Safe to eat sous vide pork shoulder after power outage?
March 30, 2015 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Cooking a pork shoulder sous vide, but had a power outage last night that killed the heater/circulator...

...The shoulder had been cooking for about 30 hours when the power went out, being held at 150 degrees F. Power outage roughly 5 hours ago, the water temperature dropped over that time period to just about 88 degrees F. I haven't temped the pork itself, not wanting to open the sealed bag (not true vacuum, sealed ziplock using water-displacement method).

I've turned the heater/circulator back on, so the water is coming back up to temp now, and will be back at 150 degrees in <20 minutes. The plan had been to eat this for supper tonight, roughly 8 hours from now, during which it will be back at 150 for the duration.

So, food science people! Is this even remotely safe to eat? On one side, 30 hours at 150 degrees is more than pasteurized...but I know that doesn't kill ALL microorganisms. I would very much like to eat this.

I know just enough microbiology to be very unsure. Reassure me, or talk me out of it, please?
posted by griffey to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't have a whole lot of science to back me up, but I probably wouldn't (and I understand really wanting to). I was on the fence until you mentioned using the water-displacement method. I know that there isn't much of a difference, theoretically, but it adds to my general feeling of unease.

If I had cooked it and immediately shocked it, I would totally eat it after 5 hours, but that's a long time in the "whee!" zone for bacteria.

Boneless or bone-in? (additional exposed surface area, etc)
posted by supercres at 7:34 AM on March 30, 2015

Oh hell no. Do not mess around with pork.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:47 AM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sounds like it was in the danger zone for 4+ hours, so the safe thing to do is not eat it. Here's a similar Reddit thread.

To avoid this in the future I suggest using your immersion cooker in an ice chest... I have a small one that's taller than it is in the other dimensions, and in a power outage it would maintain temp for a long time.
posted by Huck500 at 7:48 AM on March 30, 2015

I'd eat it. It was (almost certainly) fully cooked when the power went off (maybe not cooked to your liking yet, but fully cooked nonetheless). It was in the "danger zone" for less than five hours. Two hours is the recommended max time, but I'm usually more generous with recommendations when I'm cooking my own food in my own kitchen (and not, for example, trying to minimize legal liability that comes with serving to the public). You're also cooking it again for another 7 hours. I regularly let covered hot food come to room temp before putting it in the fridge (to be reheated or eaten cold the next day); this often means the food sits out at room temp for the 4ish hours between dinner time and bed time. So, in that context, I would definitely eat it. If you're still a little worried, maybe shred it (I'm assuming you're doing some sort of pulled pork/carnitas), sauce it, then place it under the broiler for a few minutes.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:49 AM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Danger zone for five hours? NOPE.
posted by General Malaise at 7:52 AM on March 30, 2015

Danger zone for five hours? NOPE.

Plus the time it's going to take to come back up, which will be quite extensive at the center. I'm not an expert but I would be off to the store for a new shoulder.
posted by ftm at 7:55 AM on March 30, 2015

It's the not-true-vacuum that's really giving me pause here. Sorry.

Also I'd question the wisdom of doing a whole shoulder sous vide--usually it's much smaller pieces that are done this way, given the timing involved.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:12 AM on March 30, 2015

Technically, by all ServeSafe food safety standards, this is not safe to serve in a restaurant.

As a former chef, I would eat it. I've eaten food left out in far worse conditions. It was fully cooked when the power went out, it was at 150, so it was not "at risk" until it dropped to 140, and then you have up to 4 hours before there is a concern. I think you're fine.

Keep in mind that the safety standards are made with a buffer to make extra sure no one gets sick. So when they say food in the danger zone (40-140 degrees F) for no more than 4 hours, the reality is probably closer to 5 or even 6 hours. But by saying 4 hours, there is much less risk.

Don't serve it to friends or small kids or sick elderly people. But for yourself as a presumably healthy adult? Eat it.

EDIT: However, I would reheat it in a non-sous vide manner. Slice it and warm it with juices/water, pan sear it, roast it, whatever. But make sure you get it above 165F before eating it.
posted by BradNelson at 8:13 AM on March 30, 2015 [8 favorites]

Your problem is spores like Clostridium Perfringens. They are not killed by the heating process and the only control to prevent their growth is speed of cooling. I believe the safety standard is to cool down to 41 in six hours. You are actually looking at less time than that in the danger zone, so its borderline. Personally, I would happily eat it. You can learn all about it at Polyscience
posted by Lame_username at 9:04 AM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, I'd eat this every time. In fact, I've probably done worse several times with no ill effect.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:19 PM on May 28, 2015

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