Nothing freaks me out more than seeing meat or poultry thawing on the counter. I'm always asking how long an item has been out and no matter the answer, I usually end up tossing it in the fridge to keep the bacteria at bay.
The USDA states:
Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.I am a bit squeamish around food that doesn't look or feel right, but I also don't like to needlessly toss food away when it looks good. I have even pulled food out of the trash to eat, though I did end up tossing a few back after I got them home and cut up. At times I feel like I am on a foodie teeter-totter, with one end about tossing it all and the other to keep it all. teeter-totters are hard to balance.
Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the "Danger Zone," between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.
When thawing frozen food, it's best to plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator where it will remain at a safe, constant temperature — at 40 °F or below.
Because of this balancing act I have sought out information online and found how long to keep some basic staples and more.
Eggs - When you look at the sell by date, add 3-5 weeks to that and you have a pretty close estimate for the eggs. If you take eggs out of the carton, it is advised to not put them in the door as the temperature changes for those items in the door. If you hardboil your eggs to take to work, only do enough for a week at a time and if you keep them unshelled, leave them in cold water for 2-3 days.
Pizza - This is a staple in my house - so go with it. Frozen pizzas keep in the cold for 3-4 days. However a home-made or delivered pizza should be kept in an airtight container or covering and would have to be smelled and eyeballed. Look for mold or sliminess with the toppings.
Apples - These keep nicely in the refrigerator up to a month and on the counter they need to be eaten in about 10 days. If you slice your apples up and don't eat them within a couple of hours, put them back in the frig.
Bananas - If you eat bananas slow, put them in the frig and they will ripen slower, though they may have brown specs on the outside, they are still good. And if you want to speed up the ripening, put them in a sealed brown bag to reduce their access to oxygen.
|flickr/cc - kevindooley|
After learning what I could on all the types of foods I eat and how long they can keep, I narrowed down on the information to the following rules:
Rule 1: When in doubt toss it
Rule 2: Cut out the bad and eat the good
Rule 3: Smell it, look at it and decide
Rule 4: Nothing teaches you better than getting sick, play it safe.
If none of the above rules answer my question on whether to keep or eat a food, I look it up online at ShelfLifeAdvice.com or call the local university extension offices.