But a fridge is supposed to keep your food cold!
July 26, 2014 11:44 AM   Subscribe

We just returned from a trip, and the fridge is more or less warm. We've been gone since Monday morning. Do I need to throw everything out, or is some of this stuff okay to eat? I'm thinking about how there have been times in other people's homes where I was surprised to find something in the cupboard that I've always refrigerated. I'm hoping that some of my stuff could be able to cross over. List of what's in my fridge below the fold.

Opened, I have red salsa, green salsa, tahini, fish sauce, tandoori paste, dry yeast, jam, mustard, sriracha, maple syrup, hoisin sauce, italian salad dressing, molasses and a jar of chipotle in adobo.

Unopened, there is white miso paste, cream cheese, and a small log of goat cheese. I know the dairy should be parted with, but part of me wonders if the preservatives in cream cheese might give it amazing survival powers - it's Philly if that makes a difference. Also, how about eggs?

Luckily the freezer is okay, still frosty cold, and I mean frosty --- the back of it is a big icy mass. I googled this condition and I think I know what the problem is; it's either the defrost timer or the defrost drainage. I have a cooler with ice for the inevitable wait until my landlord gets around to helping out.

Any suggestions for what can be salvaged?
posted by to recite so charmingly to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would throw it all out except the yeast and molasses. I keep those two things in the cupboard.
posted by something something at 11:49 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Toss the goat cheese, smell the cream cheese, keep the rest.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 11:50 AM on July 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe the miso paste. Five days is too long for the cream cheese. Eggs...no, not even I would eat those, and there's a lot of things I would eat.

The yeast you can try proofing and see if it's still okay. There's a decent chance it's still alive.

My grandfather kept molasses in the pantry and it took like 5 kinds of cancer to kill him, so I would say if it's not furry it might make you nearly invincible. But the rest of the open condiments I think should go, even the sriracha.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:50 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can speak for the mustard, sirachi and maple syrup. They are fine. If it were me, I would get a bag of chips and eat the salsa. I also think the eggs are fine. In many countries, they never put the eggs in the fridge.
posted by 724A at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: things i would keep with absolutely no second thought (a few of these things i never refrigerate) - tahini, fish sauce, dry yeast, mustard, sriracha, maple syrup, molasses, white miso paste

i would totally throw out the cheese, cream or otherwise. i might keep the jam and salsas if they don't smell off. i'd feel silly throwing away the hoisin and chipotle, but i'd still throw them away.

with the eggs i'd see if they float and i wouldn't cook them runny or eat them raw in a dressing.
posted by nadawi at 11:52 AM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

to be clear - if the eggs float, they're no good. if they sink they should be fine.
posted by nadawi at 11:55 AM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Tahini, yeast, fish sauce, sriracha, mustard and molasses don't need to be refrigerated at all, so you're good on those regards. Real maple syrup should be refrigerated but the corn syrup based kind doesn't require refrigeration. Jam can go bad if left unrefrigerated for a long period of time--I might keep it but I certainly wouldn't criticize you if you tossed it. The salsa needs to go, as do the cheese products. Aged cheese might be ok, but soft cheese, no. Not sure about tandoori and miso paste--does it say refrigerate after opening on the container?
posted by drlith at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is irrelevant that other countries store their eggs at room temperature, if you are in the US. American eggs are washed:
posted by Tandem Affinity at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2014 [16 favorites]

If you are in the US eggs need to be kept chilled, and so you should throw yours away.
posted by Thing at 11:59 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

oh, wait, white miso is fermented for less time than brown miso. you should probably toss it...
posted by nadawi at 12:00 PM on July 26, 2014

Eggs need to go if you're in the US and didn't get them from a local farm- we need to refrigerate but not wash them due to how they're processed. In Europe it's the opposite. Things with high vinegar content should be ok. Garlic + oil is a recipe for food poisoning so lose the dressing, hoison, etc. Things that are mostly sugar (maple syrup, jelly) should be fine if they're not mouldy.
posted by LizardOfDoom at 12:03 PM on July 26, 2014

We never ever refrigerate sriracha. Don't even worry about it.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 12:09 PM on July 26, 2014

Best answer: Yeah, if you throw that sriracha out, I will use my internet powers to find your house and dig it out of the trash to put on my eggs tomorrow.
posted by ronofthedead at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Keep the molasses, maple syrup, sriacha and tahini; those I never refridgerate anyway.
Toss all the rest, sorry; definitely, the cheeses and cream cheese and the eggs have to go.
The dry yeast is a maybe: that one I'd test and see.
posted by easily confused at 12:17 PM on July 26, 2014

Best answer: one last clarification! i somehow missed "unopened" on the white miso paste. it is totally 100% fine. you don't have to refrigerate it until it's opened.
posted by nadawi at 12:18 PM on July 26, 2014

I agree with the eggs and dairy crowd. Meaning I'd toss them and keep the rest.

And I know you didn't ask this but it could also be your thermostat, especially if it's running without stopping. My fridge recently did the same thing (including the icy freezer) and that's what it was.
posted by scrute at 12:23 PM on July 26, 2014

I've had sriracha go bad unrefrigerated, but it was after like... six months.

I'd just smell all the vegan stuff and if it doesn't smell funky I'd eat it. The animal products I'd toss.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:31 PM on July 26, 2014

If the cream cheese isn't moldy or smelling bad, I'd keep it--it's a cultured dairy product. It's literally (at home, anyhow) made by keeping it at room temp for hours/days. It might be tangier than normal cream cheese, but it should be just fine to eat.

I'd toss the salsas and the tandori paste unless they have a lot of vinegar, but everything else should be fine. I keep yeast, salad dressing, maple syrup, etc at room temp all the time--like, they get put away into the cupboards. Maybe they go bad a little faster, but I use them fast enough that it's never been a problem.
posted by MeghanC at 12:34 PM on July 26, 2014

Response by poster: Just to clarify a couple things - I'm in Canada (though probably similar egg production to the US) also, it's real maple syrup. I'm definitely keeping the molasses, the sriracha, the fish sauce, the tahini, and the miso paste (yay, thanks for the good news, Nadawi!). I'll also test out the yeast.

I could swear I've seen hoisin sauce on restaurant tables before, presumably left out all the time. Any opinions? I ask because it's almost brand new and oh so full. I've got to tell you though, it does say to refrigerate after opening, so I'll probably say goodbye to it.

What about ketchup? I forgot to mention that I have ketchup.

Thanks for all the answers so far, I'm still deciding so please keep them coming!
posted by to recite so charmingly at 12:37 PM on July 26, 2014

I keep mustard, maple syrup, ketchup, hosin & fish sauce in my cupboard even when opened. I'd probably keep the jam & sirracha too if I bought them. I never kept eggs in the fridge until I moved to the US, here I think the eggs sit longer before being sold or something as they seem to go off so quickly here even if kept in the fridge. Dry yeast should be fine.
posted by wwax at 12:41 PM on July 26, 2014

I've had mold grow in maple syrup (even Canadian maple syrup, specifically!) but only after months and months at room temperature.

I too have seen jars of hoisin sauce on the table at restaurants.
posted by XMLicious at 12:47 PM on July 26, 2014

If it was previously opened, the ketchup's got to go, sorry; like the jam, it'll develop mold pretty fast.

And real maple syrup or the flavored corn syrup, either one I store in the cabinets normally: that's safe to keep.
posted by easily confused at 12:52 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't keep ketchup in the fridge. It wouldn't even cross my mind to throw it out.
posted by caek at 1:00 PM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ketchup is fine, eggs have to go. The yeast is likely done (died) but you could always try "proofing" a tsp to see if it will still work.
posted by saradarlin at 1:29 PM on July 26, 2014

The only thing I'd throw away is the eggs and the opened salad dressing. Maybe the salsa.

The cream cheese will smell or look off if it went off.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:31 PM on July 26, 2014

Check the cheeses for mold, otherwise they are fine. Everything else is very likely fine. I'd look more carefully at the salsas and the chipotle and tandoori paste, the rest I would not hesitate to store out of the fridge for as few days, eggs included.
posted by ssg at 1:31 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Keep the fish sauce, yeast, mustard, sriracha, molasses, maple syrup, miso, and eggs. I keep the first 5 of those in the cupboard anyway, and the maple syrup in the fridge only because I use it so slowly. As long as the miso isn't pasteurized, its fermentation flora (koji) and salt level will keep it safe.

The eggs are unlikely to go bad at room temperature for 5 days, but if you want to be safe, crack the rest of the eggs into a bowl as you use them, and don't eat them too runny.
posted by WasabiFlux at 1:50 PM on July 26, 2014

Probably your yeast is fine, actually, especially depending on how long the fridge was really dead for. In any case, if your yeast proofs poorly but does proof, you can always just use more of it (up to the point where it starts to affect the taste or texture of your recipes). It's safe to eat, it's just not doing its job properly.
posted by anaelith at 1:54 PM on July 26, 2014

i never keep ketchup in the fridge - it can go off in color, but i've never had one go bad on me. the real maple syrup wouldn't have gone bad in 5 days, you're safe there unless you see mold.
posted by nadawi at 1:57 PM on July 26, 2014

Ketchup's fine. All the cheese is totally fine if it looks, smells, and tastes good.
posted by amaire at 3:05 PM on July 26, 2014

Best answer: We keep almost all those things (except the eggs, salsas and cheese) on the shelf. I can testify that sriracha is fine with extended non-refrigeration, in particular, as are molasses, maple syrup, hoisin sauce, jam (throw away jam after a few days? jam is preserved!!!!), fish sauce and tahini. I would try the miso paste (miso paste is designed to last a long time) and the chipotle to see how they taste.

Seriously, I know several restaurants which keep the fish sauce and sriracha on the table and never refrigerate them.

Most of the things you describe were invented in order to preserve food (throw out fish sauce? Fish sauce will outlast us all!!). Many of them (like sriracha and maple syrup) are actively hostile to bacterial growth.
posted by Frowner at 3:51 PM on July 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'd keep it all but the salsa but I'm an apparent weirdo. I'd also be sure to cook the eggs all the way and smell the cheese.
posted by sibboleth at 5:32 PM on July 26, 2014

I live in the US. I have kept eggs unrefrigerated for up to six weeks and never had a problem. I do break them individually into a bowl, just in case. And I do cook them thoroughly. (I bought a refrigerator last fall, after doing without for about 10 years, and now I keep my eggs in the refrigerator, like a normal American.)
posted by Bruce H. at 5:37 PM on July 26, 2014

I'm in the "keep it all unless it looks or smells bad" group. If you're on the fence about the cream cheese, you could use it in a recipe for baking or something to play it safe. Just for fun, I searched allrecipes.com for recipes including goat cheese, cream cheese, and eggs - came up with just this one (but I think it sounds tasty) for goat cheese and cherry latkes.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:38 PM on July 26, 2014

Keep the jam! Jam can stay at room temperature for way longer than 5 days. The eggs are likely to be fine. Test the eggs before you use them, as Bruce H. said.

Your mustard is fine... when I make homemade mustard, part of the process is that it sits out on the counter for a few months to mellow!

I've never kept molasses refrigerated in my life. It stays in the cupboard and usually takes more than a year to use up, and there's never been any sign of badness with it. It makes tasty cookies.

The things I'd get rid of -- the cheese, the salsas. Some of the stuff you have I'm not sure about -- they keep the miso paste refrigerated in the store, so I refrigerate it, but it seems like one of those things that might not need it.
posted by litlnemo at 7:08 PM on July 26, 2014

And, by the way, I'm one of those people who gets paranoid about food safety and throws things out that a lot of others wouldn't. But many of the things here are things I've grown up not refrigerating, etc., so they don't freak me out.
posted by litlnemo at 7:09 PM on July 26, 2014

A good rule of thumb is to look at your pile of stuff and think, "Now, what do I see already out on the table at a restaurant?"

Here are things I've seen that are left out on restaurant tables (and if removed at all, I can attest, are simply stored on a shelf in the back):

- fish sauce
- jam (check for mold)
- sriracha
- maple syrup
- hoisin sauce (actually, maybe I'm thinking of oyster sauce...?)

Then I'd think about things I'd purchased off an unrefrigerated shelf at the store:

- mustard (my girlfriend has never refrigerated; I do refrigerate, but only out of habit)
- ketchup
- molasses and chipotle (how new/tightly sealed is the latter?)

Other than the goat cheese, we're left with some trickier items. (Note: I occasionally check out a place called stilltasty, when I'm feeling stumped. It's not necessarily infallible, but it's at least a good place to double-check your assumptions.) My advice with those would be to explore them with your senses first (us humans are fairly adept at sensing a lot of types of spoilage), and then -- if everything looks/smells okay -- proceed with due caution:

- white miso paste (I guess the darker stuff lasts longer, but at only five days in sketchy conditions, I'm guessing it's fine. Miso is apparently indestructible; this Ask blew my mind...)
- cream cheese (it would not surprise me if a major brand like Philly was engineered for extended periods of non-or-poor refrigeration; picnics, school lunches, etc.)
- eggs (assuming you aren't going to be undercooking them, or making fresh mayo, observing their condition when cracked should be sufficient)
posted by credible hulk at 8:59 PM on July 26, 2014

I'd argue that everything is fine if it smells fine and looksv normal with the caveat that you should assume a substantial decrease in its stated shelf life. Granted, I have one of the most relaxed approaches to refrigeration that I've ever encountered in the US, but I would feel personally comfortable with cooking something today or tomorrow with the warm goat cheese if it smells okay (but not eating it uncooked or serving it to children, elderly folks, or anyone with a compromised immune system-same rules that I'd have with raw milk) and I'd float test the eggs. My major concern in your fridge inventory is the yeast, but I'm concerned about its effectiveness, not its safety.
posted by cheerwine at 4:29 PM on July 27, 2014

I'm sure the mustard, ketchup, maple syrup, and molasses are fine. The salsas probably are. The yeast it'll depend on what kind it is, how old it is, etc - and that's whether or not it'll work, not whether or not it's safe.

I wouldn't touch the eggs or the dairy. I don't have a guess on the rest of it.

(With a side note of "How the heck do you manage to even *use* the syrup and the molasses if they've been in the fridge?!?)
posted by stormyteal at 10:18 PM on July 27, 2014

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