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I made some meat buns tonight (that is, buns with cooked chicken stuffed inside them before being baked), and I'm wondering if I should bother keeping the buns inside the fridge, because that would mean having to reheat them later.

Will the chicken inside them even go bad if the bread's there to protect it? It seems to me that the bread will act basically like a tin can and keep the meat preserved as long as the bread is, since the meat inside was heated and all the bacteria that might have been on it was cooked to death.

Is this a wrong way of thinking? Should I just refrigerate them just to be safe?

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    A steamed meat bun can be easily reheated by wrapping in a wet paper towel and microwaving briefly (less than a minute). If your baked buns have an egg glaze, you might get away with this technique without making the crust soggy. Or you could do a quick microwave steaming followed by a quick toast in the oven or toaster oven to dry off the outside.
    – csk
    Mar 23 at 20:11
  • With the answers in mind, it's good to realize that what seems safe for one person isn't necessarily safe for another. I mean, if you've eaten stuff that has been left out your whole life (as maybe they did in medieval times, and as some people still do in some countries), you might be less likely to get sick with a particular dish than your modern neighbor who follows strict safety guidelines, perhaps due to your immune system getting more used to the harmful pathogens, or perhaps because you've somehow cultivated the right gut flora to balance it. Mar 24 at 23:18
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There are two differences between your buns and a tin can.

First, your buns were heated to a core temperature of under 100°C. Yes, your oven was probably set way higher, but the water content in your filling prevents it from getting hotter than boiling water. Commercial canning is done in the vicinity of 120-130°C, which is possible because the cans are cooked under pressure. So unlike in a can, most pathogens were destroyed, but not necessarily all of them. For human consumption, that’s perfectly fine as long as the remaining ones don’t get the time-temperature combo to regrow.

Second, a bread dough may be dense (although the aim is usually something different), but by no means airtight. Interestingly, wrapping meat in dense dough was used as preservation method in medieval times - the “ancestor” of today’s pork pies and pastries. But while the hard flour crust (not intended to be eaten originally) did form a protective layer and usually extended the shelf life more or less, it was by no means food safe judged by modern standards - although some pies were stored for months. But your fluffy buns are truly not a protective layer. Which means you should refrigerate your buns, but also that you get to enjoy the whole dish.

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    Spot on. Those pies might get you a couple of days safety in a cool climate, a little more at acceptable risk levels when they became common, but no more.
    – Chris H
    Mar 22 at 8:36
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    @ChrisH It seems some pies were kept for months, but I would expect a high failure rate and requiring optimal (=cool and dry?) storage. Regular pies, probably in the range of days, agreed. In any case, the preserving effect of the asker’s dough is negligible.
    – Stephie
    Mar 22 at 8:51
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    I'd like to see (but definitely not taste!) one that could keep for months in anything but winter. I know people often carry pork pies, made with very dense hot water pastry, in a pocket (i.e. nearly at body temperature) on bike rides lasting a couple of days; that's common enough that ill effects should show up but far better sealed than bread. I wonder if those long-life pies used and removed a similar pastry. In those of course the filling is also drier than in many recipes; that would help too as would the aspic layer.
    – Chris H
    Mar 22 at 9:33
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    @ChrisH see the link I included in the post. I would suspect “add enough fat” inside (-> think confit/rilettes?) plus a glueish/hard outer layer are the key?
    – Stephie
    Mar 22 at 9:37
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    When I was a kid in the UK, home made pork pies (made from home-grown and home-killed pork) were regularly stored for 6 months with no refrigeration at all. Nobody got sick from eating them. If the meat supply for a family is one large (600-700 pounds) pig per year, you obviously aren't going to eat 600 pounds of meat in a couple of days before it goes bad!
    – alephzero
    Mar 22 at 16:01
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I don't know about chicken specifically, but pork filled baozi (steamed buns) need to be stored in the refrigerator. Bread crust isn't exactly non-porous after all (squeeze a bun, the air doesn't bulge out of another part of the bun, it escapes and then flows back in when you release it).

I wouldn't risk it.

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Stephie's answer is thorough. I just want to add a couple more points in favour of refrigerating:

Firstly, the cooked meat inside is not the only thing that can spoil. Fluffy bread itself is prone to growing mold within a few days in a moist environment (especially if exposed to people's hands and breath), or drying out and being unpleasant to eat in a dry environment.

Secondly, since the meat was cooked before being stuffed into the buns, it means it was exposed to the atmosphere, to your hands and to kitchen tools between being cooked and being baked. Which means it is potentially re-contaminated. How contaminated depends entirely on your kitchen hygiene practices.

EDITED TO REMOVE: In the post I had a rather generous time-limit for leaving freshly cooked food out of the fridge. It was neither well-thought/researched, nor as strict as I would actually do for myself. And was in no way meant as legal hygienic advice. To prevent potential misuse, I have removed that sentence.

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