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I'm about to go on a month-long road trip and I would need to keep cooked food in a car for about 24 hours every day, i.e. I may pre-cook the ingredient in one evening and reheat and finish it the next day.

I will put a mini fridge in the car. Those are in fact thermoelectric cooler/warmers that aren't all that powerful and may have a hard time actually keeping things cool. So should I switch it to the warmer mode and keep food hot instead? That also makes reheating a lot easier as well.

The model of cooler/warmer that I'm looking at can reach as high as 55 degrees C, but the guidelines for pasteurization requires 63C at least. So the heat won't kill all the microorganisms but it shouldn't be a suitable temperature for them to reproduce, either, or is it? How safe is food storage (and for how long) between 45C and 55C?

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    There are refrigerant-compressor car fridges available these days. They work a lot better than the thermo-electric ones do.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 7, 2023 at 11:49
  • @Ecnerwal I'll have to move the fridge from the car to the hotel room in order to keep it powered, and the compressor type is heavy. I live in an area that ice is not available in all grocery stores or I could just ice to augment the thermoelectric cooler, too. Oct 7, 2023 at 11:58

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45C-55C (113F to 131F) is right in "danger zone", which is the most hospitable environment for food borne pathogens to grow. It's not an issue of pasteurization. It is safe food holding temperatures. So, you want to avoid storing perishable food in this temperature range for more than 2 hours. Your best option is going to be to keep food cold...as far below 4C (40.4 F) as possible. If you have to cook food, you should chill it as quickly as possible, and keep it chilled (the clock start as soon as a perishable item is in the danger zone...and the time is cumulative). If you can't do this, you might look into freeze dried items that are non-perishable and just require adding water.

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Either cook things that are normally stored at room temperature for a few days (such as breads, biscuits, etc.) or cook only enough to eat each day, if you can't provide adequate cold or hot storage. A month-long road trip is a bad time to give yourself food poisoning.

A creative approach, albeit with some risk of losing your food, depending on the design of the car, is to use the waste heat from the engine to cook, or to keep food hot, by wrapping it in foil to keep it clean and placing it at locations you've tested in the engine compartment. Your car's engine compartment design will limit your choices in this. There's some classic book for that I can't find in a quick search, but the wikihow link (no affiliation) gives the basic ideas.

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