Can I Eat This? My turn!
November 13, 2020 6:02 AM   Subscribe

Tuna casserole left out over night? Yea? Nay?

I made a small tuna casserole for dinner yesterday. Ingredients were onion, cheese, milk, canned tuna, peas, and green chile ('cause that's how we roll). It was in a 385° oven for roughly 50-60 minutes. After eating, the casserole was left out, covered, in order to cool enough to put in the fridge. Unfortunately, it never made it into the fridge last night, and the covered casserole sat out for about 10 hours. It was put into the fridge once discovered.

What say you, hivemind? Okay to eat? Or, toss that sucker?
posted by Thorzdad to Food & Drink (26 answers total)
Best answer: I'm very lax about food safety and I say no on this one. Combo of dairy and fish and danger zone = nope for me.
posted by theweasel at 6:03 AM on November 13, 2020 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Big no.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 6:05 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You definitely shouldn't but I probably would.
posted by mskyle at 6:06 AM on November 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: A tragic loss.
posted by HotToddy at 6:08 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 10 hours out? Fish? Definitely no, and I'm pretty cavalier about this stuff.
posted by jackbishop at 6:09 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

People believe all kinds of weird things about fish. It cannot spoil any faster or any worse than any other meat.

I can't say it's fine, but I can say I might eat some after heating it very well, depending on how much I needed that food. I can say I've done that before and been fine, but I know my own gut etc. Given the extra risks associated with the pandemic I'd probably pass.

Also for the record modern fridges don't mind at all if you put hot casseroles in them.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:13 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hard no on this - not worth it.
posted by leslies at 6:19 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: ErMahGerd NOOOOOOOO!

Fish DOES spoil faster than meat (Here's a thread about why). And any sort of meat sitting out at normal home temperatures for 10 hours is a diamond hard no, unless you are attempting to become ill.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 6:39 AM on November 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: That would be a solid nope from me, mostly because of the milk, but also the fish. That's a lot of time for milk (and fish) to sit out at room temperature.

As with most of these questions, the chances of it killing you is extremely low, and even the chances of getting food poisoning aren't all that high -- people eat worse things all the time and survive. However, the cost/benefit analysis here is clear since the potential misery is so great and the benefit of eating it is low.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:47 AM on November 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Clarification: Fresh uncooked fish spoils faster in the fridge than eg fresh uncooked chicken. This is largely due to differences in what types of bacteria are in it, and what temperature they normally operate at.

That is not germane to the question, because the dish has been properly cooked, and any bacteria that are introduced after cooking are the same as in any normal kitchen. The (highly conservative) USDA danger zone temperature range and timeline that is appropriate for discussing a cooked casserole is the same temperature and time for fish and non-fish.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:57 AM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 10 hours!? Yeah, no. Directly in the bin, don't think twice.
posted by gnutron at 7:00 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Canned tuna? Yes, I'd eat this. Have done similar many times. I wouldn't serve it to someone else maybe, but I'd eat it.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:24 AM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

SaltySalticid: I'm going both by long personal experience (I'm an old and I've been cooking since I was a kid) and by the food scientists in the thread I posted. The "composition of fats and amino acids" doesn't change with cooking. Fish fat doesn't become saturated when cooked, it stays polyunsaturated and thus subject to faster decay. The bit about glycogen/lactic acid and bacteria also matters, as not all bacteria is killed by cooking (even boiling!) and even killed bacteria can make you ill.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 7:27 AM on November 13, 2020

For future reference, there's no need to let things cool before putting them in the fridge. There's no way food cools faster outside the fridge than in it. For food safety, taking the food from serving temperature to fridge temperature as quickly as possible is paramount. The best way to do that is to separate the food into smaller containers (to increase surface area) and get it into the fridge as soon as possible.
posted by saeculorum at 7:48 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Canned tuna? I would, and have, eaten a version of this many times in the past to no ill effect, and anticipate doing so many times in the future.
posted by myotahapea at 8:45 AM on November 13, 2020

To build on what saeculorum said above: the belief that things should be left out to cool off before being put into the refrigerator dates back to the time of iceboxes, and back then, when refrigeration was just a block of ice, it might have made sense. But your refrigerator is not a block of ice. It's got a thermostat, which will kick on and cool your food down much faster than it's going to cool down sitting on a counter. The fact that it's impossible to forget to put something in the fridge if it's already in the fridge is just a bonus.

And no, I would not eat this. You might get lucky -- but you might not. And this is not the time to gamble on things that could involve the need for medical care.
posted by pie ninja at 8:49 AM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sorry if this is off topic but I thought the reason that you let food cool before putting it in the fridge is because it warms up the fridge and therefore the rest of the already refrigerated food?
posted by drunkonthemoon at 11:58 AM on November 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Both the USDA and this experiment on stackexchange suggest that the effect of putting hot food in the fridge on other food in the fridge is extremely minor.

Thermal energy is a function of temperature and mass (and material properties) and it's likely returning from a grocery trip and unloading several items into your fridge introduces more thermal energy than a container of leftovers, even if the leftovers are much warmer.
posted by hermanubis at 12:13 PM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Put another way, if you have enough thermal mass that you'll warm up the fridge significantly (which is hard to do, outside, say, 20 quart pots of boiling water), that same thermal mass will probably make your food not cool fast enough regardless of how you cool it. So, leaving it outside the fridge won't leave you with safe food anyway. The net result is - if you have a relatively small amount of food (less than multiple quarts of solid food), put it straight in the fridge. If you have large quantities of liquid food, put it in an ice bath before you put it straight into the fridge.

There's nothing wrong with making your fridge "work hard" to cool food. That's what it's for.
posted by saeculorum at 1:08 PM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

If it was made with canned tuna I would eat it.
I might not admit to it, but I would eat it.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:32 PM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is like the quintessential “Can I Eat It?” NOooooooOOOoo way in hell situation.
posted by oxisos at 1:39 PM on November 13, 2020

Best answer: Nope nope nope. Give yourself the gift of knowing you won’t get food poisoning. This year has been terrible enough, throw it straight into the trash with vigor.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 1:56 PM on November 13, 2020

(I would totally eat this but I'm a garbage person)
posted by stray at 4:07 PM on November 13, 2020

Response by poster: A tragic loss.

Indeed. T’was a very delicious batch.

Thanks all. We were leaning toward “no way in hell”, too.
Guess I’ll just have to make more.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:15 PM on November 13, 2020

Worst food poisoning I ever got at college orientation was from tuna fish left out overnight. Glad you didn't eat it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:04 PM on November 13, 2020

No fucking way. Toss it.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:46 AM on November 15, 2020

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