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Beef Stroganoff left out overnight - safe to eat?

I left out some uncovered beef stroganoff on my kitchen counter from about 9pm to 8am. It had some cream cheese and sour cream in it, is it still safe to eat? I put it in the fridge immediately when I saw it in the morning.

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    1. I must have a cast iron stomach, because I have done this kind of thing before and ate the food anyway with no problems...the only time I have ever had food poisoning was from stuffed clams at a seafood restaurant.....

      1. I totally agree with KSlink. I have done this many times with beef dishes and have had no problems whatsoever. After 30 years of cooking along with oversights on refrigeration for a night, no problems ever here also!

        1. Ever had a serious case of food poisoning? I have. I wanted the nurse to kill me! But if you want to take the gamble for some left overs that's up to you. BTW there's no reliable treatment for food poisoning other than having your stomach pumped and they don't give you a 'general' when they do it. After that I guessing your 'taste' for BS will be diminished. Just saying.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Puffin3

            <I wanted the nurse to kill me>

            I didn't get to that point. But I was pretty sick. For two and a half days, I threw up every time I ate (within 20 minutes) and constantly losing fluid from both ends. I knew if I cannot absorb nutrients quick, then I will be trouble. Of course, I couldn't sleep well too because my stomach hurt really bad, but I also because sit up straight or walk because the stomach hurt even more. There was a fever too.

            By the third day, I decided that I will give myself one more try before heading to the hospital. I switched from solid food to drank liquid/very soft foods, like mixed juice, soup and congee. To my pleasant surprise, these soft foods didn't upset my stomach (e.g. I didn't vomit). I was even looking at the clock and count the time -- to see if I would rush to vomit. I was so happy that nothing happened after an hour. You know you are in trouble when the criteria for your happiness is to "not throw up within an hour of eating".

            Only then, I slowly regain my strength. Even then, it took me another two days (total 4) before I can really comfortably walk.

            That being said and all, my food poison/stomach flu was not from spoiled cooked food, but from Gul Muchim (Korean seasoned RAW oysters). I will never try them again.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              my poisoning was from undercooked pork and the pathology was similar. except it wasn't the physical pain, discomfort and bathroom dashes as much as the feverish and boring recurring dreams. after a good 3 days I managed to choke down a few spoons of broth, the next day a small bowl of pasta. and I was traveling with unsympathetic types who at least let me suffer in the hotel for the initial bout (it was either that or soil their car). this was decades ago and I have rarely had a large appetite for anything since (still eat all things, just in small quantities).

              that said I might take a small bite and see, but even so I'd err on the side of caution in this case. but only because of the dairy AND meat AND the uncovered status. (I usually say go for it on lesser issues)

              1. re: hill food

                <the pathology was similar.>...

                Hmm, what do you do for a living? :)

                  1. re: hill food

                    :) That is ok. I understand your reservation.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                ....and THIS is why I fly to a source outside my state to eat one of my favorite foods.
                Omg your story makes me cringe.

            2. Go for it, then. If you think taking a poll on who hasn't gotten sick from eating beef and dairy in a dish that is left out on the counter overnight is the way to go...

              1 Reply
              1. When in doubt, throw it out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                And I spent three days in the hospital last week due to someone else's poor food handling.

                1. I recently had a similar question about uncooked Smithfield thin slices ham in vacuum sealed packages left out for over a week. I decided to toss them.

                  Let's see. You have the beef and you have the dairy. That sounds like 2 strikes to me.

                  10 Replies
                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                      It was HAM? In vacuum-sealed pouches, and you TOSSED them? I don't know about Smithfield, but the only reason I keep my Broadbent biscuit slices in the fridge is that it's just handier there. Says right on the package: "No refrigeration necessary". I mean, this stuff was hanging in a shed for a year or so …

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        Yes, vacuum-sealed pouches, but they are uncooked biscuit slices. My mom's older brother sent them to her at her assisted living facility. The package went unopened for 1-2 weeks and she keeps her room warm. The packaging doesn't address refrigeration before they are opened.

                        I haven't actually tossed them. They are in the freezer where my sister put them, but I'm thinking they are no good. Smithfield said that I should probably toss them, although they did say I might open one and try a bit. I'm not inclined to chance it. It's like risking a parking ticket by not feeding the meter. The risk outweighs the reward.

                        1. re: chocolatetartguy

                          Mine are also uncooked biscuit slices. I also have two packages of ham hocks. Both are clearly labelled NO REFRIGERATION NECESSARY. For the record, although they may be served raw, I prefer a quick sauté …

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            I talked to Smithfield and they said the packs should have been refrigerated within a couple of days. The were not shipped in any kind of coldpack and say only to refrigerate after opening.

                            I have resisted throwing them out, so maybe someday when I can afford to be sick afterwards. They take up no room in the freezer. Not sure I like Smithfield ham that much. A friend had a whole one on a buffet and it was good, but not great.

                            1. re: chocolatetartguy

                              I'm not encouraging you either way but you know that because of potential liability, a company is *always* going to say toss it if you are questioning the safety.

                              In the ham instance, I'd open it and eat it unless it looked or smelled really off.

                              1. re: tcamp

                                USDA: "Pathogenic bacteria do not generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance of a food. In other words, one cannot tell that a food has been mishandled or is dangerous to eat. For example, food that has been left too long on the counter may be dangerous to eat, but could smell and look fine. If a food has been left in the "Danger Zone" – between 40 and 140 °F – for more than 2 hours, discard it, even though it may look and smell good. Never taste a food to see if it is spoiled."

                                1. re: racer x

                                  Not the words I wanted to hear, but exacly the words I needed to hear.

                                  1. re: racer x

                                    "If a food has been left in the "Danger Zone" – between 40 and 140 °F – for more than 2 hours, discard it, even though it may look and smell good."

                                    I understand that this language from the USDA is written in an abundance of caution, but I think I can honestly say I've never had left-overs that HADN'T been in the danger zone for more than 2 hours. I dare say that it is nearly impossible to carry prepared food to the table, sit and eat the meal, clean up, pop left-overs in the fridge, and have the food's temp drop below 40 degrees within 2 hours. I bet most foods wouldn't drop to below 40 degrees in 2 hours if you put them straight into the fridge. Official recommendations need to be more realistic and informative if they are to be helpful in any way!

                                    1. re: jljohn

                                      well thank you voice of the un-dead across the great divide, but I gotta admit in this world I am on your side. people get freaked that I like leftovers at room temp. safety - yes. but wound-up paranoia - ehh I can find better things

                      2. I would say it also depends on the temperature of your kitchen.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MysticYoYo

                          Not to mention whatever bacteria that might be floating around the kitchen. In the past I would advocate for eating it. These days I would ask myself how much is the beef stew worth compared to the agony of getting sick, slim as the possibility might be.

                        2. Chances are that it is probably ok, but you are taking a risky chance to get really sick. Let's face it. Chances are that you are going to be ok if you scream and yell at a wild bear (he will probably ignore you), but do you really want to take that chance.

                          I would toss it away.

                          1. Toss it out - I also had food poisoning and spent 4 days in the hospital.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: MARISKANY

                              I'd toss it. You never know. I'm with Mariskany. I too spent 4 days in the hospital from Food Poisoning. Oh - and I was 8 1/2 month's pregnant!!!

                            2. If it were beef stew, I'd say bring it to a boil for a few minutes and have at it.

                              But since it's a significant amount of dairy? Out it goes.

                              don't mess with dairy.

                              1. personally i would eat it without a second thought. People managed for centuries without refrigeration and leftovers were eaten as a matter of course. The only proviso to that (for me) would be if your kitchen was exceptionally hot or if you had put a used spoon back in.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: flashria

                                  but for many of those centuries, throwing it out meant you'd go hungry at the next meal, because there wasn't going to be anything else.

                                  Not advocating waste by any means -- but people also died of diseases that we don't even take a day off work for now -- and didn't expect to make it much past 50.

                                  It takes only one really good weekend spent embracing Ralph and his big white phone to convince you to not play games with food safety.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    I do take your point but just feel that there is a modern tendency to over-worry about this. It was less than 12 hours that the OP mentioned! (IMHO) I just don't believe that food at ambient temperatures must always be eaten within this timescale, or that people everywhere stick to this as a cultural norm. After how many hours would you think it had reached the tipping point?

                                    1. re: flashria

                                      You have to leave it out for a little while to be cool enough to put in the fridge without causing a problem with everything else in the fridge...

                                      But probably a couple of hours.

                                      You apparently missed my post above where I referenced that it's the dairy that is the issue.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        No, I saw the reference to dairy. It wouldn't make any difference to what I said. But of course I know that my view is seen as rather cavalier and I wouldn't want to imply I was giving advice; I just feel that 'most' people would be all right 'most' of the time in these circumstances and pragmatically in many, many situations the world over this wouldn't be given a second thought. Everyone has their own individual acceptable risk level, and it's well within mine.

                                        1. re: flashria

                                          No, 4 hours at the "danger zone" is trouble... unless one's kitchen is 40 degrees F or lower. Jeez. basic science, people. There are "many situations the world over" that are extremely dangerous, but because they've been numbed by hunger or war, they "wouldn't be given a second thought."
                                          That doesn't make it safe.

                                          1. re: wyogal

                                            The point made about people eating leftovers for centuries misses the point. Today much like a couple of hundred years ago there was/is no refrigeration available to millions of folks. Very few of these people had/have the luxury of having prepared so much that those eating the food/s can't eat anymore. This is especially true when it comes to relatively rare items like meat and dairy. Doubtful if a peasant family in N.Korea has ever forgotten to leave a pot of cooked meat with dairy in it overnight.

                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                              ummmm, I didn't make that point. If you read my posts, I'm in the "throw it out" camp.

                                  2. re: flashria

                                    "People managed for centuries without refrigeration and leftovers were eaten as a matter of course."

                                    That may be looking at history through rose-tinted glasses.
                                    Wasn't food that could not be preserved by smoking or salting generally eaten right away? And for most people for most of history there really wasn't the kind of abundance of leftovers that we enjoy.

                                    But more to the point, people tended to die at very young ages much more frequently then than occurs today -- often from diseases that today are eminently treatable (or avoidable).

                                    1. re: flashria

                                      flashria said: "People managed for centuries without refrigeration and leftovers were eaten as a matter of course."

                                      So why do you assume you have an immune sustem as robust as theirs?

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        They also didn't have the kind of feedlot antibiotic resistant organisms in their foods that we have in our kitchens and food supply today.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          Wouldn't you love to shop then and cook now?

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            LOL... yes! Though I suspect that catching, killing and cleaning wouldn't have been my cuppa. ;-)

                                    2. Generally accepted food safety handling guidlines suggest that your stroganoff is at least 7 hours past the point of being servable regardless of how it is handled at this point. Add in the dairy items and you are playing with fire.

                                      This being said, many people play with fire and don't get burned. What you do at home is totally different than public health standards. I would place this as less risky than licking a toilet bowl in New Delhi and more risky than eating oysters.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: ellaystingray

                                        Thanks for the images. I WAS going to buy some fresh oysters today. ; P LOL

                                      2. I'm trying very hard here to understand this concentration on the dairy, and in what possible way that's "playing with fire". Dairy products are typically left out at room temperature, either because there's no reason to do otherwise (butter in a butter dish, cheese in a keeper) or to effect a change (souring, making crème fraiche, clotting). Cream cheese and sour cream are about as unwelcoming to spoilage bugs as a food can get, being high in fat and lactic acid - they're sour already! Getting all paranoid about dairy is as silly as the common misconception about the Perils of Mayonnaise.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          Me too. I ALWAYS have dairy "left out" on my counter for days in one form or another....on purpose. I make my own sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, yogurt cheese, creme fraiche, etc. I make my own salted butter (and buttermilk) and leave the butter out at room temp all week. I also make sourdough starters for bread.

                                          I also lacto ferment many veggies for days on the counter.

                                          I think people have gotten away from making their own food so much that they don't understand what is involved in making it.

                                          While I wouldn't recommend someone leave out a baked dish overnight on purpose (as someone might have licked a spoon and stuck it back in the dish to "incubate" a cold or something)..the cooked meat or cooked dairy products combined wouldn't be "poisonous" after only 8 or 10 hours. You might worry about mold growing on it after 10 hours in a warm kitchen.

                                          1. re: sedimental

                                            I think some of that depends on where you live and the temp your house stays- I even have to put some of my lacto fermented items in the frige during the day and it's only April! The water kefir is fine on the counter but the milk kefir is overfermented in 8-10 hours due to the warm temp. Butter would be liquid.

                                            1. re: weezieduzzit

                                              I've made my own yogurt, too, so you'll have to find someone else to pin the "doesn't understand the process" label on.

                                              There's a very long list of differences, with a significantly longer list of vulnerabilities:

                                              1) The stroganoff is not in a sanitized jar (as is the yogurt)

                                              2) it wasn't carefully heated to a specific temperature (as was the yogurt) and

                                              3)it hasn't been started with an inoculation of the bacteria you actually *want* in your fermented dairy products (as has the yogurt).

                                              Meanwhile, you have the inoculation of
                                              a) anything that was on the dish when you started,
                                              b)anything on the beef,
                                              c) anything that was on the onions,
                                              d) anything that was on the serving spoon, and
                                              e) anything that landed there while the dish sat exposed to open air.

                                              When you make yogurt, you go out of your way to avoid contamination from outside sources.

                                              Thus, you have an unsanitary (not unclean - unsanitary) container with an uncontrolled heating process, and the potential introduction of possibly malevolant microorganisms from any number of sources.

                                              Yogurt (if properly made) doesn't have any of those "features" -- and the lack of an inoculation of desirable microorganisms makes an "overfermentation" with uncontrolled growth of undesirable microorganisms pretty likely.

                                              Wild and uncontrolled growth of random organisms in unsanitary containers is rarely a healthy event.

                                              (Please note I'm not saying that the dish, spoon, knife, or anything else was **dirty** -- but you sterilize the jars in which you make yogurt...)

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                I am replying specifically to the diary question. Trying to thread the needle here in being complete enough to satisfy the food scientists but also not too pedantic.

                                                First, as I said, generally accepted food standards play it very safe and you don't need to follow them at home. However, there are certain things that grow at home just at well as in commercial kitchens. Microbial growth needs certain conditions to flourish like temperature, moisture, pH level etc. These conditions tend to be more present rather than less present in numerous food classes, dairy being one of them, though of course the exact type of dairy and conditions will dictate the prevailing risk. Dairy can also have contaminents proir to cooking that have "thermoduric" (resistant to heat) spores that wake up and play mean when left out at non-safe food handling temps. Dairy is not the only thing that has this, often potatoes for example do as well (on the skin).

                                                So all this to say, you can leave your butter out and make yougurt all you want and huge swaths of France (and other parts of the world) do just fine eating cheese that has sat out for god knows how long. Heck, there are even studies that suggest mayonaise actually slows growth of other well known food borne pathogens like salmonella.

                                                I think it is fair to say that while there are a whole host of other things that could go wrong with eating the stroganoff, the cream cheese and sour cream add an additional component of risk.

                                                Probably 9 out of ten times, nothing would happen. But note the above posts when things go sideways.

                                                1. re: ellaystingray

                                                  cheese is also started in extremely clean conditions. It's also complete -- you don't cut it into slices, toss it with other ingredients, and THEN leave it out at room temperature (and soft cheeses -- those most susceptible to contamination -- aren't stored at room temperature, anyway -- even the cheesemakers of Brie tell you to keep Brie in the fridge until about 20 minutes before eating).

                                                  By the time it's cheese, the good bacteria have won the battle for the majority rule of the milk -- bad bacteria can only enter through the rind -- from where they can be cut off (unless of course they're pink or orange, in which case you'd pitch it anyway)

                                                  The irrefutable fact is that dairy dishes (NOT fermented dairy, which is no longer the same thing) are highly susceptible to contamination and spoilage -- that's not opinion -- that's fact as told by every safe-handling authority on the planet.

                                                  So the bottom line is that if you leave non-fermented dairy out with lots of opportunity for contamination (the dish, the other ingredients, the utensils) -- you're playing a high-risk game of roulette -- and unless you are starving to death and have no other options, spending a few days spewing body fluids from a couple of orifices, the doctor bills, and the sheer misery just ain't worth the risk.

                                                  Anybody's who's been through foodborne illness would gleefully pay up the cost of the ruined dish to NOT go through it again.

                                                  Wanna play games with your health? Have at it. But it's irresponsible to suggest anybody else should do the same.

                                          2. re: Will Owen

                                            I think it could be a bad combination, though. The lactose/sugar in the dairy can feed other, non dairy related bacteria in the dish.

                                          3. In our house there would have been kitty cats in it as soon as we went to bed- and they walk in the litterbox with those same feet..... I can't leave food out for any amount of time.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: weezieduzzit

                                              Cats will definitely force the issue! But ours just turned 18, and climbs onto nothing but her chair anymore. When it's time to replace her, we'll have to re-learn all we've forgotten about dealing with the young, agile, and perpetually hungry.

                                              I was just thinking some more about that stroganoff … no, I would not have put it into the fridge. I'd have had it for breakfast!

                                              1. re: UTgal

                                                I thought about it for a while, but decided to throw it out... Better safe than sorry. Hated to throw all that food away, next time I won't make the same mistake!

                                                1. re: theeggman85

                                                  I'm glad you threw it out and didn't take a chance

                                                  1. re: theeggman85

                                                    Thanks for the update!

                                                    I probably would have thrown it out, and I'm kind of lax on things like that.

                                                2. Keep it. The Russians are a tough race of people.

                                                  1. The beauty of stroganoff left out over night is that it should set up nice and firm. Then you could put some sort of stick in it and carefully remove the stroganoff from the container (or pot/pan). If you used enough cream cheese and sour cream, it should retain its shape. Now you can eat it on the run like a candy covered apple or a lollipop. On second thought, I'd toss it.

                                                    1. Whenever I have doubts about food that might possibly do me harm, I ask myself three questions: 1. How much does that piece of that food cost? 2. Is that a reasonable price for trouble? 3, How stable is that particular food? In other words, a black Perigord truffle left out over night? I'd no doubt eat it. An ounce of Beluga caviar? Definitely trash. Or feed it to the cat and see if it survives, then there's time for regret... The one thing I hate doing most in this whole wide world is throwing up. Don't go there.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                        *high five* -- I am so with you, sister.

                                                      2. The OP threw good food away. Even assuming the bacterial levels had become unsafe by the time he found the stroganoff, all he had to do was throw it in a sauce pan and bring it to a gentle boil for a couple of minutes. That would have killed all the bacteria. About the only thing that is not destroyed by heat is botulism toxin (though the bacteria that produce it are), but that takes much longer than a few hours to develop and it only does so in anaerobic conditions.

                                                        Of course, if the stroganoff looked or smelled funny, it should be trashed because it would then be unpleasant to eat no matter how much it was heated.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Jakareh

                                                          What about Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus?

                                                          (note to self: politely decline offers to eat at Jakareh's house) ; )