Can this Minestrone be Saved?
February 16, 2011 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Can I Eat It: Part 7,934 in an ongoing series. In a fit of industriousness, I made Cannellini Minestrone this morning! I put part of it in a container for my lunch, and part of it in a container to store in the fridge. I realized once I got to work, however, that the container to store never made it to the fridge, and is still sitting on the counter in my apartment. The soup was made at 8am, and I won't be getting home until 8pm. Can anything be done to salvage the soup into something edible, or at least usable?
posted by ocherdraco to Food & Drink (27 answers total)
It'll probably be delicious.
posted by Netzapper at 7:03 AM on February 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Eat it.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:04 AM on February 16, 2011

I'd eat it.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:05 AM on February 16, 2011

Yep, eat.
posted by something something at 7:06 AM on February 16, 2011

Best answer: Reheat it to above 140 degrees and hold the heat there for a few minutes - that should kill most of the bacteria you'd be concerned about for food poisoning. I don't have time to look up the details but this is essentially what you should do.
posted by paindemie at 7:07 AM on February 16, 2011

Response by poster: Awesome. We will eat it.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:11 AM on February 16, 2011

Best answer: Don't eat it. The danger zone for food storage is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees - which is where your food is going to be sitting for something close to 12 hours. There is probably a fair chance that you won't get sick from eating it, but that is not a chance I'd be willing to take. I can't imagine that anyone who has ever had actual food poisoning would advise you to take the risk.

Heating the food to 140 degrees won't really do anything in terms of killing any of the bacteria growing in your food. I'm not sure that even bringing the food to a boil will kill the bacteria in it that will make you sick. 140 degrees is the temperature that hot food should be kept above to keep most bacteria from growing while food is being held for serving - that temperature is sort of the minimum that will keep the bacteria growth down to a level that is deemed safe for serving.
posted by ralan at 7:28 AM on February 16, 2011

There's no meat in this--not even chicken broth. I'd heat it well and then eat it.
posted by shortyJBot at 7:51 AM on February 16, 2011

Ralan's basically correct -- food does not automatically become dangerous after sitting in the "danger zone", but in principle, you should act as if it does. You're basically managing a probability game...if there were any dangerous bacteria in your food, they'd have a much more likely chance to reach a big enough population to get you sick after sitting out for the day. I don't believe bringing the temperature back up over 140 isn't going to do much to kill them off, once they're there.

For me, thoggh? It totally depends on how good it was. If it was awesome, there's a good chance I'd risk it. If it was OK, I'd probably ditch it.
posted by LairBob at 7:52 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Oh, and shortyJBot's got a point -- the ingredients involved make a big difference. If there's no meat involved, I'd be even more likely to chance it, myself.)
posted by LairBob at 7:53 AM on February 16, 2011

I'll also add that when I worked in restaurant kitchens, we were required to bring soups that had been properly stored and kept at the required temperatures up to a boil before placing them in the holding containers (steam tables, warmers, etc) that would them keep them at 140 degrees for service. Again, I wouldn't eat this.
posted by ralan at 7:54 AM on February 16, 2011

I would! Yes, it's a probability game, but I've eaten soup left to cool overnight before. I assume that if I wasn't actually eating out of the storage container and that the storage container and the soup bowl were reasonably clean and that the minestrone contained acidic tomatoes which (and this is a folk belief told me in food service so YMMV) retard bacteria growth...

Of course, I speak as a person with a container of home made soup actually sitting in her messenger bag to be reheated at lunch--a container that will have been out of the fridge for five hours before consumption.

Also, ask yourself whether you get sick from food easily. I don't, and on those few occasions that I have gotten sick it's been pretty mild. My partner does, and gets much sicker.
posted by Frowner at 8:05 AM on February 16, 2011

(I mean, "wasn't actually spooning soup out of the storage container, eating it and sticking the spoon back into the container to eat more soup", a thing which I've done before with soup intended solely for me)
posted by Frowner at 8:06 AM on February 16, 2011

I would eat it. I cook things before going to bed and let them sit out and cool overnight. Put in the fridge in the morning. (If I wake up to pee or something at 3AM I go ahead and put in fridge then.) I do this a couple times a week and have never had a problem. Heat thoroughly the next day. I would not do this with anything that was undercooked.

Americans tend to be very afraid of getting food poisoning and tend to be overly cautious. But if you have a baby bird stomach and are going to worry about it, throw it out. But I would eat it.

Restaurant kitchens are held to higher standard and for good reason but in my own kitchen I'm more trusting. YMMV.
posted by shoesietart at 8:07 AM on February 16, 2011

Eat it. You'll be fine.
posted by OmieWise at 8:09 AM on February 16, 2011

Restaurant standards for this sort of thing are, by necessity, absolutely strict and leaving no room for mistake, because no one wants to get sued.

Eat it and don't sue yourself.

What do you think your ancestors did with their leftover soup? Throw it away? I don't think so. The full force of history commands you to eat the soup.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:09 AM on February 16, 2011 [7 favorites]

There's no meat in this--not even chicken broth. I'd heat it well and then eat it.

I'm not sure why the absence of meat matters here. Produce accounts for most food poisoning. But anyway, I would probably boil the soup for five minutes and eat it.
posted by yarly at 8:35 AM on February 16, 2011

Absolutely eat it. Restaurants have lots of regulations that no home kitchen could ever meet (for example, wooden cutting boards are unacceptable in my province, and dishes need to be washed at minimum 49C - no one who hand washes their dishes could do this without burning their freakin' hands off) because of the sheer volume of food going through their kitchens and because of the litigation risk. But most people don't have to worry about this. I've frequently eating stuff that's been left out that long with nary an incident.
posted by Kurichina at 9:37 AM on February 16, 2011

Best answer: Just some anecdata, but my grandmother used to leave a pot of soup on the stove all week, heating it at times of consumption, sometimes adding more water or more veggies as needed throughout the week.

I have a weak stomach, and I ate this soup throughout my childhood and never once got sick from it. I have, however, gotten sick from food prepared in a kitchen run by an absolute germophobe, in a restaurant with a 103 sanitation rating, and by a high-end caterer.

I also tend to leave things to cool after cooking for a few hours if they're intended to be stored for later, because putting them in the fridge raises the temperature of the fridge, which in itself is bad for dairy products and other genuinely sensitive items.

Modern Americans have a ton of really weird worries; food safety is one of them. Funny thing is, I think the bagged salads that people buy and eat are probably the most dangerous food item you're going to encounter in the course of a day. "Washed and ready to eat," my ass.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:50 AM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

What do you think your ancestors did with their leftover soup?

This sounds like good advice, but keep in mind that pathogenic bacteria and human gut flora change fairly rapidly over time. What didn't make your Grandma sick could now very likely cause you to toss your cookies.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 10:06 AM on February 16, 2011

I'd nuke it in the microwave for a minute and eat it.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:18 AM on February 16, 2011

for what it's worth, i would be most worried about the chard. As long as you washed that thouroughly before using it in the soup I think you'll be fine
posted by WeekendJen at 10:20 AM on February 16, 2011

I, too, have eaten lentil soup that I accidentally left out on the counter overnight with the argument that my ancestors would've done the same. I've also had food poisoning, and figured as long as I have access to health care, I'm very unlikely to be taking a life-threatening risk when making these choices.
posted by ldthomps at 10:53 AM on February 16, 2011

Let us know tomorrow how you fared!

Another vote for eating it!

If you're worried just add a little water and boil it for a few minutes.
posted by mareli at 11:09 AM on February 16, 2011

Best answer: Bringing the soup up to any temperature (140 or 212 or whatever) might kill the bacteria, but it won't remove the toxins that are produced by the bacteria as they grow. These toxins are a major cause of food-borne illness. Also, nothing short of autoclaving will kill bacteria that form heat-resistant spores. S. aureus, C. perfringens and B. cereus are three species that either produce toxins or form spores, and cause nasty food poisoning.

You can read more about the microbiology here. It's pretty fascinating.

But yeah, don't eat it. Will you die? Probably not. Could you have a very, very unpleasant week? Yes.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:18 PM on February 16, 2011

Response by poster: My boyfriend, who has a cold, scrunched up his nose when I suggested we try to keep the soup. We tossed it.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:08 AM on February 17, 2011

Response by poster: Note: I've marked as best answer those answers which seemed most convincing for either "keep it" or "toss it," since they come from two different mindsets about risk taking.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:10 AM on February 17, 2011

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