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I took a Cajun Chicken Pasta casserole out of the oven, and after eating, divided the leftovers up and put them in tupperware containers and left them on the counter to cool. Unfortunately, I got distracted and forgot to put the containers in the freezer. From the time they were taken out of the oven to the time I finally stuck them in the freezer was probably 2 1/2 or 3 hours. I keep my house between 70-75 degrees. Should I be concerned about eating them?

EDIT: As stated, I don't feel this is a duplicate question as I'm so close to the "danger zone" in regard to length of time left on the counter.

  • I think this edge case is more interesting than the many duplicates discussing much longer times. – Chris H Jun 6 '18 at 7:20
  • Robert, I saw your edit. The point is, we on the site can only deal with food safety as defined by rules. You can either prove that your food was not in the danger zone for 2 hours, or you can't. "Close" does not matter. People of course also have a subjective understanding of food safety, but we cannot deal with that definition on our site. If you are looking for factual risk estimations, those are impossible. If you just want to know the personal, subjective opinion of other people, this is something we cannot provide. – rumtscho Jun 6 '18 at 11:18
  • There are reasons for times and temperatures being specified in food safety situations. Whether or not a situation places you "close to the edge" is irrelevant. Bacterial growth is logarithmic, it doesn't suddenly begin when you exceed the time specified. The higher the temperature and longer the time, the greater the risk. No one should tell you that a food product is fine because it is "on the edge" or close to the defined parameters. There are too many unknown variables to provide advice that deviates from the guidelines. – moscafj Jun 6 '18 at 11:31
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Food kept at warm or ambient temperature for over 2 hours is supposed to be discarded.

However in this case the food was too warm for the danger zone for the beginning of this time, in fact for quite a bit of it, and you were only a little over the 2 hours, so it's highly unlikely that you actually exceeded the 2 hour limit. That wouldn't be good enough in the restaurant business but at home you don't have to prove it.

I do this routinely, as I've measured in my (rather cool) kitchen that the things I freeze stay out of the danger zone for over an hour on the surface, the coolest part, and I don't want to add lots of heat to my freezer and spoil the quality of the nearby food.

It's still a judgement call, and remember that time in the danger zone is cumulative, so defrost in the fridge and reheat quickly and thoroughly.

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