This is just some incoherent ramblings on the above topic. Every few days, there is a post about someone who left some meat out on the counter for a couple hours before they cooked it and wonders if it is safe to eat. There usually are a number of posts referencing a three-hour limit. If meat is in the danger zone for more than three hours, it's best to chuck it. I know that there are various guidelines to make things simple, and wonder if there is some actual data on this one. I know, for instance, that cooking chicken to 165* is not the only way to make it safe and it can be made perfectly safe if it is cooked to 145* and rested at that temp sufficiently long.
The reason I bring this up is that for as long as I can remember, I've brought my leftovers into work in some container. Typically, it is resting on my desk, unrefrigerated for about 5-6 hours before I heat said leftovers in the microwave. I can't remember ever getting sick or dying, not even once. The last couple years I've been driving down to North Carolina every other Monday with leftovers in my trunk for the week. Sometimes, these don't see a refrigerator for 9 hours. Again, I'm still alive. I bring this up now because last week, I stopped and visited a colleague in Hampton on my way down. He had a nice lunch prepared for me, along with a bottle of Maotai that apparently I was supposed to help him finish. I fell asleep on the sofa for a few hours and he insisted I stay for dinner. The food was great, but I didn't make it to my hotel in Raleigh until 1:00am and my leftover fajitas had been in the trunk for some 16+ hours (it was a 90-90 day too) -- yeah, they were in an insulated bag (with no ice), but those don't hold the temp that well. The fajitas were grilled the night before, medium rare, and sliced, -- I admit I am obsessed with cleanliness in the kitchen and can assure you there is no cross-contamination that I think is the major culprit of food-borne illnesses. Anyway, I opened up lunch number 1 on Tuesday, and it smelled perfectly fine. I heated it up and ate it -- I didn't even die. In fact, no ill-effects at all. Next day, I ate lunch 2. Again, no problems. I know if I asked here if I should eat it, 90% of you would say no, and the other 10% would say "YES
" -- all knowing that it would be my last post if I even opened the container. So, what research is the 3-hour rule actually based upon? If we have good food practices and don't contaminate, how long can this be extended? Does Maotai have some curative properties that they should be advertising? These are some of the questions that come to mind. I'm sure some people here can elaborate for our benefit.
Incidentally, I'm not condoning eating anything dodgy. I've just been taught to treat food on a case by case basis and that the best way to know if food has gone "off" is to smell it -- actually to have my wife smell it as women tend to have more sensitive senses of smell than men. On the other side of this, I've thrown out food that has come straight from the fridge prior to its expiration date because of the smell.