Remember that you can find bacteria everywhere. So in the case of food, it’s not just keeping your hands clean and how you handle the food but the air itself is the enemy when it comes to storing food and keeping it safe to eat.
We have all been in a situation where we forget things and the meat you took out to cook or thaw was left out the entire night on the countertop.
You may want to check if it still smells okay but the biggest warning sign that it’s no longer safe to cook is not always the smell. You need to remember how long it’s been out. Has it really been hours? Was it frozen and is it now warm to the touch?
Here’s what you need to know about meat that has been left out overnight:
1 Raw meat that’s left outside the refrigerator will have more bacteria now.
Bacteria rapidly multiplies at room temperature. Did you know that just one bacterium can multiply itself to over 2 million bacteria overnight? That means raw meat that has been sitting within the danger temperature zones (between 40 degrees Fahrenheit or about 4 degrees Celsius and 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees Celsius) can result in billions of bacteria in less than half that time.
2 Harmless bacteria can become harmful.
The bad news is that this applies to any bacteria, whether it began as harmless bacteria or harmful bacteria. The sheer number of bacteria that is now present in the raw meat can turn harmless bacteria into harmful ones because any toxins created is much more than it started off with.
This is why you should adopt the two-hour rule in the kitchen: never leave food out for two hours. In fact, one hour is the limit for hot countries. Hot countries mean countries where room temperatures rise to higher than 32 degrees C or 90 degrees F (That’s us!) so in short, any food that is out should be refrigerated immediately.
3 Not all bacteria can be killed through cooking.
There is more bad news: not all bacteria can be killed when cooked or treated to high temperatures. Some are actually resistant to high heat, so cooking won’t kill the bacteria.
What does this all mean? If you accidentally leave raw meat out overnight, it’s best to throw it out than to try to salvage it. Remember that food-borne illnesses or food poisoning are serious.
So the next time you need to thaw meat, remember that it’s always safer to do it in the refrigerator slowly and gradually where the cold can limit bacterial growth. If you need a refresher on how to store meat in the refrigerator, here are the main tips you need to remember:
- 1 Always store raw meat in a covered or otherwise tightly sealed container.
- 2 Place wrapped meat on a tray to catch any drips.
- 3 Store meat on the bottom shelf.