Cotd Comfort Chitting and Freezing

Keeping food cold, sometimes very cold, slows or suspends the activity of microbes bent on digesting your food before you do.

Unlike heat, which actually kills many of the microbes (see Chapter 20), chilling food (or freezing it) may not kill all the microbes, but the cold will reduce the microbial population to some degree depending on the microflora present and will sideline them for a while. For example, mold spores (hibernating mold organisms) snuggle inside frozen food to sleep quietly like so many comfy bears inside a wintry cave. When spring comes, the bears bounce back to life; thaw the food, and the mold does the same.

How long things stay safe in the refrigerator or freezer varies from food to food and to some extent on the packaging (better packaging, longer freezing time). Table 21-1 provides a handy guide to the limits of safe cool storage. These ranges depend on foods being fresh to start out and on the refrigerator/freezer maintaining a constant temperature. Whenever these conditions aren't met, food may spoil more quickly. Use your common sense: If food seems in any way questionable, throw it out without tasting. Or as the catchy saying goes: When in doubt, throw it out.

Table 21-1 How Long Foods Generally Stay Safe in Cold Storage

Food

Refrigerator (40°F)

Freezer (0°F)

Eggs

Fresh, in shell

3 weeks

Don't freeze

Raw yolks, whites

2-4 days

1 year

Hard cooked

1 week

Doesn't freeze well

Liquid pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes, opened

3 days

Doesn't freeze well

Liquid pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes, unopened

10 days

1 year

Mayonnaise, Commercial

Open jar

2 months

Don't freeze

TV Dinners, Frozen Casseroles

As originally packed, until ready to serve

Don't refrigerate: Keep frozen

3-4 months

Deli and Vacuum-Packed Products

Prestuffed pork and lamb chops, chicken breasts stuffed with dressing

1 day

Doesn't freeze well

Store-cooked convenience meals

1-2 days

Doesn't freeze well

Commercial brand vacuum-packed dinners with USDA seal, unopened

2 weeks

Doesn't freeze well

Soups and Stews

Vegetable or meat-added

3-4 days

2-3 months

Ground Meats and Stew Meats

Hamburger and stew meats

1-2 days

3-4 months

Ground turkey, veal, pork, lamb, and mixtures of them

1-2 days

3-4 months

Food

Refrigerator (40°F)

Freezer (0°F)

Hot Dogs** and Lunch Meats*

Hot dogs, opened

1 week

In freezer wrap, 1-2 months

Hot dogs, unopened

2 weeks

In freezer wrap, 1-2 months

Lunch meats, opened

3-5 days

In freezer wrap, 1-2 months

Lunch meats, unopened

2 weeks

In freezer wrap, 1-2 months

Bacon and Sausage

Bacon*

7 days

1 month

Sausage, raw — pork, beef, turkey

1-2 days

1-2 months

Smoked breakfast links, patties

7 days

1-2 months

Hard sausage — pepperoni, jerky sticks 2-3 weeks

1-2 months

Ham, Corned Beef

Corned beef in pouch with pickling juices*

5-7 days

Drained and wrapped, 1 month

Ham, canned, label says to keep refrigerated

6-9 months

Don't freeze

Ham, fully cooked — whole

7 days

1-2 months

Ham, fully cooked — half

3-5 days

1-2 months

Ham, fully cooked — slices

3-4 days

1-2 months

Fresh Meat

Steaks — beef

3-5 days

6-12 months

Chops — pork

3-5 days

4-6 months

Chops — lamb

3-5 days

6-9 months

Roast — beef

3-5 days

6-12 months

Roast — lamb

3-5 days

6-9 months

Roasts — pork, veal

3-5 days

4-6 months

Variety meats — tongue, brain, kidneys, liver, heart, chitterlings

1-2 days

3-4 months

Table 21-1 (continued)

Food

Refrigerator (40°F)

Freezer (0°F)

Meat Leftovers

Cooked meat and meat dishes

3-4 days

2-3 months

Gravy and broth

1-2 days

2-3 months

Fresh Poultry

Chicken or turkey, whole

1-2 days

1 year

Poultry pieces

1-2 days

2-3 months

Giblets

1-2 days

3-4 months

Cooked Poultry, Leftover

Fried chicken

3-4 days

4 months

Cooked poultry dishes

3-4 days

4-6 months

Poultry pieces, plain

3-4 days

4 months

Poultry pieces covered with broth or gravy

1-2 days

6 months

Chicken nuggets, patties

1-2 days

1-3 months

  • Follow date on package.
  • Caution: Even when food is in date and has been properly refrigerated, always boil or broil hot dogs to an internal temperature of 165°F.

Food Safety and Inspection Service, "A Quick Consumer's Guide to Safe Food Handling," Home and Garden Bulletin, No. 248 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, August 1995)

  • Follow date on package.
  • Caution: Even when food is in date and has been properly refrigerated, always boil or broil hot dogs to an internal temperature of 165°F.

Food Safety and Inspection Service, "A Quick Consumer's Guide to Safe Food Handling," Home and Garden Bulletin, No. 248 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, August 1995)

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