3

I purchased 2 pound of meat, and the same day cooked it into a stew. For dinner I had a small amount of it, and then put the pot into the refrigerator.

The next day for lunch I would like to reheat the entire pot of stew to boiling temperature, let it cool to eating temperature, eat some, and afterwards put the entire pot back into the refrigerator.

I would like to repeat this pattern for a few days. I am told there is a risk of bacterial contamination, and the proper way is to only reheat the small amount I want to eat each time, not the entire pot. But as long as I reheat to boiling temperature, is that really true?

  • 1
    Logophobe has all the right answers as to why not do it: bacteria multiplication, toxin, taste, harmful to equipment. Also, it's not because you boil a stew that the inside of the each piece of meat or veg is at boiling temp. It'll take several minutes before the biggest piece are heated through. For canned food effective sterilization is done at 121c (210 F)(nzifst.org.nz/unitoperations/httrapps2.htm), you'll never , by definition, reach this temperature simply by boiling. – P. O. Jun 12 '14 at 17:28
6

There is some very useful information for you in this thread.

The direct answer is, every time you re-heat and cool the entire pot, you're passing through the "danger zone" (40-140 °F or 4-60 °C) where bacteria will continue growing. Even if you manage to kill all of them, this is a problem because:

Some bacteria leave behind harmful protein toxins that cannot be "killed" (denatured) by cooking. Cooking food is only effective against live organisms, not their toxic waste products.

So yes, there is a very real risk. To reduce this risk as much as possible, you'll want to follow the alternate method you describe of only re-heating the amount that you want to eat at any given time.

That's also desirable because:

  • If you bring the entire pot back up to boiling each time, you're continuing to cook it. Besides the risk of contamination, that will also affect the quality and palatability of the stew because it will be drastically overcooked after just a couple repetitions.
  • It's a lot more efficient to apply just the heat needed to re-heat a small portion than it is to re-heat a larger amount that you're just going to let cool back down anyway.

Also, keeping your stew in the pot may be undesirable, especially if it has acidic ingredients like tomatoes, which can react with a metal pot (particularly aluminum) and give your stew a faintly metallic taste.

Do yourself a favor and don't try to to take this shortcut. It's a bad idea for a number of reasons. Pack the stew into individual servings instead and keep them refrigerated until you're ready to eat them.

  • 1
    has all the right answers: I've seen that too many time pro kitchens, people always forgot about toxins. Also, it's not because you boil a stew that the inside of the each piece of meat or veg is at boiling temp. It'll take several minutes before the biggest piece are heated through. For canned food effective sterilization is done at 121c (210 F)(nzifst.org.nz/unitoperations/httrapps2.htm), you'll never , by definition, reach this temperature simply by boiling. – P. O. Jun 12 '14 at 17:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.