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Dec 13, 2009 10:03 PM

Meat vs Fish and maybe Shrimp

I do not know exactly when and where I get this idea, but I always have the impression that fish goes bad much quicker than meats (like beef, pork). I am pretty sure it is true, but I cannot be 100% sure.

So let's say I left a piece of beef and a piece of fish on the counter at room temperature for two hours. I get a greater chance of food poisoning from the fish, right?

I also have the ranking order of:

Beef=Pork=Lamb > Chicken > Fish.

Am I correct? What about shrimps, lobsters and crabs?

(I suddenly thought of this because I am trying to de-frozen my shrimps by moving them from freezer to refrigerator).


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  1. First of all, food poisoning relates more to improper cooking and improper handling/cross contamination than it does to storage temps. Spoiled food can be unsafe to eat, but, depending on the extent of the spoilage, it's usually not a safety issue, but, rather, one of palatability. In other words, you probably could cook the living daylights out of slightly spoiled meat and suffer no health repercussions, but the taste would be awful.

    Doing a quick search on the web, there seems to be a pretty wide gamut of recommendations when it comes to storing meat. Myself, I tend to notice a pretty drastic drop in quality when any meat is store more than a day or so, so I take great pains to cook it quickly, or, if I have to, freeze it. Here's how I approach it.

    Lobster- 0 hours- I don't eat frozen lobster, so when dealing with fresh, it always has to go from live to cooked.

    Frozen Shrimp- thawing time only

    Ground beef/chicken- 12 hours- exposure to air from grinding hastens spoilage.

    Fresh Fish- 12 hours. If I go to the market and by fresh fish, believe me, it's getting cooked or frozen that very day. I don't mess around with food that costs that much.

    Lamb/Pork/Beef Steaks/Roasts- 1 day. I know this may sound extreme, but I get discoloration if I store my meat in plastic longer than a day. If it gets past me, I'll occasionally cut off the discoloration, but I prefer avoiding it completely. Sometimes I'll do a DIY dry aging for steaks that lasts for a few days, but that's outside of the plastic and carefully monitored.

    Raw Shrimp-1 day. I pretty much only stick to frozen shrimp, but in those few rare instances where I work with raw shrimp, a day is as far as I'll go.

    Chicken- 1 1/2 days. It's not a huge window, but chicken tends to give me more leeway than any other flesh- assuming of course, it's fresh when I purchase it. If there's any doubt, it's a same day deal.

    Now, unless you live in the tropics or the meat is cut in very small pieces, the effect of two hours at room temperature on frozen meat is going to be fairly negligible. Many a steak recipe will have you bring the steak to room temp for about an hour before cooking. Between an hour for thawing and an hour to come to room temp- there's your two hours.

    Not that I ever freeze steaks, mind you (don't like the water loss), but, for those that do, two hours out is more than a comfortable amount of time. I do use frozen shrimp exclusively, though,and after a considerable amount of research and thought, I no longer mess around with either fridge or room temps. I now thaw shrimp in record time with a warm water bath. With the right size bowl and warm/almost hot water, I quickly combine the water and the shrimp, making sure to mix the shrimp well to distribute the heat. With about 2 parts water to shrimp, the temperature of the water will almost immediately drop to about room temp, and, then, as the coldness of the center of the shrimp emanates outward, the water ends up close to fridge temps. I've thawed shrimp like this in 5 minutes. The shell may, for a millisecond get slightly warm, but the flesh, for the most part, never goes above room temp.

    When I tell people about warm water shellfish thawing, they tend to freak out a bit, but that's because they don't understand the temperatures the shrimp are actually being exposed to. There's no adverse effect on the shrimp whatsoever. In fact, I'd say there's a marginally less effect than thawing shrimp for 2 hours at room temp.

    1 Reply
    1. re: scott123


      Thanks for your well-thought inputs. You certainly cook much fresher foods than I do. As for shrimp, I usually thraw my frozen shrimps in water too. My water is closer to room temperature water and I often do it twice. As you said, the frozen shrimps will quickly cool the surrounding water, so once the water get icey cold, I drain it and put in a new batch of water to futher thraw my shrimps. However, this time I am doing the freezer-to-frig the night before method.

      So why do your friends freak out about your thrawing method? Is it because they think you are cooking the shrimp and therefore ruin the taste? Or is it because they think bacteria will grow fast under such environment and therefore it is unsafe? I wonder which angle they are looking at this.