Can I Eat This? Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce Didn't Finish Cooking
June 21, 2016 3:23 PM   Subscribe

So, this morning, I made some slow cooker marinara. Threw everything in the pot, turned the cooker on low for eight hours, and left for work. Got home. The sauce is... not hot. It's not cold.

The level looks like it went down, but the onions don't taste cooked. There was condensation inside the lid. The sauce tastes okay. I'm in NYC, and it was in the 80s today. The living room where the crock pot is was not air conditioned while I was out.

Is this safe to eat? Nothing unusual in the recipe: canned tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, seasonings, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, bay leaves.

Will this kill us if I use it for dinner?
posted by SansPoint to Food & Drink (9 answers total)
Non-authoritatively, I'd (continue cooking and then) eat it. Tomato is pretty acidic, and that doesn't sound like you've added enough other things to it which would make it riskier.

But definitely give it a quick cook at the least.
posted by CrystalDave at 3:25 PM on June 21, 2016

Do you have a thermometer? Knowing what temperature it actually is makes a big difference.

Strictly speaking, the optimal temperature for food poisoning bacteria to grow is 60-125 degrees F, which is what it sounds like where it spent the day. The acid from the tomatoes and vinegar will provide some protection against bacteria but it's not absolute.

As ever with food safety, simply raising it about the kill point after bacteria has had a chance to grow does not necessarily mean it's safe, though it will help.

Personally if I thought it had spent the day in the danger zone, I'd pitch it, but I can afford to write off the cost of the ingredients. I'll put it this way - if this was a restaurant being inspected for food safety, they'd absolutely get dinged in the report. Do you eat at restaurants that get poor safety ratings?
posted by Candleman at 3:43 PM on June 21, 2016


Canned sauce it is.
posted by SansPoint at 3:45 PM on June 21, 2016

For what it's worth, SansPoint, the only cans I've ever had that were swollen from probable-botulism were canned tomatoes.

This was an easy one: toss it, too big a risk.
posted by easily confused at 3:48 PM on June 21, 2016

FWIW, all the crock pot recipes I make recommend cooking on high for 6 hours or more. After that, they say you can turn it down to low to continue heating until you're ready to serve.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:28 PM on June 21, 2016

brianogilvie I'm going by the Budget Bytes recipe, which says low for 8 hours. It's never failed me before, and neither has my crock pot. Until today, apparently.

(FWIW: the canned sauce was okay, once it was fixed up with spices and stuff.)
posted by SansPoint at 6:43 PM on June 21, 2016

I am not a biologist or doctor nor do I work in food science for food prep, but I would have eaten this, for the record. I'd be iffy on serving it to others though.

My thinking is that without meat, your biggest concern would be botulism, and between stirring things together, the general headspace in the crockpot, and the fact that your crockpot lid isn't airtight, I would think that there would be too much oxygen in the sauce for botulism to really thrive (and produce a significant amount of toxin) over an 8 hour period.

Plus the fact that there was condensation makes me think that the crockpot did get at least hot at some point, meaning you'd get a die off of the bacteria (again, meaning less chance of toxin production).

Ideally, you would have stuck a thermometer in it when you found it, and if it was at 140F or higher, it seems like eating it/serving it to others would be a no-brainer.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:50 AM on June 22, 2016

sparklemotion It was 80ยบ according to the meat thermometer I popped in there. sigh
posted by SansPoint at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2016

I am sad for your marinara and also excited because you have introduced me to a new recipe.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:43 PM on June 22, 2016

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