Double dipping dirty dishes
October 6, 2018 8:10 PM   Subscribe

If I dump a yogurt container full of soup into a pot, can I store my new, zombie leftovers in that selfsame without washing it?

I dump an already reused container of liquid into a pot, add stuff to make dinner, and then transfer the leftovers into that container, pop it in the fridge, and don’t die of food poisoning, right?
Assume I’m terrible and just leave the container rinsed poorly and sitting either empty on the counter or full of water in the sink. The container, if rinsed, is certainly still semicoated with grease and bits. Assume also that I’ve likely added meat or fish to the mix.
I do this all the time, but a houseguest expressed polite horror (“dude that’s a fucking food poisoning love motel”) and I share their sentiments, now that I think about it. Assume finally that I very rarely serve the immunocompromised, so just general practice.
posted by zinful to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yeah, that's not a great practice. The residue in the container has lots of time to warm up, and for bacteria to multiply in it, and then it contaminates the freshly-cooked stuff. Use a clean container.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:18 PM on October 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

It’s not exactly best practice but it puts you far ahead of the vast majority of humans who have ever lived.

If you’ve been doing this for a while and are feeling fine, I see no reason to quit. In fact there’s a lot to be said for the notion that a strong immune system is one that is often exercised, much like a strong muscle is one that is often exercised.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:31 PM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Put the empty but unwashed container in the fridge while you finish preparing the new contents. Imaginary problem solved.
posted by padraigin at 8:48 PM on October 6, 2018 [12 favorites]

I think it depends how long it's been in the fridge.

If you make some liquid and then reuse the container, you're kind of already having started the clock on the new food going bad. But if you're finishing the new leftovers quickly, I think you're fine.

Now, if you've got liquid sitting in there a week, and then you make new food and that sits there a week, and then you use that food as part of a new dish, etc, etc. That sounds like bad practice.

I also agree with padraigin, putting the empty container back in the fridge while cooking can't hurt.
posted by cali59 at 9:13 PM on October 6, 2018

Dude, I'm a ghastly slob, and even so I think just reading your post gave me samonella. Make food in a clean pot, store leftover food covered in the fridge, wash the pot. Repeat.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:42 PM on October 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

You're adding warm nutrients to a container that hosts a small colony of bacteria that were slowly growing in your fridge. That will cause a bacterial feeding frenzy!

Just use a clean container, or at least take a few seconds to rinse it with boiling water.
posted by monotreme at 12:25 AM on October 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

Are you or your guest immunocompromised? Do you or your guest have a sensitive stomach? Is one of you elderly or a child?

We are all surrounded by bacteria every day. If you live in a city and use public anything, I guarantee you that you are regularly putting in your mouth things that would fill you with disgust if you thought about them - even if you're fairly careful, wash your hands with good protocol, etc. If you go to the gym - my god, have you ever thought about the gym?

You are always going to eat things that are rich with bacteria, contaminated with all kinds of stuff, etc etc. This isn't some kind of deviation from an ideal norm; it's a fact of living on Earth, because Earth is messy.

I've lived in some places where keeping things very clean, to wealthy American standards, simply wasn't an option. I've eaten in a lot of places where it was better not to inquire too closely. In my adult life, I've gotten sick from delivery pizza, that's it. In fact, I folklorishly attribute my fairly robust digestion to the fact that I've eaten all kinds of stuff.

What you describe would not bother me at all. I don't think you're setting everyone up for food poisoning. I think that's a modern American safety canard, like the idea that all mold is intrinsically very dangerous and requires professional clean-up at great expense.

If you have guests, prioritize setting them at ease and don't do this. Hold to a higher standard if you're cooking for people who might be immunocompromised, have digestive problems or be very young or elderly. The conservative recommendations of the FDA are intended to govern situations where you don't know if you're feeding someone who is medically fragile - if you know that you're not, you can use your judgement based on your experience.
posted by Frowner at 4:50 AM on October 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

wait so like... there's broth in a tupperware (what does "already reused" mean?) and you put this broth in a pot where you add meat, presumably at boiling temperatures, and then you put this re-boiled stuff back into the tupperware?

I think it matters how big the tupperware is and what happens to it afterwards. The stuff you just re-cooked is now going back into a coating of stuff that has been cold up til now, but is now going to be warm for some amount of time. And unlike the stuff you just boiled, the stuff-coating on the tupperware itself is not starting from scratch. If it is small and cools down to fridge temp quick I'd think it'd be ok (although I'd hope you aren't serving it to guests.) If it's biggish and it's going to be warm for a while, that seems like a bad practice.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:29 AM on October 7, 2018

Do some reading on and you will probably be sufficiently motivated not to do that anymore.
posted by metasunday at 7:29 AM on October 7, 2018

I'm on team houseguest. This is not a good practice. The unwashed container will contain microorganisms that grew there while the soup was in the refrigerator, and these will inoculate whatever food is put into the unwashed container. You want to use a sanitized container.

By the way, do not clean out the container with a sink sponge, or you will simply be putting more microorganisms into the container. An easy way to sanitize if you don't have a dishwasher is to fill up your container with very hot water from the tap, add a few drops of dish soap, soak for a minute or two and rinse it out. This should clean out any grease and do a reasonably good job of sanitation. If you want to go a further step you could refill with hot water, tip in a little bleach and let it sit.

Rich liquids like soups and stews are by far the most susceptible to contamination, so it's wise to be extra diligent about storage. Now, granted, if you're boiling the food again before eating it you're not going to make yourself sick because you will kill off any microorganisms and denature any toxins. But it can still get pretty gross.
posted by slkinsey at 9:06 AM on October 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

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