As the satisfying hum of electricity surges through your home, lights are restored, and you can finally resume regular household programming. So you reach into the fridge to grab a celebratory snack, and to take out that meat you were planning to cook for dinner.
But as you toss that defrosted slab in the sink, you smell something a little funky. Sure, it was great that the power outage thawed out your main ingredient for you, but did it do more than just that? Probably.
Before you prepare, cook, or eat the food in your fridge after an extended power outage, here are some expert tips to help you determine whether they’re ripe for eating or better left in the trash.
When in Doubt, Throw It Out
As a general rule, any food that makes you raise a brow should be thrown out instead of being given the benefit of the doubt. Food spoilage after a power outage can be really tricky to determine, and there is no way to know for sure. So if a specific item just gives you that gut feeling, it might be your tummy telling you to steer clear of a potential upset.
Similarly, experts also recommend that you avoid tasting food to find out whether or not it’s still ‘safe’ to eat. Taste can be deceiving, and food that seems relatively funky-flavor free can still have bacterial colonies growing all over it.
Maximizing Food Safety
So what exactly can you do to separate the questionable from the consumable? Experts recommend using a food thermometer. Insert that baby into your item of choice and find out whether it’s still good to eat. Foods that maintain an internal temperature of 41 degrees F should still be suitable for consumption. Anything warmer than that might have to be tossed.
It also helps to time the power outage. Food that’s kept in a fridge or freezer for 4 to 6 hours without electricity might still be viable. Any longer than that and their viability starts to spoil. Plus, during an outage, it helps to keep the fridge shut. This helps prevent introducing warmth into the compartment, preserving food longer. So, no opening and closing the fridge to ease away your boredom – you already know what’s in there anyway.
Finally, any food that doesn’t meet the boundaries of viability mentioned above, just toss it out. It’s always better to play it safe, especially if there are kids in the house. If you find that you have to discard everything and restock, don’t stuff your fridge right away.
Clean it out and make sure there isn’t any food residue left on its surfaces. Use a food-safe disinfectant to wipe walls and shelves in the fridge to protect new food from old bacteria. Oh, and make sure your refrigerator cools up before you stock it up with fresh items. It should be at least 41 degrees F before you start packing those shelves once more.