all still alive.

                    1. A chowhound really shouldn't be eating from a can, but I cuurently have a can of Amy's Chili and a can of black beans both OPENED still in can in my fridge. Nowadays cans are lined so there won't be a tinny taste. I was just too lazy to put them in containers, but I will in the morning. I wouldn't recommend leaving them for more than a few hours.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: stricken

                        OK, we're restarting a VERY old thread here, but I'm game.

                        So - WHY exactly do you not recommend leaving opened cans in the fridge for more than a few hours? As you yourself point out, modern cans are lined so the tinny taste is a non-issue, and they're sterile when filled, so it seems to me that there is arguably a greater chance of incurring bacterial contamination if you transfer the contents to another container (thus exposing them to more air) than if they simply stay put in the can they're already in.

                        Are there any scientific reasons for this recommendation, or is it just superstition?

                        1. re: BobB

                          I think it's likely a throwback to earlier times - like many commonly held "truths".

                          That said, like Richard Gould-Saltman, I welcome any scientific rationale.

                          1. re: BobB

                            I used half a can of tomato paste a day or so ago, and put the other half, still in can and wrapped in film, in the fridge because I knew I'd be making sauce today. Hope I don't die (if you don't hear from me tomorrow, call the police please!) I hardly ever do this, but since it was only a day or two, I figured why mess up a little container. I will observe and report back.......

                          2. re: stricken

                            I store my tinned tuna in the fridge, but it's not opened.

                          3. Why would you refrigerate an unopened can?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: BobB

                              if you wanted what was inside the can to be eaten/served cold.

                              1. re: BobB

                                My ex mother in law used to keep cans of peas in her fridge; she then served the cold peas with bottled Italian dressing . . .

                              2. Just like the replys above, opinion on the web seems to be split between pro and con.
                                Here is a link to one sortof inbetween:
                                I've been storing unused soup and baked beans in their opened cans for years, but seldom for more than one or two days. Haven't noticed any 'tinny' tastes, and considering that there appears to be a coating on the can walls to prevent this during room temperature storage, I don't see why one would appear in a few days under the cooler and less reactive conditions in a fridge.

                                1. If you have, for example a small tin of tomato paste & only need 1 T & don't have a tube of it to turn to, placing the tin with the remainder in the refrigerator will result in unsightly crust (refrigerators dry things out - unless in the "crisper" and even then it's only slowed down... and, experience showed me, black "dots" "splotches" along the bare inner metal.
                                  That's enough for me to not do it twice - and to stick with tubes for tomato paste '-)
                                  But, since you simply want chilled tuna, refrigerating the sealed can won't harm what's inside.
                                  The tinny taste, IDK ~ Is it already there, or does it develop?
                                  Some things, like cranberry jelly, are better chilled to firm them up before opening the can, IMHO.
                                  Stick with glass and you won't go wrong '-)

                                  17 Replies
                                  1. re: SusanaTheConqueress

                                    Food drying out in the can is a separate issue, and I agree with you that tomato paste is a common culprit, because what recipe ever asks for a whole can? Sometimes I buy tubes - if not, when I open a can I spoon out the unused part in 1 Tbsp blobs onto a sheet of waxed paper, freeze it, then fold it up into a baggie.

                                    1. re: BobB

                                      I, too, freeze the unused tomato paste in tbsp. blobs. Do the same with canned chipotle peppers. That said, I've placed cans of chili or beans in the fridge, topped with foil or cling wrap, for use in the next day or two (I don't typically eat an entire can of chili). No issues with taste or spoilage.

                                      1. re: BobB

                                        The freezing Ts is _genius_!
                                        Thank you for sharing the tip!
                                        I just made a vat of Acapulco Style Shrimp Soup with the variation of (2) large cans tomato sauce + (1) can of paste + 5 pounds 16 count shrimps + a layer of cilantro over all.
                                        I stirred the sauce & paste untill smooth + (1) can of water to rinse each with (I asked my helper for 1/2 a can; she brought a full can; and I washed out each can with that '-)
                                        The puree can I let go - too much effort and I'm adept at "getting 99% out".
                                        Then, I put in the shrimps.
                                        Then, I put on the cilantro.
                                        Then, I closed the rice cooker & let it go until it turned off on it's own.
                                        This isn't going to be so much about the soup as it is the cold "soup" serving as the base for a shrimp ceviche when tossed with (2) English cukes + tomatoes + (2) Fresh & Easy Organic Sweet Pea bags + raw cilantro + jalapenos + lime juice ~ and *other* shrimps ~ These in the soup will go toward shrimp quesadillas for breakfast, Simple and yummy!
                                        So, there _is_ the occasional occasion when a whole can's consumed '-)
                                        (There's been shrimp talk in other areas, thus the need to do that tonight '-)

                                        I liked the idea of covering in oil (mentioned below). It reminds me of oil-packed tomatoes (not dried) I've put up with basil in jars.

                                        Best of all is: Just skip the tinned foods as best you are able, IMHO.

                                        The only reason I used these cans is: My house guest cleared them from the back porch - where I put them (a case of each, unopened) years ago - the expiration date, or whatever "best by" / something on the lid! Said, "...2/2007" & I was hearing about "how wasteful"... blah-blah-blah... Here! You want "frugal"? Your "favorite foods", tomorrow, will be served with it! (That's another way to avoid cans in the refrigerator: Use them on talkative guests - assuming they don't talk while their mouths are full '-)
                                        Now that I ponder the point and conclude the most common "leftover tinned product" around here is A) anchovies - now saldatas in glass, from Italy, but there was a time they were tinned over here... B) Smoked Oysters in Oil... I realize my preference is toward making something - anything - to consume the remainder rather than store it.
                                        For the anchovies, it was ubber-easy to just make salad dressing since hardly a day goes by without sitting around munching whole Romaine leaves dipped into that & chunking onions + bell peppers & tossing them with the remaining smoked oysters & oil ~ delightful "salad" I learned from some seaside folk down in San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico, c. 1989.

                                        With BPA in the cans, it's best to avoid them, opened or not, IMHO.

                                      2. re: SusanaTheConqueress

                                        And my home-canned food is already in a glass jar. Homemade preserves, jams, etc, I always store in their jars in the fridge after opening.

                                        That said, I have upon occasion been guilty of putting a can with leftover tomato paste in the fridge overnight if I'm particularly tired. I do cover said can with some plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Then I try to freeze it in the small blobs for later use. Luckily I can get tomato paste in tubes most of the time now.

                                        1. re: SusanaTheConqueress

                                          Perhaps I'm an idiot and tempting fate but I leave things in cans.
                                          Here is my "method of madness": I stuff the clear plastic wrap down inside-pushing it down with a spoon till I have driven the air out. Up the sides and out with a rubber band around the can. I think I also read where you can put a little oil on top to seal the air out. (?)
                                          I am much less scarred by tomato stuff in those cans that are white inside. What is that white stuff anyway?

                                          1. re: meatzaaa

                                            not sure about the white stuff, but the oil thing is how a lot of things were sealed in the past - for example, the fat on top of paté or something.

                                            We had a conversation about that some months back

                                            1. re: meatzaaa

                                              The white stuff is an epoxy lining that in many cases has BPA in it. Not good.

                                                  1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                    lmgtfy fail :( You can't do it for everything Steve.

                                                      1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                        Four out of ten links are nothing to do with my question, but there was no guarantee that entering "BPA" into a search engine would bring up anything to do with the topic at hand.

                                                        I refer of course to the fact that using lmgify is basically a way of saying "don't be so lazy, look it up yourself"

                                                  2. re: Soop

                                                    I'm surprised that this thread had this many replies before the issue of BPA arose. The can liners may be doing more harm than good.
                                                    From Consumer Reports magazine: December 2009
                                                    "The chemical Bisphenol A, which has been used for years in clear plastic bottles and food-can liners, has been restricted in Canada and some U.S. states and municipalities because of potential health effects."
                                                    read more... http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/ma...

                                                    1. re: Rmis32


                                                      This link should be quite helpful RE: BPA relative to lined canned goods.

                                                      1. re: SusanaTheConqueress

                                                        Blocked by works firewall, but thanks, I'll check when I go home.

                                                        1. re: SusanaTheConqueress

                                                          I am not going to rely on a fluff site like http://detroit.momslikeme.com/members... for factual data.
                                                          I feel it is just as factual to say, "I feel great. There cannot be anything wrong with BPA." I have only see it in some of my tomato cans. I want facts!