Food Safety Issues/Rice
QUESTION: Dear Carol,
Is eating undercooked rice a quality issue or a food safety issue?
The problem was maybe not enough liquid--1 cup white rice with 2 cups broth cooked with onions and about a pound of already-cooked chicken cut in small pieces--cooked a half hour or so--didn't stick to the pan, didn't look hard or dry, could be cut with a fork, but the texture was strangely hard. I was not the cook, but all I could think was the chicken absorbed some of the broth. Not sure though why it didn't even look dry. Any thoughts?
Also, once it has been in the refrigerator for a day is it too late to try to do anything about it?
ANSWER: Hi Kat,
Eating undercooked rice is just a quality issue if it is handled properly, temperature-wise, after rehydrating. Dry rice is not a potentially hazardous food (phf)or a food that requires time and temperature control for safety. However, once rehydrated (cooked) it does become a phf food that does need time and temperature control.
What this means is that once cooked, rice needs to be either kept hot (above 135 degrees F) or kept cold (below 41 degrees F.) When going from hot holding to cold holding, you have 6 hours to get the temperature down to 41 degrees F. When going to from cold to hot, you should rapidly reheat it to at least 165 degrees F and then hold it above 135 degrees F. As long as you follow these guidelines of keeping it hot and cold there is little if any chance that cooked rice could make you ill (whether it's partially or full cooked).
You should try reheating the rice/chicken mixture adding more liquid to help soften the rice. Leftovers utilizing phf foods can be safely refrigerated up to 7 days before they need to be pitched. Please be aware that the 7 day rule is for safety, not quality, and you may want to utilize the food long before the 7 day deadline. Remember...only women get better with age, not food!
Hope you have a happy holiday.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you--your answer is wonderfully complete, reassuring, and encouraging (I am getting better as I age!).
I also especially appreciate your mentioning that leftovers can be safely refrigerated for up to 7 days! I constantly read 3-4 days but it is never addressed if that is for safety or quality, and I have wondered. We really need to know safety information because people vary in the quality they will accept.
The recommendations I gave you are the ones restaurants follow and are research-based and in the FDA Model Food Code. The recommendations that are given to consumers are different because consumers tend to be less accurate on dating food, taking temperatures, monitoring refrigeration, etc. The recommendations for consumers are much stricter. But slowly the 2 recommendations are merging with more and more people using thermometers and monitoring foods in their refrigerators.
The 7 day limit is based on safety, not quality. With that said, most restaurants establish a much tighter scheduled for holding food, such as a maximum of 2 days for certain phf food items like chicken salad. They could, legally, keep in 7 days for the date of the oldest phf ingredient but for quality (and for maximum safety) they choose to rotate their food on a much shorter schedule.
Hope this answers your question. If you have additional questions, please let me know.