Is this safe to eat?

Asked January 25, 2016, 4:23 PM EST

Hello, I recently made my own chicken stock. I finished simmering the three chickens and the vegetables in the evening. After straining the bones, meat, and vegetables out of the stock, I placed it back into a large pot and placed it outside to cool (it was still very hot, and I didn't have enough room in the refrigerator for the pot). It got into the 30's that night. Because we were afraid of animals getting into the pot, my husband placed the pot into out Treager BBQ and closed the lid. In the morning when we brought it in, it was only about 52 degrees. I think what happened was that the BBQ warmed up when the hot pot was put in, and insulated the pot from the cold weather. My question is, is the stock safe to eat? While I don't want to make anyone sick, I also don't want to throw away $50!

Clackamas County Oregon food safety

5 Responses

Oh, my, it is so disappointing when you go to all that work and expense, and then the last step goes awry. I love homemade chicken stock, and will go the extra mile to make it, too.

We have heard of a cooling case when someone made chili and refrigerated the pot of chili. In the morning, it had cooled to 75 degrees F. Unfortunately, that is right in the middle of the Danger Zone. So, in addition to the Treager probably insulating your product, the volume also was keeping your stock from cooling within the recommended 2 hours.

You can cool your stock several ways: Stir the stock, to break the surface tension and release the heat. This could take a while.

A faster method is to put your pot in the sink with cold ice water surrounding it and stir until the temperature drops to 40 degrees F. If you like gadgets, you can buy a "wand" that can be filled with water and frozen. Then you can stir the stock with the frozen wand. You can get these at a restaurant supply like Cash N Carry.

Put cooled stock in shallow pans so it is no more than 2 inches deep, cover it, then put each on different shelves in the refrigerator. Only commercial grade blast refrigerators are designed to chill (reduce the temperature quickly), so decreasing the temperature and volume will keep your refrigerator from heating up some of the other foods to the temperature that you stock is at when it goes in the refrigerator. Products like milk will spoil more quickly, if your refrigerator temperature moves from the low to a higher range for a refrigerator (33 degrees to 41 degrees).

I live in Central Oregon, and I sometimes use my garage to cool foods. On a good day, I might even have some snow to pack around the container. I've noticed that my garage is always 10 degrees warmer than outside and I don't heat it from a furnace. The only heat source in there could be from running a freezer, or when I bring my car in for the night. I'd recommend a thermometer for your garage, too, so you know how cold it is.

Oregon State University Extension recommends cooling and refrigerating potentially hazardous, prepared foods like cooked veggies, meat, fish, poultry, wild game, soups, stock and leftovers within 2 hours of preparation/serving. Your wonderful stock has been in the temperature Danger Zone long enough to grow some harmful bacteria. Most bacteria double in quantity every 15 minutes. I'm so sorry, but we cannot recommend consumption.

If you would like more information on storing food, I'd like recommend you take a look at our publication, "Storing Food for Safety and Quality." It is near the top of the list at the OSU Food Preservation and Safety web page:

Thanks for contacting us. We are always glad to help.

Glenda, thank you for your disappointing, but necessary information. I will dispose of the stock and try again, starting the process much earlier in the day so that I have time to properly cool and then freeze the stock. JoEllen

Thanks, JoEllen,
You are a dear person, to accept this news so graciously.
Enjoy your next batch of stock. I'm sure it will be yummy - and safe - to eat!

Hi Glenda, I had one other question related to your answer.
I was explaining your answer to someone I know, and her response was, "I'm sure it would have been fine if you had just boiled it again That would have killed anything growing in it."
What is your response to that?t

Thanks for your follow up question. OSU Extension does not recommend consuming potentially-hazardous foods, like your stock recipe, that have been in the danger zone for more than 3 to 4 hours (depending on the temperature, density and volume).