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Last night, I was making chili and realized I'd forgotten to thaw the meat. I was most of the way through putting the veggies and sweet potatoes in, so I put them on high and let the meat thaw in the fridge. I took the thawed meat from the fridge and put it in the crock pot before I went to bed, but I'm pretty sure my crock pot (which is a digital model) had actually switched to the "warm" setting by that point, or shortly thereafter. I was tired and not paying close enough attention. When I woke up, the food was still really hot and steaming, but now I'm scared to eat it because I don't know how long it spent on high, if at all. (I guess that'll teach me to cook while I'm tired ...)

Would it be safe to eat? Or should I toss it?

  • These sorts of questions are generally unanswerable. A properly functioning crockpot should likely have raised the internal temperature of the meat within an acceptable time window, but we simply can't know how your crockpot works, whether its thermostat is functioning well, etc. Official food safety guidelines generally say when you're uncertain, you should throw it out. If you want to be absolutely safe, that's what you should do. Many people make their own personal exceptions for all sorts of reasons, but everyone here probably has less knowledge about what happened than you. – Athanasius Nov 18 '15 at 22:44
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Check the crock pot manual.

Usually, the "keep warm" setting will keep a temperature of between 145°F to 165°F (62°C to 74°C). This is the recommended food safety temperature to keep hot food in that is not immediately served (which is likely why the "keep warm" temperature is in this particular range in the first place). 145°F is also the safe internal temperature for beef, pork, lamb and veal.

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I will give you the same kind of answer that I usually give to these kinds of questions.

This is a risk assessment question based on food safety. If it were my kitchen and I knew that I used good hygiene the I would be comfortable eating it and serving it to my immediate family. This is not advice, this is just what I would do if what you describe is accurate and if it were MY kitchen with MY known conditions of hygiene.

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Do you know if the meat was actually thawed (no parts of its interior were frozen) before you put it in the crock-pot? If you don't know, there's no way to know for sure whether the meat may have spent too much time in the "danger zone" of 40-140F. If it was totally thawed, my guess is that it's OK, but the axiom "When in doubt, throw it out" is an axiom for a reason: it's the best advice in this situation. Is the cost of the ingredients worth the risk?

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