My youngest is a fussy eater, and we have problems getting him to eat vegetables. Recently we've tried using a wide steamer and he likes it, because its wide enough to keep all the carrots from touching while cooking (yes - that's his reasoning)

However he also only eats carrots and broccoli when there's a trace of sugar in the steaming water - a teaspoon or so.

My wife is happy to leave the water in the bottom pot and let it cool, then reheat it the next evening. I feel this is a bad idea but can't put my finger on why.... The water boils so it reaches temperatures that should kill anything bad.

What have we missed ?

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  • 1
    In addition the water doesn't touch the food until it has evaporated, but it still feels like a little wrong. (If any bad stuff grew overnight it might splash onto the food before boiling. Do you know how he can tell if there's sugar? It doesn't really smell and doesn't evaporate so never gets to the food.
    – Chris H
    Sep 4, 2016 at 11:26
  • @ChrisH He can tell by taste if the spoon used to make a hot milo (chocolate drink) was used to stir coffee while making his drink - super sensitive taste sense. And the vegetables definitely taste better cooked this way with a touch of sugar in the base. If we use honey instead, it tastes "wrong" to me, so its definitely getting up to the food. via the steam.
    – Criggie
    Sep 4, 2016 at 19:59
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    That definitely sounds like there's some liquid water traveling from the pan to the vegetables then.
    – Chris H
    Sep 5, 2016 at 6:30

1 Answer 1


Your wife probably thinks "It's just water and thoroughly boiled, so all is well.". Unfortunately, it is not.

If you look into your pot after the first use, you'll notice that the water contains traces of the vegetable, meaning it technically falls under the "food that becomes unsafe after 2/4 hours at 40-140 °F (4-60 °C)" category and should be refrigerated quickly or discarded. More on this on our canonical post on the topic.

Perhaps you argue that cooking will kill any "nasties" that might have grown since the day before, but while this may be true for most bacteria and fungi, it does not work for some of the toxins they produce. Boiling does not make unsafe food safe.

Weighing the cost of a bit of water and sugar agains the the risk of a child's health, I'd dump it and clean the pot every time. You could put the pot in the refrigerator, but must heat and cool it as quickly as possible (keep in mind that the time is cumulative) - which sounds to me like a lot of excess effort and takes up a lot of refrigerator space.

  • Yup. Treat it like 'soup' or stock. There's no problem pouring it off into a container and refrigerating it when it's cool to handle. I do this when i steam celeriac since a lot of flavour ends up in the steaming water and it makes good stock.
    – worthwords
    Sep 6, 2016 at 17:25
  • Can the toxins rise up with the steam?
    – Agos
    Sep 8, 2016 at 8:57
  • @Agos would you want to risk it? Note that aromatic compound do rise (steaming over wine or herbs), so can off smells. And steam can carry things with it.
    – Stephie
    Sep 8, 2016 at 8:58
  • Also, steamer water tends to gather all the bitterness it can :) Aug 31, 2017 at 0:39

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