HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Food Safety... Help

I made a big batch of Jambalaya in the crock pot yesterday, cooked on high for about 4 hours. Containing shrimp, chicken breast, tomatoes, sausage, etc. Well after cooling off last night, We put it in the fridge.
We get up this morning and take some for our lunch at work that was about 6:00am. Well being in a hurry no excuse I know, we left it out all day sitting on the counter in a sealed Tupperware container. I put it in the fridge as soon as I got home about 4:00pm, the house got up to about 80 degrees F. My question is, if it is properly heated up, brought to boil and then simmered for awhile, do you guys think it would be safe to eat?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I am not sure that all toxins can be cooked out of food that might begin to spoil. If it were me, I would reluctantly toss it as I remember too well a 5 hour bout of "tossing my cookies", wanting to die and being sick for an additional 24 hours which also ruined a weekend outing. :)

    1. Agree. I wouldn't take a chance on it either. Chicken...seafood...ooh. It's not worth it.

      1. Ya that is my feeling. It sucks, but better than being sick.


        1. It's safe.

          Toxins? What toxins? Cooking it on high killed everything in there. In the worst case scenario, a bunch of harmful organism got inside when you transferred it from the pot to the tup. This pretty much requires that you use a seriously contaminated container, utensil or someone sick spitting at the thing. Unless you started off with some funky quality ingredients, there's just no way that it's harmful.

          12 Replies
          1. re: ediblover

            not to start an argument, but none of what you said is true... if i poached you a chicken breast and fish and transferred it to a sterile airtight container and then left it on my counter for a few days, you damn well better believe it'd be absolutely disgusting and unfit for consumption. not to mention it might get you sick enough to land you in the hospital.

            animal products are some of the least safe in this department. slow cookers have been shown to be less effective than traditional cooking methods, as they don't reach high enough temperatures to kill all naturally occurring foodborne bacteria anyway (because they don't boil foods like you would on a stove). messing around with improperly handled chicken and fish makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. cooked animal, as well as perishables like eggs, mayo, and dairy will start multiplying with harmful bacteria in about 2 hours. from there on out, you're really gambling with yourself.... i'd never knowingly eat what the OP described.

            bummer to toss the food! but way better than spending the next few days or week sick as hell.

            1. re: nothingswrong

              The problem is that your container may be airtight, but there is still air IN there which carries microorganisms.

              1. re: jaykayen

                sure... my point being: it's not safe to keep perishable foods at room temp for more than a couple hours (or less) no matter how careful you are. always better safe than sorry!

              2. re: nothingswrong

                Not sure why nothingswrong even brings up "left it on my counter for a few days." OP said a few hours. What cookster did isn't much different than what they may have done if it actually got to work...many people take food to work, keep it in a room temp place for a few hours, then eat. I do it all the time. Would that extra few hours be dangerous? Maybe, but I doubt it. I've left things on the counter for a day, let things thaw on the counter all day. No problems. I think people have had too much misinformation about refrigeration and food safety...and been scared to the point of thinking that anything not in a fridge will kill them.
                I would eat it. And wouldn't even worry about boiling/simmering...just heating to a good eating temp.
                Yes, I know many will disagree, but I do it often, and haven't made myself or anyone else sick.

                1. re: Dan G

                  it's the seafood, not the chicken, that tips it for me.

                  I have had foodborne illnesses a few times, but never as violent or unpleasant as those brought on by seafood.

                  I still eat plenty of seafood; I'm just a lot more careful about it.

                2. re: nothingswrong

                  You're talking about degradation (basically, things going rancid), which has no chance of happening in this situation. Just on the subject, if something sterile is transferred to a sterile container, while it'll react with the air and whatever enzymes are present, but there's still no harm from bacteria.

                  2 hours... Yes and no. The bacteria in food will need several hours to multiply. Sure, it's exponential growth, but you're still in that boring, slow phase. That's why mold on bread takes a while to develop, but once it does, it grows/spreads like crazy.

                      1. re: jaykayen



                        There's no way to keep the food sterile, and there's no way to keep the container sterile.

                        ALL modern sources recommend not letting seafood remain at temperatures between 40 and 140 F any longer than absolutely necessary because of the documented growth of pathogens at those temperatures.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Somewhere out there in some dorm room, a heavy-eyed person is waking up with a rather heavy headache, but more importantly, really, really hungry. The person will stagger out of bed and wobble around, seeking something, anything, to make the hunger go away. But, what is this? A pizza box! The box, which no one is certain how or when it got there (rest assured it has been sitting there for at least a dozen hours), contains what qualifies as being edible. The contents of the box is devoured and the person wobbles back to bed, satisfied.

                          The above, and many similar situations, play out routinely and no one has ever gotten sick from it, because there no strong reason to really get sick. I could link things, but I think it's more fun to tell these common sense stories. That and citing high school biology stuff seems silly.

                    1. re: ediblover

                      You're still wrong about toxins. Bacteria in foods do not always harm directly. Some excrete toxins which are responsible for food poisoning. Some of these toxins are heat stable (are not 'killed' or denatured by reheating). The food the OP cooked was never sterile, merely pasteurized (and then presumably handled to some degree).

                      The OP did leave the food out long enough at room temperature for foodborne bacteria to potentially become a problem. The restaurant rule is 4 hours for spoilage- and bacteria-prone foods - use it or refrigerate before that point, or throw it away otherwise. That said, the risk is probably lower than some people are making it out to be. Just because the OPs food could theoretically be tainted doesn't mean it's likely to be.

                      Ultimately it's a judgement call. Me - I might eat the jambalaya myself, but I wouldn't feed it to my kid (if he were old enough to eat). YMMV.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        I agree. While it is most likely ok to eat, I wouldn't do it because there is a non-trivial probability of getting sick from eating it.

                3. out it goes -- seafood at room temperature is an engraved invitation for foodborne illness.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sunshine842

                    sunshine842 I agree, it would seem with all the protein in the dish that the PH would not be low enough, (acidic). I would toss it in the Bayou!!!

                  2. Thanks everyone for your posts. Well I declined to eat anymore but still did not throw it out, my mistake. My fiance did end up eating some of the jambalaya with no ill effects what so ever.
                    I would not recommend this my self but I do wonder sometimes if we over react on the side of caution when it comes to food handling? Just food for thought.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: thecookster

                      If you've ever spent a couple of days pretty certain that you'd have to get better to die (E/R visits, I/V fluids, the whole 9 yards), the side of caution looks like a pretty attractive place to hang out.

                      Just like colds and flu, some folks have a cast iron stomach, some can be ill from the slightest misstep, and most of us are somewhere in between.

                      For me? When it comes down to sadly having to throw something away versus even a chance of having a long conversation with Ralph on the big white phone, I'll throw it away no matter what it is or how hard I worked on it.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        agreed sunshine842. i've eaten things that made me sick but didn't make my husband sick, and vice versa. having just been in the throws of food poisoning the other day when this thread was posted, i was getting all hot and bothered further up-thread. but that's what happens when you are stricken down! you swear up and down that you'll never take a chance again.

                        cookster--glad your fiance didn't get sick and hopefully he enjoyed the food. yes, sometimes we do overreact, but i guess it just comes down to what kind of gamble is "worth" it to you. growing up, my dad would make us eat things we dropped on the floor or old leftovers so as not to waste food. my mom contracted hepatitis and e coli from a dish at our favorite local restaurant when i was a kid and nearly died--lying in the hospital for 6 months, all while she was a healthy 30-something young mom. so she has always erred on the side of caution and i have too. that's the kind of thing you see and never forget.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          When I was in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, I got food poisoning from river mussels that had to be prepared in a hurry. No ER, just treatment from my landlady for the "evil eye". The only part of that treatment that did anything for me was the chamomile tea.

                          These days, I have a really sensitive digestive system, so I'm very careful about things that might not be "quite right".

                          1. re: tracylee

                            yes, it's interesting how our digestive systems change. i had a stomach of steel growing up, until i was in my early twenties and got food poisoning from some poultry. ever since then, it's like i'll get sick at the slightest mishandling of food. it's a total bummer and it's made me overly cautious. there's a lot of research about these post-infectious conditions of the GI tract--once we are exposed to some certain bacteria/virus and have recovered from it, we are always at more risk for foodborne illness.

                            all the more reason to be cautious in the first place--to avoid having to end up in this state. if i could eat the kinds of things i ate when i was younger, i'd do a little jig. unfortunately, there's no going back.