Safe to eat?
April 9, 2013 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Last night, around 9:00 pm, I sliced up some yellow and red onions, threw them in a crockpot with a stick of butter, set them on low (timer set to 8 hours) and went to bed. (this a faux-carmelizing technique I've done before). Bad dreams about the onions and leaving a crockpot going overnight. Woke up around 11:30pm to the smell of onions. Even upstairs in a closed room, my eyes were burning. Husband's eyes too. I asked my husband to turn them off. Woke up this morning and decided to turn them back on and give it a go. I have them on high now, planning to cook them all day. Will they be safe to eat? They were not refrigerated overnight. They sat in a warm crockpot with butter all night. They smell delicious. Is it safe to serve them to guests tonight?
posted by vitabellosi to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds fine to me. Butter and onions are both things that don't need to be refrigerated, so I don't think they're any worse for having sat mixed up together. The cooking should kill any bacteria. I'd definitely eat it.
posted by catatethebird at 9:52 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I cannot imagine any reason why these would be unsafe to eat.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:53 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chances are nothing survived in there to grow until after you took the lid off. With onions you mostly have to worry about mold or some sort of fermentation. Butter eventually goes rancid but some people keep there's at room temperature for days with no trouble.

I might be worried about consistency, but if you're cooking them down in something you should be fine.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:55 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Butter and onions are both things that don't need to be refrigerated, so I don't think they're any worse for having sat mixed up together.

Leaving foods out at room temperature is completely different from holding them at higher temperatures that encourage bacteria growth.

I know botulism is rare, but it freaks me out enough that I would probably not eat the onions myself, much less serve them to guests. If you do serve them, do it with full disclosure.
posted by payoto at 10:07 AM on April 9, 2013


I would totally eat them*. They sound delicious. If you're not up for serving them to guests, turn them into French onion soup.

*By eat them, I mean stand over the crock pot with a spoon and some slices of toast with melted cheese on top.
posted by Solomon at 10:24 AM on April 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


Botulinum toxin is inactivated by heat so even if some grew after sitting warm overnight, your cooking at simmering temperature or better for a few hours should take care of things.
posted by exogenous at 10:35 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know botulism is rare, but it freaks me out enough that I would probably not eat the onions myself, much less serve them to guests. If you do serve them, do it with full disclosure.

And leaving foods in a crock pot is completely different from having them sealed in a can or jar with bad technique. Botulism doesn't do well in air. I would be extremely surprised if any botulism toxin formed in your onions, and completely flat out floored if any of that manages to survive the continued cooking process.

There may be some sort of illness-causing bacteria in your onions, but it's not botulism.

I'd eat them.
posted by phunniemee at 10:36 AM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would, and want to, eat them.
posted by windykites at 10:41 AM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would eat them, probably with my bare hands while making om nom nom noises.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:24 AM on April 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


My roommate used to fail at crock potting like this all the time. I can't think of a single time that the food appeared edible that he didn't eat it.

Never got sick the entire time we lived together. And the food was often awesome, as this will likely be.

Not only would I eat it, but I'm thinking about eating it right now.
posted by emptythought at 11:56 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes. As long as I am one of your guests.
posted by Specklet at 12:14 PM on April 9, 2013


Yes, eat them. Nothing to worry about.
posted by Petrot at 12:41 PM on April 9, 2013


I am fussy. If they had been in a meat broth I would not eat them. But, as you have described things, I would definitely eat them. And, I am going to get a bunch of onions today and do what you did to break in my new crock pot. That sounds delicious.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:46 PM on April 9, 2013


You keep talking about eating this buttery onion mixture---is the crockpot too heavy to lift so that you can noisily drink its contents like a Viking, like normally?
posted by resurrexit at 12:49 PM on April 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm going to go for it. I've had it on the high setting all day long.

It will be a topping choice at the baked potato bar in about an hour.

Mr. Vitabellosi successfully defended his dissertation yesterday and we're having a party.
posted by vitabellosi at 1:37 PM on April 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


FWIW, I have the impression from reading the eGullet threads about onion confit that for some reason, doing it in a crock pot is more likely to produce the clouds of painful onion gas than doing it in the oven. Dunno why.

Congrats to the Mr.! Or should that be, "to the Ph.D.!"?
posted by Lexica at 6:26 PM on April 9, 2013


This is the first time I have ever come down on the "eat it" side of one of these questions. I feel a little confused, frankly.
posted by HotToddy at 7:57 PM on April 9, 2013


My roommate never, ever, ever puts his leftovers away. Instead, he packages them up for lunch the next morning, off the pot/pan/dish they've sat out on all night. He's never, ever, ever been sick from them.

And he's eating meat, fish, shellfish - which are approximately 1,000,000,000 times more easily perishable than butter and onions, and aren't covered.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:50 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is probably safe, but I am getting indigestion just thinking about it. There is a fermentation thing that happens with onions that doesn't agree with me. There are lots of strange complex sugars in onions.

Food safety is about potential, not guarantees. It is about reducing the harm that potential contaminants can cause. *IF* there was something bad in the onions, then sitting overnight at room temperature *COULD* allow it to grow enough to cause problems. Food safety is not about anecdote, it is about science.
posted by gjc at 7:25 AM on April 10, 2013


gjc: There is a fermentation thing that happens with onions that doesn't agree with me.
So don't eat them, even fresh. Problem solved! (But this has nothing to do with the question asked.)
posted by IAmBroom at 2:21 PM on April 10, 2013


I would eat them, but more importantly approximately how many onions per stick of butter? So I can experiment with this myself.
posted by AnneShirley at 8:04 PM on April 10, 2013


I would eat them, but more importantly approximately how many onions per stick of butter? So I can experiment with this myself.



5 yellow onions, 5 red onions -- 1 stick of butter. I could've gone with less butter. I could've added more onions -- just went with what I had.

I've also just added olive oil in the past, instead of butter. I've heard a dash of balsamic vinegar is a nice addition.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:58 AM on April 12, 2013


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