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I've just made some stock and its bed time now. Do I need to strain my stock before I go to bed, or can I leave it overnight with all the stuff in it and strain it in the morning? Is one preferable to the other? Why?

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The truly preferable option is making stock earlier so you have time to strain it and let it cool. :-) –  ceejayoz Jul 20 '10 at 22:25
    
Are you offering ceejayoz? –  Sam Holder Jul 21 '10 at 7:02
    
Related: nytimes.com/2011/08/24/dining/… –  KatieK Nov 25 '12 at 21:24

5 Answers 5

up vote 17 down vote accepted

You need to strain the stock and cool it until it's 40 degrees F. or below before you refrigerate it.

Leaving it to cool overnight on the stove is going to create a bacteria cesspool. The temperature danger zone is between 40 and 140 degrees. This is the range that is prime for the growth of bacteria. Food safety guidelines require that it cool to 70 degrees or below within 2 hours and then below 40 degrees within another 4 hours time. Total maximimum time that it should take to get to 40 degrees is 6 hours.

Even if you get it cooled down now with all of the vegetbles and bones in it, the problem will be that you have to heat it back up in the morning to strain it as it's going to gelatinze overnight (provided it's been cooked long enough to extract a good amount of gelatin - usually about 4-6 hours for a good chicken stock and 12-16 hours for veal/beef stock). When it's reheated you're running the risk that the carrots and other vegetables will break up into smaller bits and end up clouding the stock.

Strain it and cool it down tonight before putting in the refrigerator. To cool quickly, either divide amongst several pans (greater surface area is better than depth as it will dispel heat quicker) or if you don't have a BIG pot of stock, strain it and put it in an ice bath (water and ice cubes) in your plugged kitchen sink.

If you make stock a lot, you can save plastic milk jugs and fill them 3/4 with water and keep in the freezer. After straining the stock you can place one of those inside the pot of stock to also help cool it from the inside out.

In the morning you can then skim the layer of congealed fat from the top. If it's chicken stock, save the fat for frying potatoes with extra flavor!

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That doesn't answer how you are supposed to get it down to 40 degrees just sitting out if 70 degrees is room temperature? Yes, popping it directly into the fridge will warm the fridge (which has bacterial growth implications for the rest of the items in there), but it will cool - the fridge's cooling will kick on and run full blast. –  ceejayoz Jul 20 '10 at 22:39
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+1 this is a truly expert answer. –  Mike Sherov Jul 20 '10 at 22:53
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If you don't have milk jugs (a nice idea, by the way!) You can fill up some storage ziplocs with ice, and dip them in the stock. –  Peter V Jul 20 '10 at 23:01
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@ceejayoz & Yock: It wasn't specified whether the intent was to leave it on the stove or not so I answered it based on the worst case scenario. No, the temperature was not a typo. It needs to be cooled to 40 degrees within a 6 hour time frame to minimize bacterial growth. Besides what I mentioned above, stirring frequently to help disperse heat and steam while chilling in the ice bath assists in this process. Also, after straining it, make sure that you're chilling it in a metal container, not a plastic storage container as plastic is an insulator and will keep heat in the liquid longer. –  Darin Sehnert Jul 21 '10 at 0:00
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One minor quibble: while it is true stock at ~100F is great for bacteria, if the stock was boiled with a tight-fitting lid on for hours, the environment in the pot is sterile until the lid is removed. Bacteria won't grow in it until the lid is disturbed, see secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Spontaneous_generation –  Adam Shiemke Jul 21 '10 at 0:10

The main concern with popping a hot pot of freshly made stock - strained or not - in the fridge is that it'll heat up other items, promoting bacterial growth.

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I wouldn't suggest leaving a meat stock overnight at room temperature for all the reasons Darin noted in his response.

If it's just veggie stock, particularly if I was planning to can it, I might let it sit and reheat boil it the next day before placing in canning jars; veggie stock obviously doesn't have the same concerns about gelatin as meat and you can shorten your initial cooking if you're worried about clouding. With meat stock you're asking for trouble.

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Where are you guys getting the idea he wants to leave it on the stove? –  ceejayoz Jul 20 '10 at 22:25
    
My goal mostly was to augment the great answer provided by Darin Sehnert with the suggestion that handling just the veg would run into slightly different considerations. –  acrosman Jul 21 '10 at 1:58
    
@ceejayoz : it's a fair assumption, based on that I know a couple of people who have done it before. (and personally, I'd have to strain it first, if only to transfer to a smaller container that'd fit in my fridge) –  Joe Jul 21 '10 at 1:59

Just leave the stock turned on, verry very low, all night. Do it all the time, then cool it in an open window in the morning and strain it. If your stove top won't turn down enough, put it in the oven set at 90 C / 190 F.

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In addition to the other posts about bacteria growth, you would want to strain the stock because the vegetables would continue to breakdown which would make your stock cloudy. Leaving certain things in there too long could have a negative effect on flavor as well.

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