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Brining and food safety

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Hello, and thanks to those with answers!

I'm fairly certain of the answer to this question, but I'm hoping you'll say I'm wrong . . .

We brined 25 pounds of pork for pulled pork (shoulder/butt). The solution included one cup of salt for one gallon of water (plus some spices and brown sugar). It was in the brine (in the refrigerator) for 9-10 hours.

We then put a dry rub on it, put it in an electric roasting oven, and turned it on to cook at 250 degrees overnight. Or so we thought. Eight hours later, when we got up, we realized we hadn't plugged the roaster in. The kitchen temperature was about 68 degrees, and the roaster cover was on.

We immediately turned it on (250) and went to the store for more pork. We're serving the new batch to our guests this evening (although no time to brine or cook as slowly as we'd like). But we thought we'd still cook the "bad" batch, on the off chance that brining it preserved it just enough to survive eight hours at, essentially, room temperature. We're pretty sure we'll have to throw it out, but maybe you'll tell us something different!

Thank you so much!

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  1. Send the pork to me. I will be happy to use it.

    1. I'd eat it. In fact I'd have cooked it and served it.

      1. I would have no problem cooking and eating it myself.

        1. I would use it, but I would use a thermometer to make sure the center reached a sufficient temperature.

          1. I LOVE these replies! Thank you. Looks like pulled pork will be filling the freezer for the winter!

            1. No way I'd eat it. When in doubt, throw it out.

              1. I'd use it without hesitation.

                1. Someone in the family couldn't resist the aroma, so he ate a bowl of it . . . we'll refrigerate the rest for three days and see what happens!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: juliabobbie

                    The pork was left out at room temperature for 8 hours. Why is anyone comfortable with eating it? Because it was in a weak salt solution? The concentration of salt in that brine is hardly enough to preserve that pork. You might as well treat it like the pork was left out on the counter for 8 hours. Would you eat it then?

                    You are playing with fire. Pork is cheap. Don't chance it. When in doubt, throw it out. You're in doubt.

                    1. re: 1POINT21GW

                      I've got to agree with you here. Maybe I'd be the brave one & try some and see, but there's no way I would serve it to others after that. If it seems okay, and I didn't get sick, I'd save that batch in the freezer for me, again, not serving it to others..... But now you are refrigerating for three days too? I don't know, even if you reheat it and get the temp up past 200, it does not guarantee you are killing any microbes, like ground meat, pulled meat has so many surface areas, it would be next to impossible to guarantee it was safe.

                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                        Im taking a wild shot in the dark here, and Im guessing the pork wouldnt be pulled until after it went on the smoker, so there is no comparison to ground beef.

                        1. re: RodVito

                          Right, but I was referring to after it was pulled & reheated. OP said they would be reheating it three days later.

                        2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                          No, it's comparable at all to ground beef. Especially not commercially ground meat.

                        3. re: 1POINT21GW

                          doesn't the fact that the pork will be thoroughly cooked after affect your decision? For pulled pork, you're going to be getting an internal temp of at least 175 degrees.

                          1. re: FED

                            Nope. Besides, it's not the internal temperature that's as important - it's the external temperature which is where bacteria feeds, grows, and thrives.

                            Even under normal, responsible refrigeration conditions, cooking still doesn't kill all microbes, bacteria, and other nasties, much less once meat has been left out at room temperature for more than 8 hours. Bacteria multiply at significant rates between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees, which is why meats should not be in this temperature range for more than two hours. The longer it's in this range, the higher the risk.

                            From On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee:

                            " . . . meat is a nourishing food for microbes as well as for humans. Given the chance, bacteria will feast on meat surfaces and multiply. The result is both unappetizing and unsafe, since some microbial digesters of dead flesh can also poison or invade the living."

                            Also, refrigeration doesn't halt spoilage and bacteria growth, it only slows it down. This is why meat should be used within a few days (a week at most) (outside of wet or dry aging beef) or frozen.

                            Meat is cheap. Sickness and death suck. Don't chance it.

                            1. re: 1POINT21GW

                              you're right that the external temperature is key, which makes my point even more ... the surface of the meat reaches higher temperatures much quicker than the internal. salmonella is killed instantly at 160 degrees and if you cook to an internal temp of 170, i'd figure you'd be at an external temp of 160 for at least an hour. still, you're right. if you're worried about it, pork butt is cheap enough to replace. i'm just suggesting it's not foolhardy to not be worried about it.

                      2. Defininately wouldn't serve it to others. Well, maybe I'd serve it my worst enemy.
                        PROBABLY wouldn't even serve it to myself.
                        Cooking "low and slow' on top of already being at room temp for eight hours seems pretty risky to me.

                        1. Eat it...you will be fine.

                          1. i just went thru the same thing, on a much smaller scale. three pieces of pork belly, bone in, brined for 6 hours in a solution of water, salt & sugar, in the fridge, at my dad's. transported to my home, and accidentally left out all night. in the sink (still in the brine) in a dark, non-sun-lit kitchen (although it has been warm). upon discovery, i refrigerated them again, and left them - again, still in the brine - until last night. pulled them out of the brine, dried them, smelled: completely fresh smelling, not a trace of any funkiness at all. so i braised them - seared and then put in liquid (and rub) for 2.5 hours or so in a 325 degree oven. let them cool, put them and their braising liquid in the fridge. tonight, i reheated, then stuck under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp the fat. they smelled and tasted delicious. 3 hours later, no one is sick. i only made these for me & my bf - wouldn't have chanced it with others, probably, but my bf is less squeamish than i am, even about these things. and if there had been any smell, i would have thrown them out. As others have said, pork is cheap. But, at least in this case, the brine kept them just fine.

                            1. Update: Before I could report these comments, someone in the house ate some (after 10 hours at 250). He didn't get sick. They continued it at 250 overnight, and several others ate some (couldn't resist the aroma, even though they knew the danger). No one had a bad reaction at all, so they pulled the rest and put it in the freezer (being quite sick of eating it by then). This all happened at my daughter's house, so I didn't end up with any of it.

                              The info I've read on brining suggests that 1 cup of salt to one gallon of water is sufficient, but you have to brine it for weeks before it's preserved. Maybe the short brining period was enough to protect it for a short time??? Maybe they got lucky.

                              Thank you, again, for all the help!