Will this chicken kill me?
February 11, 2009 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Will I get salmonella if I eat this?

My refrigerator/freezer is in an unheated garage in Pittsburgh where it's been below freezing for awhile. While it was really cold, the freezer didn't seem to work very well and the food seemed to be only partially frozen. I noticed that pierogies, raviolis, etc were a little soft and didn't cook as well as I'd like. Is the chicken I had frozen in there safe to eat? It smells fine and the freezer always stayed cold enough for some slushy ice build-up on the bottom. It never thawed completely into liquid. Since the temp went up, the freezer seems to be happier.

posted by Raichle to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do not eat that.
It might be okay, but is it really worth the risk?
(the answer is no.)
posted by mesh gear fox at 4:01 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Salmonella viruses die at about 180 or 190F (conveniently, about the same temperature that egg proteins change transparency and textrue). So cook it properly and you'll be safe, at least from salmonella.
posted by aubilenon at 4:01 PM on February 11, 2009

Sounds like some freeze/thaw going on, and that not good for anything. Repeated freeze/thaw ruptures the cell walls of the meat (or anything fresh for that matter) and produces that "soft" feel you described. To quote Alton Brown, that's not good eats. Probably not so much a salmonella problem as just lousy ruined food. I'd chuck it.
posted by elendil71 at 4:08 PM on February 11, 2009

Argh! Salmonella is a bacteria.

The food *might* be safe, but it will be gross. If there was no salmonella in there to begin with, there won't be any now. I would worry about other stuff.
posted by gjc at 4:11 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do not eat this. Anything frozen, then unfrozen, then frozen again, or merely half-frozen, well, even if it's not packed full of harmful bacteria, it's going to be confused.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:24 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Raichle, is your fridge/freezer frost free? If so please read this. It explains the problem, and I would probably not eat this food if I were you.
posted by gudrun at 4:29 PM on February 11, 2009

Without having measured the temperature of the freezer and checked for drippage AT THE TIME when the freezer was having trouble, there's no way to know. It's impossible to deduce whether a thaw occurred and for how long. If the food is frozen back up, you're not going to smell anything right now, and even when it thaws, smell is not a reliable indicator.

I guess the 'do you feel lucky, punk' speech comes to mind. When something is amiss I bank on there having been five shots.
posted by crapmatic at 4:31 PM on February 11, 2009

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:27 PM on February 11, 2009

Chuck it.

Also, yeah, cooking kills salmonella. But some bacteria, notably botulism bugs, actually make you sick because of the poisons they make in the food, not through infection. You can kill those germs stone dead with heat, but the poison will still be in the food, and it will still make you sick.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:31 PM on February 11, 2009

Botulism toxin breaks down at high heats. What's more, it only grows in very specific conditions and these ain't them.

I'd worry more about bear attacks.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:33 PM on February 11, 2009

I'd skip it. It's a needless risk.

In future...log the temp on your freezer daily or every couple of days. Don't be guessing about how long it was too warm.
posted by Miko at 7:55 PM on February 11, 2009

Response by poster: Well, I threw out all the open packages but cooked some of the vacuum packed chicken breasts that I had. I did check with my mother who's an epidemiologist and familiar with my fridge situation and she thought since the ice never melted it was safe. Anyway if I get sick, she'll have to take care of me so I'm sure she told me the truth :). It's been a few hours and I feel just fine so I guess it was ok. I just really hate to waste it since I buy the expensive organic hormone-free type poultry. Oh well, fingers crossed! Loved the salmonella haiku!
posted by Raichle at 8:02 PM on February 11, 2009

It's been a few hours and I feel just fine so I guess it was ok.

There are at least as many types of food poisoning that take days for you to feel the effects as there are types that take hours. But if the chicken was properly cooked, you're probably going to be ok.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:14 PM on February 11, 2009

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