So I put some pulled pork in the crock pot on low for about 5 hours when my boyfriend turned it off without me knowing.. Recipie said 7 hours total on low. So after about 3 hours of it being off we turned it on warm and left it on overnight.. In the morning I turned it back up to low and it cooked for about another 5 hours (I was told you can't really overcook pulled pork, just gets more tender) and I am wondering if it is safe to eat??


Short answer: "warm" is not guaranteed to be a temperature where pathogens will not grow--it is just intended to keep food warm for a short period of time as you eat dinner or similar. It may even be creating conditions that will incubate any pathogens present and help them to grow.

Additionally, you had this food in a completely uncontrolled temperature environment for at least three hours.

You should discard this pork.

See also: How long can cooked food be safely stored at room/warm temperature?

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  • Thanks for the catch--the setting was warm. I invite people to come to the chat and see our discusison there, but on unknown equipment I will not quibble over whether the warm setting was above the safety threshold; I am always conservative in the matter of safety, and there still is the matter of the three hour uncontrolled temperature interlude at which the surface was surely at or near ideal growth temperatures. – SAJ14SAJ Apr 9 '13 at 20:49
  • Chat starts at chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/8896598#8896598 for anyone interested. – derobert Apr 9 '13 at 20:52
  • Note that while it's possible that enough heat was retained while the slow cooker was off that it wasn't actually in the danger zone for two hours, but without directly checking, you don't really know, so as SAJ14SAJ says, better safe than sorry. – Cascabel Apr 10 '13 at 6:04

Any meat that is not completely cooked has a risk of bacteria growing inside it. Smell is the key to telling if it went bad. Also, you would look in the pot and see if there were any bubbles along side the meat. If not and the broth was clear your probably in good shape. Generally three hours is not enough time for the bacteria to damage the quality of the meat. If it was sitting in a crock pot for 5 hours it was probably cooked period. That also depends on the size of the pot and how much you had in there.
Thing to remember. Even if bacteria had started growing in the meat and you recooked the meat to reach the 172F in the center. All of the growing bacteria would be killed and the meat would not be a risk to eat. It might not taste the same but it would not hurt you. All meats have bacteria growing in them from the time they are processed. Cooking the bacteria is what makes the meat safe to eat.
I have been a chef for 27 years without an incident. Michael

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  • 7
    -1 This is incorrect and dangerous advice. You can't smell everything that's toxic, and not everything produces bubbles, or discoloration, so you can't simply check if it's "gone bad". Three hours is enough to potentially cause problems, according to the USDA. And once food is dangerous to eat, recooking doesn't fix it. Maybe you've been lucky enough not to have anything go wrong, but give this advice to a ton of people online, and some of them won't be as lucky as you. – Cascabel Apr 10 '13 at 6:02

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