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Frozen kitchen - any potential safety issues?

I returned from my X-mas vacation last night to a none-too-wonderful surprise: my furnace had malfunctioned, freezing and then bursting my pipes above the kitchen, leaving it a frozen landscape with regards to the floors and part of the stove (seems to still work fine, and I had power). I had a skating rink on my kitchen floor. Things such as olive oil left on the counter were solid from the cold. As I was away for more than a couple of days, i'm not real sure how long things were left this way.

After I got the heat going again in the house and went to get a glass from the cupboard (after hours of mopping and dealing with newly formed geysers in other pipes, damn straight I needed a glass of wine !), things felt damp and clammy. I checked the pantry (opposite side of kitchen from where the leaks were), things also felt somewhat damp with what I can only assume is condensation from the reheat. I didn't see any jars that looked like they might have frozen and burst, and most if not all of my grains and such, are in tupperware containers.

While right now my main concern is the fact that I have no water, and a good bit of water damage on parts of my kitchen ceiling / pipes to be fixed, i'm just wondering if there's anything in the cupboards that I would need to look out for.

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  1. Oh no - poor you :( That happened in the area where we live about 20 years ago. We were lucky because it was a vacation cabin at the time and we had completely winterized before leaving. We had a couple of burst pipes but the water had been drained prior to our leaving. I hope you drank that whole damn bottle of wine :) I can't think of anything in particular that you ought to be concerned about but hopefully others can offer advice. Good luck. Yuck.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      how in the world did the pipe freeze and burst with no water in it?

    2. Anything dry that is now damp should be tossed, as bacteria are probably now having a field day. Canned goods and things that are kept in tight plastic containers are okay. Check opened, water proof containers of things like olive oil one at a time for quality. This could cost you a bundle. Consider looking at your insurance policy to see if the contents of your pantry are covered for replacement.

      1. So so sorry,what a flipping nightmare.No real booze even sadder.

        As things dry out and warm up there will be signs.Watch for mold ,penetrating water marks ,expansion of lids and can ends.With common sense and diligence there will be some salvage.

        1. I'm sorry to hear about your flood and indoor ice storm. What a unfortunate home coming. I'm not a food safety expert, but I have some common sense, so here's my two cents. I wouldn't worry too much about bacteria since everything was frozen first from the lack of heat before it got wet and freezing things below their normal shelf temperature wouldn't foster bacterial growth. Liquids that turned to solids, like the Olive Oil, are another story. I'd use the smell and taste test. See how they are when they thaw out. It won't be dangerous but it may be unpalletable and may not melt to a satisfactory consistency.

          Obviously, dry goods that got wet will have to be thrown out.

          Otherwise, your main concern will be mold that might grow in your house from all the moisture. You'll want to do a thorough cleanup job to prevent that.

          2 Replies
          1. re: taos

            There are companies that can come in and dry out your house. We had a problem in our finished basement recently. They tented the wet area and blew warm air in one way and I guess "sucked" it out or something the other way. What it worked. That's where your insurance may help you out.

            1. re: taos

              olive oil solidifies in the fridge. would freezing alter its chemical structure to make it ill-advised to use? i can't think of any reason, but i'm no expert.

            2. Thanks for all the suggestions, I hadn't considered including food when talking to the insurance company, but will keep that in mind when i next speak to them. Nothing on the pantry side of the kitchen got leaked on, I was more worried about possible freeze/thaw issues that might not have been visible upon first glance through the cupboards. The olive oil, looked and smelled ok, in fact I used it today to make a stir fry, as it was the only thing I could cook at the time that didn't require water to prepare ( I had frozen veggies on hand).

              I have a dehumidifier in the kitchen now, and the gaping ceiling will hopefully be cleaned out within the next day or two. I'm very happy to say I now have running water ( the good kind!), downstairs, the guy the insurance company sent today managed to shut off the parts that were busted (knock wood). Plumbers and such will be in to start the damage repairs within the next days.

              I'd hate to lose the contents of my pantry, I live in an area where the more unusual items are hard to find, and I also have a few gifted jarred items and such in there. My pantry is often overflowing with wonderful little finds, while my fridge is currently empty !

              But most of all i'm happy that i'm relatively dry and warm right now ! What an experience. I had returned home from a day of travelling , looking forward to a relaxing night with a couple of glasses of wine before heading back to work on Monday. Not so much ! I did have one glass of wine last night, but was admittedly so tired at 3:30 am from mopping and trying to fix things ( as well as admittedly, crying my eyes out !!!), that I fell asleep pretty much after that.

              Three cheers tonight for the simple things in life like tap water !!!

              1. Just remember that quite a number of goods from the pantry have two layers of packaging: the box and an internal sealed packet. Don't throw out the packets if the box got wet.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Good point. But maybe remove from the "tainted" box?

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Of course. Toss the box and use a marker to ID the packet.

                2. Since I'm not a scientist, my explantion of this may lack clarity but I had problems with food stored through the winter in an old farmhouse I own in the country when I used to turn the heat off completely. Where we are, the winters are mild enough that we get some warm spells and then some quite cold weather - pretty wide swings.

                  No food is ever completely without moisture - not grains, dried spices, pasta, beans, nothing - even stored in tupperware or in sealed packages. There is still some residual moisture.
                  There seemed to be some condensation inside the sealed packages. Small, not much, but enough that even the packages that were sealed from the food processors would often get a musty odor after having been in the house through the winter.
                  Spices inside tightly closed jars would cake and sometimes even develop a layer of mold on top.
                  I could only guess that the temperature changes had caused some minor condensation of the small amount of moisture inside the food itself or in the airspace.
                  The pasta would have a whitish look to it. But things that had no change in appearance often had a faint funny smell.
                  I pitched a lot of food. This didn't happen with canned goods.
                  Nothing ever froze inside the house despite one year when I did have a broken pipe in the kitchen that I had failed to drain completely when I drained all the water pipes.

                  Watch out for musty odors in the anything that you have. Use the things that are left as quickly as you can or put them in the freezer. You may not have the problem because the stuff wasn't subject to repeated heating and cooling. But you never know.

                  I don't cut the heat off in the farmhouse any longer. I leave it on at a minimum - about 50 degrees through the winter and drain the pipes, just in case.