I recently came across a site, courtesy of the Food Now! newsletter, that makes it really easy to check to see how important that sell-by date on the container really is, among other useful bits of info. Stilltasty.com provides what they call “Your Ultimate Shelf Life Guide – Save Money, Eat Better, Help The Environment.” I don’t know whether any of those things are true, but I do know that this is a very useful (and addictive) site.
StillTasty’s “Keep It or Toss It?” engine lets you type in a food and find out how long it should stay fresh in the fridge or freezer – and, most importantly for personal chefs, it differentiates between raw and cooked foods, which many other resources like this don’t. For instance, I typed in “pork tenderloin” (I’m plagued by spoiled pork) and found that all cuts of pork will stay at their best quality when frozen raw for 4-6 months, but once cooked, are best eaten within 2-3 months. (And it always notes that food properly stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit will keep indefinitely, in terms of being safe to eat – it’s the taste and/or texture that will suffer past the recommended dates.)
Another cool thing: the “Your Questions Answered” section, where it addresses such often-pondered questions like “Can You Safely Drink Milk After the Sell-By Date?” (sure, for up to a week usually) and “I Left Pizza Out Overnight – Is It Still Safe to Eat?” (they say no; I say yes provided you nuke the hell out of it til it’s sizzling and has reached 165 degrees, sure to kill off any nasties…or maybe I just hate wasting pizza, and having never had food poisoning am willing to risk it – until I get food poisoning, after which I’m sure I’ll change my tune.) They source their data mostly from US government sources, research studies and food manufacturers, and they do a nice job of balancing an abundance of caution with a healthy dose of common sense.
This is a great site to point your clients to, in case they have questions about meals you prepared eons ago that they’ve just discovered in their freezer. And the “3 Ways to Defrost Food Safely” is worth referencing too, so they know it’s not just you telling them the best way to thaw meals is overnight in the fridge. (And I guarantee that food-obsessed people will be unable to tear themselves away from the site without reading the entire “Your Questions Answered” section.)
Chefchick Says: Wax paper can melt and shed little waxy flakes if you use it to line sheet pans for cooling hot food. Use parchment paper instead.