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I was overnight smoking an 8lb pork shoulder, at about 10am meat was at 160/164 (two spots). I was gone 3 hrs & planning to raise the temp to finish once home. Got home & smoker had run out of pellets (WHY didn't I CHECK!!?!?) Not injected, just a rub. Butt has a nice bark, but internal temp was down to 120 so I grabbed it & threw it in the oven to quickly heat back up & hopefully finish while I figure out if it's safe to eat tonight. IF I get it back up to ~200 internal & then shred, will it still be OK?

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    This is probably a duplicate of a more generic question, but for now, I decided to share a quick answer (not safe by the book, but…), so that you can decide whether you want proceed or plan for an alternative.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jun 27 at 18:12
  • Your question is likely different from others as you likely had effectively pasteurized the meat, then kept it in a mostly clean environment (the food hadn’t been poked at and disturbed with non-sterilized utensils), so this is slightly less risky than the typical ‘left out on the counter’ situation.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 6 at 19:20

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We can not say for sure, how much time the meat spent in the danger zone, i.e. below 140°F, we are missing information to give an at least vaguely reliable estimate.

Technically, if you can not be sure, you should assume “not safe”.

Whether you are willing to take the risk or not, depends on your personal estimate of the time and temperature curve and risk tolerance. (And to a certain degree who you are planning to serve the pork to.)

I would also suggest you familiarize yourself with the difference between food safety and spoiled food - they are not directly related.

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    Thank you. We decided that since the FDA's conservative recommendation is to never let meat remain below 140°F for over 2 hours (ie, not bad the instant it gets below 140°F, but don't keep it there for over 2 hours), the facts that I had only been gone 3 hours & we trusted that it had not gotten from 160°F to 140°F in less than an hour we were comfortable eating the meat once I had quickly brought it up to 205 & shredded it. I used my home oven to quickly re-heat & finish the cooking at 350°F. Because it was definitely above 160°F before I left any pre-cooking pathogens should have been dead.
    – Jean Erm
    Commented Jun 28 at 19:45
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140 is for like 10 minutes. 120 might not be safe if held for hours, but how many hours before it is unsafe? Beef at ROOM temp is safe for an hour.

https://www.compliancemate.com/blog/the-danger-zone-a-guide-to-safe-food-temperatures#:~:text=Safe%20Temperatures%20Vary%20Based%20on%20Time&text=130%20degrees%20Fahrenheit%20for%20121,Fahrenheit%20for%203%20minutes%20minimum

130 degrees Fahrenheit for 121 minutes minimum 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes minimum 145 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 minutes minimum

Also, the inside of meat (excluding chicken which has salmonella deeply embedded) is not generally the concern, rather it is the pathogens present on the surface of the meat. This is why it is perfectly safe to eat the interior meat of a raw fresh kill. But now you are talking a small window. Your 120 situation is fine so long as the surface was at 130 from the data above.

Its never as simple as the simple answers we all remember. There is always nuance.

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  • I am afraid you are missing the point here. It’s not about getting the meat up to a certain temperature, but the effect of holding it at a too low temperature (aka the danger zone) afterwards. We are seeing a core temperature of 120°F, the surface will be even cooler.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jul 5 at 17:55
  • The surface temperature is always hotter not cooler. Thats what drives the temperature gradient to the center. Its in an insulated box. The ambient temperature inside the smoker will hold above 130 for a very long time. I graphed temperatures every 20 minutes while Ive smoked meats. The point is that the surface doesnt drop too low for too long and that would give you a buffer of several hours from my measurements. I would wager 3 hours is perfectly fine. I would worry about 5. Commented Jul 5 at 19:53
  • Wrong during cooling down, which is caused by ambient temperature lower that the food item’s temperature. And that’s the case we need to consider when an oven/smoker/stove suddenly stops cooking - and which is the scenario the asker faces.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jul 5 at 20:34
  • You are wrong. Measure it. Commented Jul 5 at 21:09
  • You are wrong. Measure it and find out. I have a degree in Biomedical engineering. We did stuff like this as homework. But in this case I have measured it. Outside temperature 80F, insulated box with internal ambient temperature (what I've been referring to) at 250F, surface of the meat at 250F, internal temperature of the meat having reached 160F. At first loss of heat source, outside of evaporative cooling the internal temp will continue to rise. I have opened the door and waited 30 minutes only to find the inside at 175F when I needed it to be 170. It could not have been at 120 for an hour. Commented Jul 5 at 21:29

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