Friday, March 13, 2009

As someone who always seems to be cooking way more than necessary for one meal, I often have to deal with reheating those meals again. This always leads me to the same questions:

A. Should I reheat everything to kill off all the bacteria knowing that we still won't finish it all and must store it in the fridge again?


B. Should I just take out a portion that I think we will be able to eat and continue refrigerating the rest of it?

What do you think?

My husband and I both thought A, but after some research I have found myself to be wrong, and here is why:

Any heating of food has the danger of growing bacteria. Some of these are able to form a heat-resistant toxin that even reheating won't destroy. The more often you reheat your food, the more likely you are to get food poisoning.

The second question I've had is:

A. Should I leave my food out on the counter to cool before refrigerating - therefore not raising the temperature of my fridge with hot foods or creating a large amount of condensation in my leftovers?


B. Should I stick them straight into the fridge to cool down faster and give it less exposure to the bacteria in the air?

Again, my practice has always been the former, and I discovered that I am only partially correct in this. It is good to not put hot foods in the fridge or freezer because it does cause everything else to get warmer as well. However, food should not be left out for more than 1.5 hours before refrigerating (including the serving time).

The best practice is to divide your leftovers into smaller portions, cool as quickly as possible and then place in fridge or freezer depending on how soon you think you will use them again.

Many of the websites I went to were giving advice for catering companies and restaurants. They obviously have to hold to a lot higher standards than the average households. Goodness knows, I've reheated the same pot of soup 3-4 times before finishing it all off without any averse effects. But, it is good to know the information and be careful about what we serve our families (especially since my son was vomitting the other day for who-knows-what-reason).

Other tips that were mentioned were:

* Place leftovers in shallow containers and stir to allow faster cooling.

* Eat left-overs within 4 days for best quality. Otherwise, freeze them.

* Don't over-crowd your refrigerator.

* Left-over meats are best served cold (!!)

* Don't reheat food twice.

* Reheat sauces, gravies and soups to a full, rolling boil

* Microwaves heat food very unevenly. It is best to use stove-top when possible and stir frequently.

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