Medical Why can't I eat old cooked meat?

  1. I've read that I can eat meat safely if I first cook it to x temperature.
    And I've read that I should throw out meat that is more than 3 days
    old. Why doesn't cooking it to x temperature kill whatever makes
    it dangerous after a few days?

  2. jcsd
  3. adjacent

    adjacent 1,540
    Gold Member

    Killing everything does not make it safe.There are bacteria and fungi in the air too.
  4. Greg Bernhardt

    Staff: Admin

  5. AlephZero

    AlephZero 7,244
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    That depends on the meat.

    For example you can keep dry cured ham for two years or longer, without refrigeration, and eat it without cooking.

    The traditional way to process meat was to "hang" it at low temperature a while (typically 10 to 30 days) to improve the tenderness and flavor. The "ultra-traditional" way to tell when game birds like pheasants had been hung long enough is when the first maggots started emerging.

    But if you buy mass-produced factory-processed wet-aged meat in plastic packs from a supermarket, best folllow your own advice, cook it properly and eat it as soon as possible.
  6. Thank you
  7. Monique

    Monique 4,445
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  8. I think if you heat it up enough again, it should be fine. In the olden days the pot was never emptied, but things were added to it every day!
  9. The pot wasn't supposed to be allowed to cool though. I'm sure many mistakes were made and people got ill from high levels of toxins.
  10. SteamKing

    SteamKing 10,942
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    You can eat whatever you want: old meat, road kill, dead dogs. Whether or not your stomach accepts it is a different story. Even food stored in a refrigerator gets iffy after a few days unless frozen. If you don't mind a bad case of the trots, possible parasite infestation, or worse, your menu is up to you.
  11. Ok, the pot is effectively pasteurised and left with a lid on for 20 hours. How are toxins going to build up? The worst thing that happens to meat is that the flies get in. If you can stop the flies, hanging meat for a month improves the flavour.
  12. Bacteria create spores which survive cooking and are reactivated when the temperature drops. The perpetual stew predates refrigeration, so pasteurisation wasn't an option, particularly in summer months. Bacteria create endotoxins, which are released upon death and exotoxins which are secreted as waste. They're not destroyed by the cooking process. So if there was a lot of bacteria in there at some point, it can make you ill. Minimising the time between refrigeration and cooking temperature and minimising the number of times it's reheated is the key.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014
  13. SteamKing

    SteamKing 10,942
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    Mmmmmm! Maggots!
  14. bobze

    bobze 651
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    The simple answer is like Adjacent pointed out. Microorganisms are ubiquitous in our environment. Including spoilage organisms. This doesn't mean that they are pathogens necessarily, but they can impart unfavorable properties to already cooked food. Like a bad taste or smell. Particularly psychrophiles--organisms capable of growing at cold temperatures, like those in your fridge.

    To further add, foods can be contaminated with bacterial spores. Which are resistant to cooking (heat). Eating spores normally doesn't pose such a hazard b/c you are normally protected by your normal flora. Which consume resources and don't allow spore forming organisms to gain a foothold.

    Interestingly the same thing happens in your meat. Say some ground beef for instance--which has lots of bacteria and spores. The bacteria there are using resources and keeping certain more dangerous types of spores from becoming active. Cooking kills off those bacteria and can allow spore forming organisms a chance to start growing.
  15. OmCheeto

    OmCheeto 2,234
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    2014 Award

    Good grief. According to this thread, I've been practicing mithridatism for most of my adult life.

    I have some taco seasoned ground beef in my refrigerator that I've been consuming for at least 3 weeks.

    Why am I not dead?

    hmmm... Could it be because I keep my refrigerator temperature at 32.4°F?

    ps. Bobze, your web link makes me want to brush my teeth, obsessively.

  16. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    :frown: You mean when I leave that expensive block of ground beef in the back of my fridge and it's at that stage where you're not sure to cook or toss it, that my decision to cook it is BAD? :eek:

    Back in the old days, the use of herbs was to cover the smell of bad meat. I've found that red curry is great on ground beef. :uhh: I won't cook it if it's green or slimy.

    I worked at a diner once where the freezer broke and the meat HAD turned green and slimy. The owner insisted that we walk the patties to the grill with our backs to the people at the counter and get the meet browned, add the usual ketchup, mustard, pickles, no one complained, and no one got sick that we knew of. Lucky, but they normally ate our food, so maybe had some resistance.
  17. SteamKing

    SteamKing 10,942
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    Everybody knows the Dr. Suess book 'Green Eggs and Ham'. When my family was on vacation in Florida when I was young, we stopped at a roadside diner to get some breakfast. Mine was green ham and eggs. Needless to say, my parents refused to let me eat the green ham.
  18. When I first moved out on my own I had some ground beef in the fridge that was forgotten about. I was paid monthly at the time and after 3.5 weeks I was running low on everything. The beef smelt awful and was green and slimy. I cooked it up with a tomato sauce and it tasted fine. I did see a documentry years later that stated beef was still safe to eat once cooked but its nutritional value dropped significantly. I definitely would never try it with other meats like chicken or pork.
  19. Nugatory

    Staff: Mentor

    Canned fish and meat can be stored almost indefinitely; but of course the canning process ensures that the meat is completely sealed off from the environment and then cooked sufficiently to kill everything in it. Once you open the can, the clock starts ticking again.
  20. We keep a soup pot going when we are camping. We do leave it covered overnight. Never felt bad with it.
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