For a family get-together, I bought 20 large containers of curry sauce from my favourite Indian restaurant - 15 Dansak and 5 Korma. I collected the sauces on Thursday evening. The containers were all hot to the touch. Then I un-wrapped and diced the appropriate amount of chicken thigh fillets. These were bought the day before, well in date and stored in the fridge. I browned off the chicken in batches with a little ghee and garlic. Then I put all the chicken in a big pan and boiled in water for around 25 minutes. Then I tipped all the sauces into two separate pans - one Dansak and one korma. The sauces were still quite warm. I then added the cooked chicken to the sauces, put the lids on and stored them in a very cold greenhouse overnight.

The following evening I took them to the party venue and warmed them up, simmering for a while, to be ready for the guests. Around 3 hours later almost all the Korma had gone, along with some of the Dansak. At this point I decided to try some of the Dansak. Putting it in a bowl with some rice I noticed a very slight sour smell. I took a couple of mouthfuls and then I had a good sniff of what was left in the pan. Again it smelled a tiny bit funny so... To be on the safe side I removed the pan from the buffet and put it in the kitchen. Half an hour later I asked my friend to come to the kitchen to have a smell and tell me what he thought. Now it smelled pretty bad. It wasn't on any heat but was sort of fermenting by itself, with little light coloured bubbles. It smelled pretty bad (sour) so I put the pan outside. I was now quite worried that I might have poisoned some people. I went back and had a smell of what was left in the pot of Korma. This smelled just fine.

A couple of hours later I went outside to dispose of the contents of the Dansak pot. Now smell was absolutely disgusting. Holding our noses, my friend and I tipped it into a double plastic bag and we could see that it was actually separating and was really horrible.

This was a couple of days ago. To my relief no-one has become sick. I can still 'taste' the horrible smell.

I have done this exact same thing several times before, with no problems at all. I just wonder if anyone might know what could have caused this to happen this time. It's really bugging me.

  • How very cold was that greenhouse? Normally, +4°C seems to be the accepted temperature for keeping cold things cold in US literature, while for some reason Europeans tend to advise +7°C for a fridge ... and greenhouses tend to be designed to keep heat in :) Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 14:58
  • Thanks, Greenhouse is cold. We store wine & beer in the winter and it gets chilled just as much as the fridge - probably more chilled. Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 18:27

2 Answers 2


I think the times you did it with no troubles you used smaller portions, right? These big portions simply do not cool down quickly enough, and the temperature stays too long in the danger zone, say between thirty and sixty celsius. Bacteria grow very quickly around these temps, and so they spoiled your curries. Their waste is lactic acid or alcohol and carbondioxide, and that were the bubbles and the smell. You solve it by cooling down rapidly, so in smaller portions. The other option is that it stayed too long in the danger zone on the buffet, it was the last to go. Probably both... buffets are dangerous in the best of circumstances...in that case you also have to serve smaller portions on the buffet next time.

  • 1
    That's my suspicion, too. As such, see cooking.stackexchange.com/q/16540/67 for how to cool large pots of liquids down quickly.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 14:08
  • the suggestion to cool large portions down with frozen bottles of water is a really good one!
    – Marc Luxen
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 14:33
  • Thanks, I think this must be correct. This is certainly the biggest batch I ever put together. Before that it was maybe 20% of the total amount - and it was eaten the same evening. Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 18:30
  • @MarcLuxen I'd argue that your lower end for the danger zone is too high, I've always learned it as 40-140 F, which would be 4.5-60 C
    – panatale1
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 15:18
  • That is a matter of choices. The colder the better. I think that bacteria grow exponentially at temperatures around body temperature, and that is where you need to be extra careful. That is also the temp we like to eat things..
    – Marc Luxen
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 9:04

When leaving curry to cool, you must allow it to cool to room temperature naturally first. Before storing in a cold greenhouse or fridge. Another thing to note is that if you reheat the sauce, you shouldnt put an airtight lid on it right away, you must allow for some of the steam to escape. Otherwise you will have condensation on the inside. It is the condensation water that falls back into the sauce which spoils it. I have worked in an indian catering firm based in the UK, we have cooked curry for up to 400 people in 1 pot. The quantity has nothing to do with it. Its about proper storage and cooling time.

  • 2
    Welcome to the site. You are offering advice that is contrary to the advice given by the UK food standards authority, which recommends chilling rapidly. Condensation does not generally spoil food, though it may require some mixing to re-incorporate.
    – bob1
    Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 16:31
  • Agreed, this is really bad advice. Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 18:53

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