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URGENT food safety question! Do I need to start over?

JennyHunter Dec 6, 2008 04:55 AM

Help! I started a gumbo last night - made the roux, added the veggies, and added the chicken stock. I was going to finish it this morning. I left the pan out to cool a little bit before I put it in the fridge - and hubby was to put it in before he went to bed. I just went into the kitchen and it still on the stove!!!!!! He thinks if we bring it to a boil it will be safe. That makes me really nervous. It has been out since about 11:00pm when I finished adding the stock (i used boxed if it makes a difference). Any chowhounders thoughts?

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  1. k
    kittyfood Dec 6, 2008 05:00 AM

    I think it will be fine if you bring it to a boil for 15 minutes.

    1. mcel215 Dec 6, 2008 05:38 AM

      I left my chicken soup to cool and forgot about it last night as well.

      My house was cool all night, and when I got up at 4:30am this morning, I stuck the entire pan in the fridge. I'm going to keep it.

      If it were a hot summer night, I might have pitched it.

      I think your gumbo is fine too.

      1. Dmnkly Dec 6, 2008 05:51 AM

        Most likely you'll be okay, but that's a massive violation of food safety protocol and you're definitely taking a risk. It's not even close to a fringe call. If any baddies got in there, you'll hate life. I tend towards the cavalier end of the spectrum, and I'd pitch it. Not worth it.

        Incidentally, kittyfood, boiling doesn't make foods safe. That kills most microbes, but doesn't do a damn thing to eliminate the toxins they've left behind. If all it took was a little boiling, you could leave your soup out for a week as long as you boiled it for a while. Just doesn't work that way.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Dmnkly
          c oliver Dec 8, 2008 07:36 PM

          "boiling doesn't make foods safe. That kills most microbes, but doesn't do a damn thing to eliminate the toxins they've left behind. "

          Could you explain that please? "Microbes" and "toxins" seem a little vaguer than I can get my arms around. I'm not in any way saying you're wrong; I'd just like something more factual. Thanks.

          1. re: c oliver
            Whippet Dec 8, 2008 09:01 PM

            Microbes are alive -- bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus. Most can be killed by boiling. Staph aureus secretes toxins -- products that can make you sick. Staph aureus causes food poisoning by hyperactivating your immune system. Toxins are chemical products. They aren't alive, and usually they aren't fragile enough to be broken down by boiling.

            1. re: c oliver
              Dmnkly Dec 9, 2008 04:42 AM

              I apologize... I don't profess to be an authority on this subject, so I should probably just keep my mouth shut rather than speak vaguely. I was merely trying to make the point that the idea that you can just boil something to make it safe is a false premise.

              As I said above, the OP would most likely not have a problem (which appears to have been borne out, not that one example means anything). But "it will be fine" fails to convey that there IS a risk involved if something nasty has been introduced to the pot by any of the methods mentioned elsewhere in this thread.

          2. cassoulady Dec 6, 2008 06:09 AM

            i think its fine, when I make soups, stocks or stews that i want to skim the fat off of, i leave it on the stove top to cool. I never put something into the fridge until it has cooled completely, and in a heavy cast iron dutch oven, cooling completely takes a while. I am also writing to you from a cool climate though but really think your gumbo is fine.

            1. kpzoo Dec 6, 2008 06:19 AM

              I would *never* eat something of that ilk if had been out of the fridge for 9 hours. Not worth the risk. If you've ever had food poisoning you probably wouldn't think twice. It's extremely unpleasant ;-)

              1. Sam Fujisaka Dec 6, 2008 06:57 AM

                It will be fine.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                  maisonbistro Dec 6, 2008 10:38 AM

                  It will not be fine. Like a previous poster said, if you've ever had food poisoning, this wouldn't be an issue. I would hesitate to feed this to anyone. Food left out overnight is just asking for trouble.

                  I'm sure most people will say it's fine - but you should do a search about food safety and storage temperatures and you'll see that it's actually quite dangerous.

                  In these cases I would much rather be safe than sorry. Pitch it out, start over - it's only boxed broth after all, it's not like your throwing out stock that you've been perfecting all day.

                  1. re: maisonbistro
                    Sam Fujisaka Dec 6, 2008 10:59 AM

                    I'm an agricultural (the source of food) research scientist. I just don't see a potential source of contamination.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                      c oliver Dec 8, 2008 07:38 PM

                      Thank you, Sam. Statements like "it will not be fine" just perpetuate an unnecessary fear.

                      1. re: c oliver
                        maisonbistro Dec 8, 2008 08:01 PM

                        Good, so you an Sam, leave out your turkeys, your stocks, your soups and let the rest of us be careful and try not to poison ourselves. To each his own.

                        Do you need for me to explain "it will not be fine"???

                        1. re: maisonbistro
                          Sam Fujisaka Dec 9, 2008 04:50 AM

                          No, like everyone else, I put my stocks in the ref or freezer after preparation. But a stock with veggies and roux that was simmered in a closed pot and accidently left out overnight would not cause me concern. In my house there are no real sources of contamination. I prepare little meat, am very careful with uncooked poultry, don't have pets, don't wear shoes in the house, maintain a clean house and very clean kitchen, wash my hands often, and don't believe in the spontaneous generation of microbes.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                            raytamsgv Dec 12, 2008 02:23 PM

                            If it was in a closed pot, it's probably OK. If it boiled, that would have sterilized your gumbo and the interior of the pot. Once you cover it, no other possible sources of contamination can fall in. However, if it is uncovered, you introduce the *possibility* of airborne contamination. This would depend on many factors (e.g. cleanliness around the pot, airflow, room temperature, etc.).

                            Ultimately, you need to make the decision.

                    2. re: maisonbistro
                      alanbarnes Dec 6, 2008 11:25 AM

                      ~~"Like a previous poster said, if you've ever had food poisoning, this wouldn't be an issue."~~

                      Huh? I've had food poisoning. But never from my own cooking. And I routinely let stocks, soups, etc. sit out overnight. "Quite dangerous?" I think not.

                      Restaurants and caterers should strictly observe food safety guidelines. There are just too many people and too many sources of potential infection in a commercial kitchen. Besides, I'm not sure I trust a minimum-wage prep cook's judgment with regard to food safety issues.

                      But a home kitchen is a whole different matter. Fewer people, fewer ingredients, fewer opportunities for cross-contamination.

                      If you keep a dirty kitchen, don't wash your hands after using the restroom, and have a raging staph infection, then you should definitely follow the most stringent safety guidelines out there. But if the kitchen, the utensils, and your hands are all clean, it's extremely unlikely that food sitting out overnight is going to cause a problem.

                      1. re: alanbarnes
                        Candy Dec 6, 2008 12:59 PM

                        Alan,I agree with you and Sam. It will be fine.

                        1. re: Candy
                          Jim Washburn Dec 6, 2008 04:35 PM

                          Ditto. I routinely leave stuff like that out to be finished the next day because 1) I'm lazy, and 2) my ice boxes are always too full. Never a problem. And, yes, I have had food poisoning, but never from my own cooking, only from commercial kitchens.


                      2. re: maisonbistro
                        latindancer Dec 6, 2008 08:03 PM

                        If anyone has a small child who's had food poisoning this would NEVER be an issue...especially having to do with food safety issues and poultry.
                        I am a fanatic with cleanliness in a kitchen and all restaurants I visit. The risk is just not worth it.
                        Throw it out and start all over again.

                    3. s
                      Steady Habits Dec 6, 2008 08:18 AM

                      If food's temp has been in the 40-140 degree F temperature zone for an extended time, it needs to be discarded. End of story.

                      Here's one link to corroborate, but, Jenny, if you google "stock soup left out all night", you'll find others.


                      I knew one foodservice administrator who used the rule of four hours, but most often I have heard and read in cookbooks that food can be unsafe, above 40 degrees and below 140, after TWO hours.

                      Madeleine Kamman gives very detailed instructions for food safety in The New Making of a Cook, and *she* says never let stocks cool to below *160 F.* (though she also acknowledges that 40-140 zone rule).

                      Now...it's true that we can't refrigerate hot stocks and soups immediately, because we'll risk dropping the safe storage temps of everything else in the fridge. But the proper way to handle stocks/soups that we aren't going to consume immediately is to let them cool enough so we can handle them; then put the cooking vessel into a sink or larger pan/pot filled with ice or ice water to drop the temperature quickly, so that we can put it into the fridge.

                      Dmnkly is right, when s/he talks about the toxins left behind. Boiling may kill the microbes, but what has happened when food has been at an unsafe temperature for too long is that the microbes have been feeding on it. They leave behind waste products through respiration and excretion processes. Those are the toxins to which dmnkly refers. One example is botulism, which is not resolved by boiling. Now, this nasty process doesn't happen to *all* food that's left out, but the problem is that we have NO way of knowing whether it has or not. However, all carbohydrates, not just meat products, are susceptible.

                      If you have *any* reason to believe the temperature of the food may have been below that 140 F level for an extended time, you need to throw it out.

                      Sorry to nag, but this is an issue that personally drives me crazy. The reason is that one of my very best friends got something nasty from improperly managed food--nothing exotic, she wasn't eating bugs in the Tropics. Something ordinary that many of us risk all the time, like this.

                      She was a healthy, non-susceptible adult (i.e., not a child or a senior, whom we know are particularly vulnerable). She developed a very high fever that was not responsive to medical treatment for about a week. She spent six weeks--SIX WEEKS--in the hospital, one of those in intensive care. She was out of work for months. She recovered, and almost completely, although she does have a couple of auto-immune issues that are relatively mild so far, but will require at least monitoring for the rest of her life. Her docs say she's one of the lucky ones, and she is. It took her several years to pay off the medical bills that her (decent) health insurance didn't cover.

                      Please, people, a serving of gumbo or a bowl of soup just aren't worth the risk of getting something that can be much, much worse than having a "simple" case "food poisoning" for twelve hours.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Steady Habits
                        addicted2cake Dec 6, 2008 09:19 AM

                        When in doubt, and you certainly sound as if you are, throw it out. That saying didn't come out of nowhere or for no good reason. Make another soup. Not worth the risk of eating somthing potentially harmful. I'm with Steady Habits all the way!!

                        1. re: addicted2cake
                          MEH Dec 13, 2008 05:12 PM

                          Agreed. I wouldn't take the risk. I used to work in a Biotech lab and it amazed me the things that would grow in a petri dish by just leaving the lid off!

                          Good luck!

                      2. alanbarnes Dec 6, 2008 09:31 AM

                        So long as you heat it thoroughly (at least a low simmer for at least 10 minutes) you won't have any problems. All pathogenic bacteria will be killed.

                        There are those who claim that some bacteria leave behind toxins that won't be destroyed by heat. Such bacteria exist, sure, but they don't appear by magic. How could they have gotten into your pot?

                        If you or hour husband were sticking your unwashed hands in the pot as its contents cooled down, that would be one thing. If you sneezed into the dish after it had cooled off, then left it for a few hours, you might be at risk. But the stuff was sanitary when you turned the stove off. Unless you did something to introduce bacteria into the food, you've got nothing to worry about.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: alanbarnes
                          chococat Dec 6, 2008 09:48 AM

                          Opening the lid on the pot or sticking anything into the pot is enough to introduce potentially toxin forming bacteria into the pot. These sorts of bacteria (which are not that unusual) float around in the air everywhere. For what it's worth, we grow bacteria on media that is essentially gelatinized meat stock because it's pretty much the idea growth medium for microbes.

                          To be absolutely technically correct, not all pathogenic bacteria will be killed by boiling for 10 minutes-- some bacteria are spore formers (some clostriudium species, for instance), and these spores can survive boiling temperatures for quite some time, which is why hospitals sterilize equipment with autoclaves (pressurized steam sterilizers which exceed 212F) and not just by boiling water or steam alone.

                          All this being said, your chances of dying from stock left out overnight are almost zero. Worst case scenario, you may experience some gastrointestinal distress so I guess it's up to you to do the "risk vs. benefit" analysis.

                          1. re: chococat
                            alanbarnes Dec 6, 2008 11:14 AM

                            ~~"These sorts of bacteria (which are not that unusual) float around in the air everywhere"~~

                            The most common toxin-forming bacteria are staphylococcus aureus, and they're not airborne, but are spread by contact. In fact, there are very few to almost no airborne bacteria in a reasonably clean modern kitchen. You're absolutely right that sticking something dirty into the pot once it has cooled provides a source of contamination. But absent such a source, I think the odds of any toxicity are vanishingly small.

                            1. re: alanbarnes
                              Pastryrocks Dec 6, 2008 02:56 PM

                              “I think the odds of any toxicity are vanishingly small” Well no alanbarnes, they are relativity high. The toxin or bacteria will consume the protein and begin to multiply. What are needed to grow bacteria are warmth (41°F - 135°F (5°C - 57°C), moisture (stock), and protein (chicken stock), which are available in the gumbo as it sits on the stove.

                              “Chances of dying from stock left out overnight are almost zero”. This is not the case with the young and old chococa. I’m not saying that if a child or a senior will die if they eat the gumbo. But both are greatly in danger of food borne illness, their immune system is not as strong as a healthy adult.

                              Depending on the size of the batch, larger the amount the longer it takes to reach below 5°C. In fact, when cooling or heating, you must use a ‘clean’ spoon to mix the pot every now and then. This way you distribute the hot and cool, thereby reaching your desired temperature quicker. The quicker you cool or heat something, the longer it will last before it becomes bad/sour. Hence why a cold (ice is best) water bath is they way to cool something quick.

                              The idea is not to prevent bacteria from entering the food, because it is probably already there. Rather it is to prevent it from multiplying to the level where it can be harmful. As it sits in the warm protein rich pot on the stove/counter, it will begin to multiply.

                              Now an adult may or may not become ill, but a younger child or older person may become very ill, in fact depending on their health and the toxin, death can and does often occur.

                              1. re: Pastryrocks
                                alanbarnes Dec 6, 2008 03:14 PM

                                I completely agree with you that the risk / benefit analysis changes when you're feeding people who are very old, very young, or immunocompromised. But I disagree with your analysis of the risk side of the equation.

                                You say that "What are needed to grow bacteria are warmth (41°F - 135°F (5°C - 57°C), moisture (stock), and protein (chicken stock), which are available in the gumbo as it sits on the stove" and that "The idea is not to prevent bacteria from entering the food, because it is probably already there."

                                What you're missing is that there aren't bacteria already present in the food. The OP cooked the roux and stock, thus killing any pathogens. A can of chicken stock is an ideal bacterial growth medium, but it's shelf-stable because all the bacteria inside have been killed, and no new ones can get in. Here, the roux - stock mixture has only been sanitized, not sterilized, but the same general principals apply.

                                Seriously, this is biology, not magic. Bacteria aren't just conjured from thin air. They come from dirty hands, raw poultry, nasal mucus, etc., etc. You can have a covered, sanitized pot full of an ideal bacterial growth medium, but nothing will grow in it unless bacteria are introduced. And there's nothing to indicate a source for inoculation here.

                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                  Pastryrocks Dec 6, 2008 04:04 PM

                                  Well I do agree that bacteria can not “get in” a sealed, undamaged can of stock, assuming the OP used canned stock. I also agree that “Bacteria aren't just conjured from thin air”. I also agree that the roux was probably cooked long enough to cook out the flour taste. I believe more often than not in Cajun cooking a brown roux is used.

                                  However, cross contamination is a great source for bacteria. Furthermore, chicken or chicken stock is a nice place for Campylobacter jejuni to live. I also understand that Campylobacter jejuni is not always killed by heat. Like you pointed out, this is “biology not magic”.

                                  1. re: Pastryrocks
                                    alanbarnes Dec 6, 2008 04:27 PM

                                    Thermophilic campylobacter jejuni are more heat-stable than many other bacteria, but decimal reductions (90% of bacteria killed) are obtained by 1 minute at 55C (131F), less than 1 minute at 60F (140F) and too quick to reliably measure using the authors' methodology at 65C (149F). (M. Baserisalehi et al, Effect of Heat and Food Preservatives on Survival of Thermophilic Campylobacter Isolates in Food Products, Res. J. Microbiol., 1(6):512-519 (2006).)

                                    If there was a significant possibility of cross-contamination from the stock or any other ingredient, and if the mixture was not simmered after the potentially contaminated ingredient was added, then I agree that there's a chance of infection. But so long as the mixture was simmered for a few minutes, all bacteria in it - including campylobacter jejuni - were killed.

                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                      Veggo Dec 6, 2008 05:00 PM

                                      Alan, we have been friends, with a commonality as published authors. (me- The Economist Nov. 22). Ease back on the thermodynamics..:)
                                      Yes, It's tempting to go technical with what we like. Care to see the patent on my thermomagnetic motor?
                                      But Chowhound is food!

                                      1. re: Veggo
                                        alanbarnes Dec 6, 2008 05:07 PM

                                        The obsessive need to cite authority comes from a boss I had when I was just starting my career. His tag line was "Alan, nobody gives a shit what you think." Delivered frequently, emphatically, and at high volume, it conditioned me to be prepared to defend every statement I make.

                                        It's probably overkill, but at least it makes it clear I'm not just blowing smoke.

                                        1. re: Veggo
                                          Scargod Dec 9, 2008 02:52 AM

                                          Veggo, I show you mine if...
                                          Really, Alan should counter inaccurate technical information with substantiated technical information. I'd rather have that than hysteria and misinformation. (I'm not accusing Pastryrocks of that.)
                                          I can't tell you the number of times I have reproduced the scenario presented by the OP, as a science experiment in my lab, and have had no measurable response except Yum.

                                        2. re: alanbarnes
                                          Pastryrocks Dec 6, 2008 06:33 PM

                                          Darn, I knew all that Food Safety and HACCP training was worthless!

                            2. Veggo Dec 6, 2008 09:48 AM

                              You still have the shrimp and the Andouille; you have about 12 bucks invested in this feau pax. Not divorce court stuff. Who knows? Some day you may want gentle forgiveness. Start over, and earn your hall pass today.

                              1. Pastryrocks Dec 6, 2008 10:28 AM

                                WOW! When I read some of the above post I become very, very, very scared.

                                Not all toxins are killed by heat. So the danger zone is meant for raw foods and cooked foods.

                                Here is a link to the Danger zone (food safety) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danger_zone_(food_safety)

                                Also, lets not forget that when we purchase foods. That the food was processed, and then transported, and then placed in the fridge, then placed in the shopping cart, walked around the store, then driven straight home (I hope), placed in your fridge, and then taken out and processed again, and then brought up to temp. All this time taken to get your food to the source of heat to get up to 140°F (60°C) should also be considered.

                                Here is a link for HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HACCP

                                There are some scary posts here.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Pastryrocks
                                  esstrink Dec 6, 2008 11:47 AM

                                  Listen to Pastryrocks. I've worked in food service for 20 years. I have a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and have been sanitation certified several times over in New York and California. Eating the gumbo after it sat out all night -- even if you do cook it -- is way bad practice. Of course, you may pull through without illness. But every reflex and bit of sanitation education in me says throw it away!

                                  1. re: esstrink
                                    Steady Habits Dec 6, 2008 01:55 PM

                                    esstrink, you reminded me of something I noticed through the years when I catch Food Network. Most of the hosts are careful. There are one or two I've seen breaking sanitation practices on more than one occasion (mostly cross-contamination rules). But two that seem to me to be consistently diligent about safety, and who use their platforms to teach the viewer about it, are Giada DeLaurentiis (sp) and Emeril Lagasse, two of the professionally trained chefs. (Not saying that other FN hosts aren't careful, but these two are remarkably disciplined.) It's easy for me sometimes to forget when seeing the whole Emeril "BAM!" caricature that he's also a fine classical chef, with all that experience as an executive chef and restaurateur dealing with health departments, and probably one of the world's leading experts on food preparation. I was reminded of this when you mentioned your credentials. I'm listening to you professionals on this stuff!

                                    1. re: esstrink
                                      maisonbistro Dec 6, 2008 05:56 PM

                                      I'm glad someone is on my side. I just don't get why people want to play russian roulette with food. I am also sanitation certified - have to be for my profession, and I just don't get taking chances with food left out overnight.

                                      1. re: maisonbistro
                                        Jim Washburn Dec 6, 2008 07:11 PM

                                        Russian roulette? Please, I've told you a million times, don't exaggerate.


                                        1. re: maisonbistro
                                          alanbarnes Dec 6, 2008 07:42 PM

                                          The risk from Russian roulette is easy to quantify. 6 chambers, 1 bullet, 16.666% chance of an adverse outcome.

                                          What are the odds that the OP's gumbo will have something pathogenic or toxic in it? I'm guessing it's on the order of thousandths or tens of thousandths of a percent. Yes, there's risk, but risks below a certain threshhold just aren't worth worrying about. Would you happen to have any quantitative information that would inform the decision-making process?

                                      2. re: Pastryrocks
                                        Steady Habits Dec 6, 2008 02:07 PM

                                        Speaking of what happens in the grocery store (besides all kinds of obsessive strangers like me touching every tomato before they find the perfect one), I noticed something at the supermarket I frequent most often that made me want to scream.

                                        I saw on multiple occasions a couple of the baggers putting the bags of groceries on the floor when the packing area became full, but the customers were still unloading their carts and hadn't gotten them down to the bagger yet. Aaaaagh! That made me sick, thinking about all the different shoes, boots, sneakers, grocery carts wheels that have previously been through g-d knows what, and then crossed over the very floor where the bagger was placing bags of food. I have two messy dogs and a cat. I *know* I'm dragging all kinds of things everywhere on the bottom of my shoes, even though I try not to be a pig. ;-) I stopped a bagger once who was about to do it to my food, and then called the manager when I got home (to complain, but politely, I swear). I haven't seen any of the baggers do that lately.

                                        Also, a reminder to people to purchase inexpensive freezer and refrigerator thermometers and place one in each compartment. Sometimes you can't tell the temp is a few degrees over or under where it should be, and I've found my refrigerators, especially, will fluctuate with seasons, or, in two big metro areas I've lived in, when the electrical utility has to cut everyone's power back during times of heavy A/C use.

                                        1. re: Steady Habits
                                          amyzan Dec 7, 2008 11:20 AM

                                          I used to manage a front end for a national chain. What you're describing is illegal, and should be brought to the attention of the store manager. If he/she doesn't get those baggers retrained, the store could have a big fine in its future should someone from the health department see that happening. I'm glad you took the time to call.

                                          I'll tell you what freaked me out--a mom placing her baby with only a diapered bottom on the checkout stand belt. She thought it would be a "fun ride" for the little one!

                                      3. e
                                        embee Dec 6, 2008 12:23 PM

                                        If I had already put shrimp or similar in it, I'd throw it out. If I was serving it to the public, I'd throw it out.

                                        For the ingredients you list and for your own consumption, assuming you trust your own sanitary practices, I'd smell it. If it smelled fine, I'd bring it just to a boil and simmer it for about 15 minutes. Then I'd eat it without any concern.

                                        I've kept stocks on the go, sitting on the stovetop, for months. I bring them to a boil and then simmer for a few minutes every day. They just keep getting better. With no veggies, they stay fine indefinitely. With veggies, too many days without reheating will make them obviously sour. Overnight, without extremely perishable ingredients, all should be well.

                                        The scary stuff posted here is true, but its all about probabilities. That you would get sick is possible, but most unlikely. You are more likely to suffer consequences from salad greens or fruit, but we eat them, raw, without a second thought.

                                        1. amyzan Dec 6, 2008 12:44 PM

                                          You've probably already made your decision, but if not, I'm with those who say to proceed. If you'd already put in the meat and seafood my opinion would be otherwise. As long as you didn't touch it as it was cooling, with those ingredients in the pot, I'd place my bets on it still being safe to eat once you continue, including bringing it to a boil. I've left stock out overnight in a cold kitchen, and never had a problem. If I was feeding anyone other than immediate family, I would like to think I'd err on the side of caution, however,

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: amyzan
                                            Sam Fujisaka Dec 6, 2008 01:22 PM

                                            Exactly, what was left on the stove was chicken stock, roux, and veggies! I would have tossed the batch if the seafood had been added - but not necessarily because the seafood would have gone bad, but because the flavor, texture, and all else important to the gumbo would have been lost.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                              Veggo Dec 6, 2008 02:06 PM

                                              For 2 months preceding Evel Knievel's jump in Twin Falls in Sept. 1974, I shared a huge house in Westwood, MA, with guys who could change a tire without a jack or a wrench; just fingers. We kept a pot of stew on a low heat, perpetually. If your ladle brought the remainder down to a level that gnawed at you conscience that night, it was one's responsibility to go kill a squirrel or rabbit ( it was pretty easy to get one or more of each), dress em' ,and add some veggies. Our garden had OK carrots, but lousy celery and onions, so a trip to the farmers market was in order. Nobody slacked off. Nobody got sick. But there was vegetable and meat content that was in that pot for at least 2 months.
                                              I went to the jump.

                                              1. re: Veggo
                                                Gio Dec 6, 2008 05:30 PM

                                                And that's what made you the man you are today...

                                                But as some have said - the lid was on the pot, nothing else was added after the gas was turned off. Carry on.

                                                1. re: Gio
                                                  Veggo Dec 6, 2008 06:15 PM

                                                  Thank you, Gio, but I humbly suggest that while my skills for wild game hunting and conquering enemies are sine qua non, I prefer to eat shrimp and grouper.

                                                  1. re: Veggo
                                                    Gio Dec 6, 2008 06:41 PM

                                                    Shrimp? Grouper?
                                                    Why then I refer you to a book published this year written by Taras Grescoe entitled "Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood."

                                                    And his web site:

                                                2. re: Veggo
                                                  pikawicca Dec 6, 2008 06:58 PM

                                                  But it was continuously cooking , therefore the temp was above the danger zone. Quality might have gone off after months, but I see no safety issue here.

                                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                                    Veggo Dec 8, 2008 08:19 PM

                                                    P, 34 years later (a long time), we lost one to a scuba mishap, I write, and 4 could swap tires and refuel an Indy car in 8.8 seconds.
                                                    Actually, concerning the misfortune at Harry Winston's on the Champs Elysees last week, somebody should check their passports!

                                            2. j
                                              jaykayen Dec 6, 2008 01:35 PM

                                              It'll be fine. it's just roux, veggies, and chicken stock. Bring it to a boil.

                                              1. c
                                                chocolateman Dec 6, 2008 02:05 PM

                                                Bacteria and the like are usually killed when you cook the food, and unless you disturb the food and introduced contaminants, there should not be much that could get in. If contaminants can get through the walls of a pot, then we'd have a lot of problems.

                                                Note... that stuff can be in the air, but if the lid was closed it's not the end of the world.

                                                In a professional kitchen, there is no choice, there's too many variables and safety is very important.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: chocolateman
                                                  pikawicca Dec 6, 2008 07:11 PM

                                                  This thread has made me ponder the world of sourdough starters, where free-floating whatsits are invited to invade a carbohydrate medium. I've never heard of anyone getting sick from a wild sourdough culture. What gives -- any science geeks out there who know?

                                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                                    Whippet Dec 8, 2008 09:25 PM

                                                    Geek here.
                                                    The lactic acid bacteria are the things that produce that sour taste. They're already present in the raw grain, and they're really good competitors -- the acidic environment and the antimicrobial compounds they produce keep potential bad guys out.

                                                2. o
                                                  Orchid64 Dec 6, 2008 09:28 PM

                                                  If you do a simple search on-line, you'll get a far more qualified answer than anything you're going to get here. A search will tell you, from multiple sources, that soup or stock which is left out for 2 hours or more at a temperature in the "danger zone" for 2 hours or more. The "danger Zone is between 4ºC (40ºF) and 40ºC (140ºF)." It might be safe, but you're taking a risk. I'd throw it out.

                                                  The people encouraging you to eat the soup or saying it is safe are being irresponsible. Seriously, do you want to risk your health or the health of a family member on the word of a bunch of food fanatics who base their advice on nothing more than they've eaten it before and never gotten sick (the most dubious advice is based on anecdotal information) or claims that they are educated or know something.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Orchid64
                                                    Sam Fujisaka Dec 7, 2008 06:54 AM

                                                    Re: "If you do a simple search on-line, you'll get a far more qualified answer ..."

                                                    Many on this thread appear to uncritically get their information and mis-information from the web. According to research cited by an article in the NYT, people over-diagnose their own illnesses when using on-line searches. People self-diagnose tuberculosis when they have a cold and cancer when they have a stomach ache and brain tumors when they have a headache.

                                                    I would hope that on-line searches have not replaced science education in the US.

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                      c oliver Dec 8, 2008 07:51 PM

                                                      Oh my goodnes, if I weren't already married, I'd sweep you off your feet :) My first job was at the CDC and I spent a lot of my life in the scientific/medical field. I am constantly awed (that's the nice word) by how the "data" that people base their decisions on is so often of dubious origin. The "web" is a wonderful place but one does have to have some sense of what's right and wrong.

                                                    2. re: Orchid64
                                                      alanbarnes Dec 7, 2008 07:16 AM

                                                      My opinion that the stuff is safe is not based on anecdotal evidence, it's based on hard science. Your opinion appears to be based on a Google search. And your dismissive attitude toward education and knowledge speaks volumes.

                                                      Moreover, characterizing those who believe the stuff is safe as "irresponsible" is not just incorrect, it's offensive. We may have a difference of opinion, and if so we can discuss it civilly, without calling names.

                                                      The "danger zone" rules you refer to designed to facilitate binary decision making with no room for the exercise of judgment. Which is great in a commercial kitchen, or in the home kitchen of someone who is unable or unwilling to make an independent risk assessment. But the primary virtue of those rules is that they're simple and easy to apply. They don't distinguish between boiled shrimp that's intended to be eaten cold and chicken stock that will be boiled for hours or even sterilized through pressure-cooking.

                                                      It is easy to formulate rules of general application and suggest that they be mindlessly followed. And once again, I agree that all cooks in commercial kitchens, and those home cooks who do not wish to analyze risk or exercise judgment, should follow those rules.

                                                      But true risk analysis is not binary. It requires the evaluation of a number of factors and their interaction. In this case, for example, quantifying risk requires that you determine whether the roux and stock were simmered, and if so for how long and at what temperature; whether the pot covered while it was still hot; whether it was opened; whether the contents were tasted, and, if so, at what temperature, how long ago, and with what implement; whether the food will be cooked more, and if so, for how long and at what temperature; whether anyone in the house has been ill lately; the level of cleanliness of the kitchen; the OP's diligence about handwashing; the outdoor and indoor ambient temperature ranges, and on and on and on.

                                                      But just assuming (a) that the roux and stock were simmered together for at least a few minutes; (b) that no potential sources of contamination (eg, a dirty spoon or hand) were introduced to the pot after it cooled below 140F; and (c) that the contents will be cooked again for at least a few minutes at 160F or greater, odds are overwhelming that the gumbo will be safe. The OP has a far greater risk of contracting food poisoning from eating a salad.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                        kmcarr Dec 7, 2008 11:58 AM

                                                        Excellent post Alan and I agree completely about the quantity of risk in this this instance is very, very small. But with all the focus on risk in this thread we may have forgotten the balance of the equation, benefit. What is the benefit to not discarding the pot, or perhaps easier to quantify, what is lost by discarding it? In this case some flour, fat, onion, celery bell pepper (it's gumbo so I am assuming trinity in place of mirepoix), a box or two of chicken stock and about an hour of time. Now I was going to say that in my case, if I had all the ingredients for a second batch on hand, I would probably start over. I see below that the OP has already addressed this point, she would have to go get more ingredients if she pitched the pot. For me that would be enough to tip the balance in favor of boiling the pot an continuing. Even though the risk in the two instances is the same the benefit can impact the choice as well.

                                                        I guess all I'm saying is we should be as much though an care to analyzing the benefit as well as the risk.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                                          virtualguthrie Dec 12, 2008 06:30 PM

                                                          Alanbarnes, thank you for stating this so eloquently. The decline of critical thinking is a crisis of the times.

                                                      2. ipsedixit Dec 6, 2008 09:34 PM

                                                        Personally, I would have no problems eating it.

                                                        But that's just me.

                                                        1. x
                                                          xecuchef Dec 7, 2008 05:11 AM

                                                          Aren't we all forgetting that vegetables can be potentially hazardous? Most veggies are in the dirt, hense animal feces. If the veggies are not properly sanitized, they can cause a problem. All of us professional food people are aware of this. You are supposed to sanitize veggies in a slight bleach and water solution. I slightly blanch off the veggies such as celery in a tuna salad. You should even go as far as santizing the knife(and cutting board) after cutting fruits and veg. If you don't sanitize the outside of a melon, cutting your knife through the melon has now contaiminated the fruit inside(assuming there was a toxin). With that said, no way would I eat that gumbo, even if you think the veggies were cooked enough. Science aside...it's just not right!

                                                          1. j
                                                            JennyHunter Dec 7, 2008 07:09 AM

                                                            OK - I'm the OP that left the gumbo out all night. I had to makethe decision yesterday morning and I decided to serve the gumbo! Making a new pot would have meant another trip to the store and another hour on the roux. We had plans all afternoon - so I didn't really have time to start over. I decided to risk it - and actually served it to my in-laws (I do like them - I wasn't trying to make them sick!) I placed it in the crock pot with the meat and cooked it on low for 4-5 hours. I'm sure some of you are appalled and think I should have ordered pizza instead. I was a little nervous at first, but then I decided that it was probably not in the "danger zone" the whole 8 hours as it was at a simmer/boil before I turned it off - and in a Le Creuset cast iron dutch over that retains heat well. And my kitchen is very clean so I didn't suspect any obvious source of contamination. So far we feel fine. And the gumbo was really good:) How long do we have to wait to decide we are in the free and clear?

                                                            13 Replies
                                                            1. re: JennyHunter
                                                              ddelicious Dec 8, 2008 10:40 AM

                                                              About 3 days. Good luck. And hopefully I don't know you because I certainly won't be coming for dinner.

                                                              1. re: ddelicious
                                                                latindancer Dec 8, 2008 03:25 PM

                                                                This is one of the reasons I don't eat at potlucks.

                                                                1. re: latindancer
                                                                  chowser Dec 8, 2008 03:36 PM

                                                                  Also the reason some schools don't allow home cooked foods.

                                                              2. re: JennyHunter
                                                                alanbarnes Dec 8, 2008 01:24 PM

                                                                Given that you simmered it for hours, the only risk is heat-stable toxins. They hit pretty fast - usually within 6 hours. So you're in the clear.

                                                                1. re: JennyHunter
                                                                  c oliver Dec 8, 2008 07:56 PM

                                                                  I would LOVE to eat at your house. Some people take it upon themselves to be the czars of the food world. I'm glad they won't be joining us for gumbo. I hate sharing :)

                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                    Sam Fujisaka Dec 9, 2008 04:55 AM

                                                                    Jenny, keep the pot on. c, alan, and I are coming with the wines.

                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                      Candy Dec 9, 2008 07:53 AM

                                                                      I like beer with gumbo, is it okay if I bring that instead of wine?

                                                                      1. re: Candy
                                                                        c oliver Dec 9, 2008 08:05 AM

                                                                        You might have to sit at a different table (like at Thanksgiving?) but, yeah, bring a six pack cause we'll probably be at it for quite a while. Plus, wouldn't the alcohol kill the bad things?

                                                                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                        alanbarnes Dec 9, 2008 10:22 AM

                                                                        Gotta watch out for food poisoning from the wine, too. Symptoms usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and include included upset stomach, headache, and dry mouth...

                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                          Scargod Dec 9, 2008 11:30 AM

                                                                          Complications include silliness, loss of inhibitions and round heels.

                                                                          1. re: Scargod
                                                                            alanbarnes Dec 9, 2008 01:29 PM

                                                                            Hey, I resemble that remark!

                                                                          2. re: alanbarnes
                                                                            c oliver Dec 9, 2008 01:55 PM

                                                                            Hmm, I guess this brings a new meaning to "hair of the dog," huh?

                                                                      3. re: JennyHunter
                                                                        Davwud Dec 12, 2008 06:28 PM

                                                                        I guess you live in a magic house then.



                                                                      4. Davwud Dec 9, 2008 04:20 AM

                                                                        If you don't want it, give it to my FIL. His standard method of storing a pot of soup is to leave it on the stove until it's all eaten.


                                                                        1. almansa Dec 9, 2008 11:11 AM

                                                                          I wouldn't serve it to my customers, but I'd boil it and serve it to my family without hesitation (except that, texturally, the final product wouldn't be as good.) HAACCP is ruining Americans, turning us into a nation of fragile food wimps. Anyone with kids under 10 can tell you how our righteous doctrine of sanitation has resulted in food allergies galore. The next generation won't even be able to travel. In a few more generations we'll all need plastic bubbles. You can't be healthy without getting a little sick now and again.

                                                                          Are there grave threats lurking in kitchens out there? Sure, there are. Botchulism, e. coli, vcjd. These are nasty business and deserve our attention. But your gumbo will be fine.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: almansa
                                                                            c oliver Dec 9, 2008 12:47 PM

                                                                            Okay, you qualify for the party (see above) but you'll have to bring your own Mountain Dew (diet or regular)! Eeuuwwwwww :)

                                                                            1. re: c oliver
                                                                              almansa Dec 9, 2008 04:53 PM

                                                                              Favorite might be too strong a term. Tanqueray with lime and a splash of tonic ok?

                                                                              1. re: almansa
                                                                                c oliver Dec 9, 2008 05:01 PM

                                                                                Now THAT you can share with me! Prefer Bombay Sapphire but Tanqueray is right in there. Come on down :)

                                                                          2. j
                                                                            JennyHunter Dec 12, 2008 10:57 AM

                                                                            I was out of town and unable to give a final report. We all survived without any illness!! I even ate it the next day for leftovers - tasted even better! Next time I'll double the batch, remember to refrigerate, and those of you brave enough can come enjoy! And never fear - we ALWAYS have cold drinks of every variety at our house!! Thanks for all of the advice. I had no idea I was starting such a debate :)

                                                                            14 Replies
                                                                            1. re: JennyHunter
                                                                              Gio Dec 12, 2008 11:07 AM

                                                                              Glad to read your report, Jenny. We knew you'd be fine. Next time you're making that double batch let me know and I'll be there....seeing as how Sam included me out....(sic)

                                                                              1. re: Gio
                                                                                Sam Fujisaka Dec 12, 2008 11:34 AM

                                                                                Joe, I thought it was understood that you and I would be showing up together!

                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                  c oliver Dec 12, 2008 01:38 PM

                                                                                  I'm in! Maybe you should name it the "not for the faint of heart gumbo." I was still eating dressing two weeks after T'giving. And made the last of the turkey, along with other leftover meats, into a fabulous soup. Waste not, want not. AND we had pasta the other night. There was a teeny bit left with an even teensier bit of argula salad. Mixed it together, covered and deliberately left on the counter overnight. Thought of you when I did :)

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                                    pikawicca Dec 12, 2008 04:48 PM

                                                                                    Well, I guess there's a place in the world for people who like to eat slimy meat.

                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                      c oliver Dec 12, 2008 05:29 PM

                                                                                      Hmm, I don't eat slimy meat. Do you? If anything, the older it gets the drier.

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver
                                                                                        pikawicca Dec 13, 2008 04:41 PM

                                                                                        You obviously have no experience of meat past its prime - it's slimy.

                                                                                        1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                          alanbarnes Dec 13, 2008 04:49 PM

                                                                                          It depends on how it's stored.

                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                            c oliver Dec 13, 2008 08:52 PM

                                                                                            Neither the turkey I did for T'giving got slimy nor did the pot roast that I cooked a couple of days later. I've had uncooked meat do that but not cooked. Old? Yes? Slimy? No. Certainly slimey veggies but not meat. Maybe you're fridge is too warm?

                                                                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                      Gio Dec 12, 2008 05:07 PM

                                                                                      Oh gosh Sam. I missed that communique.....
                                                                                      Wherever you go.... I'll be there. Gotcha!

                                                                                  2. re: JennyHunter
                                                                                    alanbarnes Dec 12, 2008 02:06 PM

                                                                                    Laizzez les bon temps roulez!

                                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                      Veggo Dec 12, 2008 05:27 PM

                                                                                      Que los buenos tiempos pueden seguir!

                                                                                      1. re: Veggo
                                                                                        applehome Dec 12, 2008 07:06 PM

                                                                                        So what I wanna know is - were you talking lug nuts or knock offs. I mean... I could do the knock offs on my MGB by hand... I mean... nobody actually considers a brass hammer to be a tool, right?

                                                                                        You know... anecdotally and reflected by CDC stats, the actual number of deaths in the USA caused by any kind of food poisoning is so small - you're better off, by factors of thousands, worrying about getting hit crossing the street, than eating bad food. Of course - the pro-super-condom-over-all-food people will tell you that the numbers are so low because of the rules being enforced. Really? In all our houses?

                                                                                        Almost all the people that did die had weakened immune systems and were exposed to e. coli - some wrong-doing in a meat processing plant. So unless you're cutting through intestines while you're gutting an animal in your kitchen - or you're not washing up after #2 while cooking, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO DIE!!!

                                                                                        I understand the argument that you have to cross the street, and you don't have to eat potentially contaminated food. But actually, if you're a REAL hound, you do have to eat delicious food, even if it might (just a very. very, slight might) be contaminated from standard airborne kitchen bugs. If I had an inkling that food was contaminated from e.coli, I'd toss it.

                                                                                        In fact, I call out all you wusses. You're false hounds. You would throw out a potentially delicious, left out overnight (covered) gumbo base rather than what... maybe, in one out of thousands of cases, get a little sick. YOU'RE NOT GOING TO DIE!!!

                                                                                        All you trained in the medical and food industry types that have been scared to death by people trained to scare you to death, of course, professionally, you have to do what you have to do and say what you have to say. This is the land of lawsuits. Somebody feels a little queesy - there goes the franchise. But like all the folks on Sam's thread before about having a Magic Kitchen - let's face it, at home, nobody even gets sick.

                                                                                        Turn in your chowhound badges, dudes and dudettes. Chickens get eaten here.

                                                                                        1. re: Veggo
                                                                                          Sam Fujisaka Dec 12, 2008 08:02 PM

                                                                                          Mejor sean, "puedan" (subjunctive) y "tiempos buenos".

                                                                                        2. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                          c oliver Dec 12, 2008 08:37 PM

                                                                                          And, hey, let's have a good time also!!

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