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Food Safety Issues/raw meat and raw veges together in frige

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Question
My room mate who is very OCD and I have a disagreement I am hoping you can help with. I made a stew for the crock pot that I was going to leave in the refrigerator overnight and then put it on to cook tomorrow while we are at work. I cut up some raw, thawed round steak and put it in the crock pot along with beef broth, a packet of stew seasonings and raw fresh potatoes, carrots, onion, and celery. All of this is mixed together in the crock with the cover on sitting in the refrigerator. Tomorrow morning I will put the crock on with heat to cook all day while we are at work. When she saw what I did, she went ballistic. She says that you can't put raw meat and raw vegetables together and store in the frige like I plan on doing. She says it is not sanitary. She say that I should have cooked the meat first, then I could add the veges and store overnight then cook tomorrow. I think she is overreacting and trying to be controlling. I do think it would be an issue if the beef was chicken instead. Thank you very much!

Answer
Hi June,

While it's considered perfectly safe to prepare meals for cooking in the slow cooker ahead of time refrigerated, the recommendation is to cut up the food items and package them separately - not mixed - and not in the slow cooker.  Placing the items in the slow cooker in the refrigerator will cause the slow cooker to heat up much slower allowing the food to sit in the "Danger Zone - 41 to 135 degrees F" for much longer than is considered safe.

In the future I suggest that you cut up all of the ingredients for the stew the day before and package them separately.  In the morning, place the vegetables in the slow cooker first (they take the longest to cook) followed by the meat, seasonings and liquid.  Then about 1 hour before serving, stir the mixture to combine all the ingredients in the stew.

For a research-based website on the safety of using the slow cooker, I suggest you check out: http://pasco.ifas.ufl.edu/fcs/Electric_Slow-Cooking.shtml

Carol

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Carol Schlitt

Expertise

I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.

Experience

I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc - www.safeandsavorysolution.com

Organizations
National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

Education/Credentials
BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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