Can I Eat This? If So, Got Any Recipes?
May 14, 2009 12:11 PM   Subscribe

3 pound package of frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts accidentally thawed to room temperature (out of freezer 10 hours). Yes I'm an idiot. That's not the question. What should I do with it?

I had not yet unsealed the bag, so can it still be safely consumed, or do I just take a $5.99 loss (it was a great coupon deal)? Will refreezing it once earn the ire of Alton Brown? (I'd have to put each piece in its own little bag, since it would otherwise refreeze as one big solid block.) Or can I store it in the refrigerator with confidence? Or should I cook it all up NOW and then fridge or freeze?

But it's just me and 3 pounds of chicken, and my repertoire of recipes is not very varied, so I'd appreciate any suggestions of tasty low-fat ways to prep it that will freeze well... (allergic to peanuts, low tolerance for HOT, and just don't like mushrooms; otherwise go crazy)
posted by wendell to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't refreeze it, but I would cook and eat it at this point.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:12 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

cook NOW. every minute you wait is a minute off your life. :)
posted by luriete at 12:13 PM on May 14, 2009

Sniff it. If it smells OK, cook it immediately and enjoy.

You don't have to decide on a recipe now. Just grill all of it with minimal additions (e.g., maybe salt and pepper or equivalent) and use it up for the rest of the week by putting it in salads, sandwiches, etc.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:14 PM on May 14, 2009

Don't re-freeze it. Cook it, then freeze the food. My suggestion: Crock Pot Chicken Cassoulet. It's tasty and freezes well. I make a big batch, portion it out and freeze - it's perfect for workday lunches.
posted by workerant at 12:14 PM on May 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'd suggest poaching the chicken (just boil it in a large pot of water - you can batch them if you don't have a stock pot). Thawed, they should boil pretty quickly. When they are done you'll easily be able to "flake" them with a fork. These bits of flaked chicken are very versatile - sandwiches, burritos/enchiladas/quesadilas, soup, mixed in salads, etc. You can preseason it with salt and pepper as you flake them or just season them when you use them.

If you package them into small freezer bags - just put enough for one serving at a time - and smush the air out they should freeze okay, especially if you are thawing them to use in a soup or a dish with sauce.

If you have a dog, or you know someone with a dog, these small chicken flakes can also be great motivators for training.
posted by handful of rain at 12:22 PM on May 14, 2009

Did the chicken actually come to room temperature, or did it just thaw out? Typically, I wouldn't trust raw poultry that was any warmer than refrigerator temperature (~40 F?) for more than an hour. If it was still pretty cold to the touch, definitely cook it before you eat or refreeze it.

But...IMHO, $6 in the trash is worth avoiding food poisoning.
posted by tastybrains at 12:28 PM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Cook it well and freeze the portions of food. Personally, I would make a chicken curry for tonight, with enough for leftovers/lunches, and freeze a couple portions of that, and then either grill or poach the rest as suggested and freeze it in portion sizes. I like using those for enchiladas or tostadas. It'll be fine. Chicken takes so long to defrost it probably wasn't at room temperature for very long at all.
posted by Miko at 12:31 PM on May 14, 2009

I would probably chuck 'em, especially if they were warm. Then again, I psyche myself out over these things and wouldn't be able to eat it regardless.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:33 PM on May 14, 2009

BarfBlog on poultry defrosting
posted by mkb at 12:36 PM on May 14, 2009

Fry it! Make a ton of chicken nuggets!
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:37 PM on May 14, 2009

Cook! I often cook a bunch of chicken and freeze the cooked chicken in small portions (there are only 2 of us) to be thawed and used in other dishes in the next couple of weeks.

That is unless it got really warm...then chuck'em.
posted by rvrlvr at 12:38 PM on May 14, 2009

I've had times when similar things have happened. I know twice I ended up cooking the meat and it smelled bad after it was cooked and I had to throw the whole meal out. Other times, I've cooked it without a problem. However, even on those majority of occasions when it turned out okay, I couldn't enjoy the meal because I was worrying and looking for any sliver of oddness to the flavor. I'd take the 5.99 loss, cook something else tonight and enjoy your meal.

On preview it looks like I'm kind of uptight about the food I eat, but the truth is far from it. I'm more likely to invoke the 5 minute rule for dropped food than your average 10 year old, but bad chicken is nothing to laugh about - no matter what you may have seen on TV.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 12:41 PM on May 14, 2009

If you're worried about the big S (as Alton Brown calls it,) cook it now. But then, he also says that Salmonella typically affects chicken at the processing stage, so if it doesn't have it now, it won't get it unless left out for a LONG time. I trust AB. I've eaten tons of chicken left out to thaw all day, I've never had food poisoning in my life.

I wouldn't refreeze it though, anyway, it would ruin the meat.
posted by InsanePenguin at 12:41 PM on May 14, 2009

I'd do a chicken chili type thing - simmer diced onions, garlic, green (or poblano) pepper, tomatillos with white beans in some combination of chicken broth and beer, seasoned with cumin and oregano; add diced chicken at the end or poach & shred the chicken separately and add at the end. This should freeze well and would be good over rice. You'll have to eyeball the proportions but maybe 1 can of beans per pound of chicken would be a good start.
posted by yarrow at 12:43 PM on May 14, 2009

Seconding poaching. It's the fastest way to get it cook, and you can figure out something more interesting to do with it later.
posted by diogenes at 12:47 PM on May 14, 2009

posted by kldickson at 12:47 PM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't refreeze it. I'd bake it (olive oil, rosemary, tarragon, lemon juice, s&p), make sure I got it to an internal temp of 165ยบ, and take it from there -- freeze some, shred some for burritos or salads, eat some now.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:48 PM on May 14, 2009

Should still be OK to cook, so long as they don't smell.

Slice each piece of chicken lengthwise in half, so you have several flatter, quick-cooking chicken cutlets. Then, splash with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and grill or pan-sear. You now have the basis for chicken salad, chicken sandwiches, chicken tacos, etc. You can also baste on some barbecue sauce in the last minute or so of cooking, and then you will have barbecue varieties of the above list.
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:51 PM on May 14, 2009

It really depends on your personal health. It has probably regrown salmonella and other pathogens by now, and the only real answer is that you need to make a risk assessment based on what you know about your own health, and whether the sickness you might get is worth the $5.99 special. Everybody hates to waste food, but you are the only one that knows if it's worth it.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:53 PM on May 14, 2009

I'd cook up the three pounds into something stew-like or curry-like, eat a third of it tonight, then freeze the other two portions for later. However, I've also done the re-freezing thing with no ill effects (just last week, in fact). But then, I have a BIG BIG THIRST for rotting bird corpse.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:06 PM on May 14, 2009

If you're gonna toss it out, leave it for raccoons to eat in a place that pet dogs won't get at it. Maybe up in the fork of a tree in a ravine, or something like that. It makes me sad to see meat in the trash; better to at least give the animal protein to a scavenger who can make use of it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:26 PM on May 14, 2009

Cooking kills salmonella. Just use a method that cooks thoroughly. When people get salmonella, they are much more likely to get it from (a) produce, and (b) handling raw chicken improperly. The concern isn't about eating the chicken, it's about handling it. So go ahead, cook it in a method that will boil (the suggested stew, chili, or curry, poaching, etc) or will raise the internal temperature up above 165 all the way through (through and through every part). For more detail on what you are trying to prevent, see the USDA website on cooking chicken. Note that the risks of infection with bacteria are before cooking and during handling of precooked foor or re-infection of already cooked foor.
posted by Miko at 1:26 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Should I Eat This?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:32 PM on May 14, 2009

Throw it. I recently had a really bad gastric bug (campylobacter) from chicken and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. You're talking about $5.99, and really, really not worth the risk.
posted by essexjan at 1:41 PM on May 14, 2009


Q: Is Campylobacter tougher than other bacteria?
A: No. In fact, the bacteria are extremely fragile and are easily destroyed by thorough cooking...Campylobacter and other bacteria are destroyed when meat or poultry is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, although most people prefer chicken cooked to 180 degrees F.Again - bacteria is always present all over industrially produced meats. Always assume even just-purchased meats are contaminated and handle accordingly (because they mostly are). Yes, bacteria profilerate at warmer temperatures, but it will still be killed by cooking. It's not the meat itself, it's the handling (how many surfaces do you infect) and the cooking (was it thorough) that are the problem, at least until rot sets in.

posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on May 14, 2009

sorry, link, and everything after "180 degrees F" is mine. Failed quote.
posted by Miko at 1:48 PM on May 14, 2009

Nthing cook and freeze as long as it's not warmer than room temperature.

If you're in the desert and it's 100 degrees out - toss it.
posted by Sophie1 at 2:17 PM on May 14, 2009

Votes: 5 for toss, 3 for smell it first, 13 for cook the hell out of it (and I especially trust Miko)

I gave it the smell test. And I did inhale. Deeply. If there was salmonella, it'd already be in my lungs. Smelled as good as any chicken I've consumed in recent memory..

So I grilled two big pieces, poached the rest and consciously overcooked both (I'm okay with overcooked). Washed those chickeny hands and my chicken-trimming knife multiple times and did everything else with some throwaway plastic forks (that I threw away). Topped the grillers with a thin layer of makeshift-bbq-sauce (with elitist mustard and chopped-garlic-from-a-jar) and non-cajun blackened them. Shredding up the poached chicken was the most fun I'd had playing with my food in a long time, and it'll be material for Crock Pot Cassoulet and Chili soon. I'm eating the first grilled breast with one hand while typing with the other (like I've never done anything like that before) and enjoying it immensely. You all did me a favor, and if I die of food poisoning and never post again, you probably did MetaFilter a favor.
posted by wendell at 2:22 PM on May 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

Good man, OP.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:33 PM on May 14, 2009

I am almost always a proponent of "eah, eat it", but for the sake of completeness, I wish to mention that some bacteria produce endotoxins -- which are not eliminated by cooking. So while you wouldn't get an infection from properly cooked meat, you still might be hurting. Which I am all for. In the name of science!
posted by trevyn at 4:38 PM on May 14, 2009

Unless you live in a very warm place (hell??? One wonders...) 10 hours out of freezer is not bad. If it's still cool, it's likely to be okay by my standards. AskMe needs a voting capability, just for Should I Eat This threads.
posted by theora55 at 6:04 PM on May 14, 2009

It's been about five hours. Are you still alive, wendell?
posted by orme at 6:50 PM on May 14, 2009

Maybe things didn't wendell.
posted by borkencode at 7:43 PM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wendell? Hell-O! As the resident techno-granny of MF I would have advised him to have tossed it out before it had a chance to toss itself out of his tummy. What's worse than spoiled chicken? Overcooked chicken. "When in doubt, throw it out!" No, no no.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:02 PM on May 15, 2009

« Older Leaving Australia. Can I take superannuation with...   |   Desperately seeking Representation Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.