When to toss food out
Not all germs make food smell or taste bad. Learn how to tell when raw and cooked foods go from being a little past their prime to potentially deadly.
Most us have the perception that storing food in the refrigerator makes it safe for the lifetime, which is completely a wrong concept. Here you can learn how to check the quality of food if it is okay for consumption.
The sniff test
This is safer than tasting something to decide if it is past its prime, but it is not foolproof. Not all germs make food smell or taste bad. It is best to label and date food in your fridge and freezer so you know how long you have had it. If there is any question, toss it: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Heat, light, and air will turn it rancid, which gives it a sour, unpleasant smell and taste. Fresh from the store, it will be good in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can freeze it for up to 9 months if it is wrapped well in plastic. If you need to soften it, it is fine to leave it on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes.
Bacteria grow quickly in milk, so throw it out if it smells bad or it is out of the refrigerator for more than a couple of hours. It will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks or longer — go by the expiration date. You can freeze it for up to 3 months, but it will lose its smooth texture.
Keep cooked chicken or beef in the fridge and use it within 5 days. But it is important to take care when you prepare any kind of meat: Wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling raw meat or fish, and throw away any food that touches the juices. Use different cutting boards and utensils for other food.
It should be good for 3 to 5 days in the fridge, but throw it out after that. If it is vacuum sealed, that might give you a few more days. Frozen solid, it stays safe for many months, though flavour and texture may go slowly downhill.
Fresh ground beef
It is natural for it to turn slightly brown - that does not necessarily mean it is gone bad. But it does not last as long as whole cuts of beef: 1 to 2 days is all you get in the fridge. Part of the problem is that any bacteria on the surface of the meat gets mixed in when it is ground. In the freezer, it will keep 3 or 4 months.
Whole, in pieces, boneless, or ground, it is best to use or freeze it within 2 days. If you freeze it, defrost it in the fridge for a day or so. You can safely refreeze it if you do not use it, but that might change the taste and texture.
These can last 3 to 5 weeks if they are uncooked in the shell in the refrigerator. They do not freeze well whole, whether raw or cooked, but you can beat the yolks and whites together and put the sealed liquid in the freezer. Dishes made with eggs, like pies and quiches should last 3 to 5 days in the fridge or a month or two in the freezer.
Keep it on ice in the fridge. When fresh, whole fish have clear and rounded eyes, not flat or cloudy. Skin is shiny and springy to the touch with no milky slime. Toss fish that looks lifeless, feels mushy or smells. Wrap any you do not cook within 2 days in plastic or foil and freeze it.
Common sense is the rule here. Sometimes you can cut away bruised or faded bits of fruits and vegetables. But if it looks or smells too far gone, it probably is. Wash all your produce right before you eat it, and if you dry it, make sure to use a clean towel. Store it in the fridge, especially if it is prepackaged. Toss any that comes into contact with juices from raw meat, poultry, or seafood.