Danger Zone - Yes, another question...

Discussion in 'Food Safety' started by gitterson, Aug 21, 2013.

  1. gitterson

    gitterson Newbie

    Ok, I'm sorry to ask this as I've seen some existing threads - read MANY actually.  As this is a potential safety issue, please allow me some leeway in asking a specific question for my specific issue.


    I smoke a mess of ribs, boston butts and brisket for about 70 people every year.  Aside from that, I do plenty of other smoking.  Until recently when I was looking for a good warm-up time recipe for brisket, I had never even HEARD of the danger zone.

    Fast forward about 3 weeks.  I've got a new smoker (used twice).  I'm going to smoke for the 70-people party.

    I pulled 6 racks and an 8lb. butt out of the fridge (all in cryo packs).  I spent the next 2+ hours peeling the membranes, rubbing, etc.  I had them on the smoker at about 3 hours later.

    Here are my concerns:
    1. Ribs and butt were probably on the counter for 3 hours total before going into the smoker (235-ish).
    2. I bought a new Redi-check wireless bbq/food probe.  Since the boston was at the bottom of the WSM, I put the probe in COLD (never done that before).
    As I've said, I've smoke a lot of meat...for a lot of people and never had anyone get sick.  I don't *know* if I've ever had meat out that long for prep, but I'm guessing I HAVE.  The party is Saturday, so I'd be resting and refrigerating tonight and re-warming day of.

    Should I scrap it?  Kills me to waste $80, but I don't want anyone to die...


    mdboatbum likes this.
  2. hambone1950

    hambone1950 Master of the Pit Group Lead

    3 hours out on the counter after being in the fridge , right? I mean , it had to stay cold for a good while after that..... I can't imagine it being a problem. And heck , you're cooking that meat so well done.... Brother , I am no doctor or health inspector even , but I think you'll be fine.
  3. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    The problem I see here is that the butt sat out for 3 hours and I'm sure the surface temp went above 40* in that time and that's when bacteria can start growing (above 40*). Now you stuck your temp probe in it and when you did you took a big chance of pushing any surface bacteria deep inside the meat where it could start multiplying like crazy.
    The rule for any meat where the surface has been compromised (probed, injected, stuck with a knife...) is for the internal temp of the meat to go from 40*-140* within 4 hours.

    This is a good example of why I never insert a temp probe into a large cut of meat until it has been cooking for at least 4 hours, that way I know the surface is well above 140* before it gets compromised, also why I never leave meat out to get to room temp before putting on the smoker. It's straight from fridge to smoker for me. (I will never understand why people think meat will cook faster sitting on the counter than it will inside a smoker)
  4. the 4 hour rule applies to sitting on the counter as well. So it sits on the counter for 3 hours. that leaves you 1 hour to get above 140°

    I know your thinking. No one has ever got sick before. If you play Russian roulette long enough???????????

    I see this is your fist post. Will you drop by roll call so everyone can give you a proper SMF welcome.

    Happy smoken.

  5. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm usually pretty fussy about food safety, especially where large groups are concerned. But, if I were in this situation, I think I'd go ahead with the cook. The ribs should be fine no matter what. The butt I also wouldn't worry about. Why? Well it's a pretty big heat sink, and it's gonna take a while for the internal mass to warm up. So let's say it's out for 3 hours, maybe the outer 1" has been in the danger zone. Not an ideal scenario, but I'm gonna guess you covered it in a rub with a fairly high salt content, right? That will essentially shut down the surface bacteria. By the time you probed it, the surface of the meat was a pretty inhospitable environment for bacteria.

    Like I said, this is if I were in this situation. You do what you feel is right. I will say that if anyone on the guest list is under 5, over 60 or in any way has a compromised immune system, you probably ought to chalk this one up to experience, chuck the meat and start over.
  6. boykjo

    boykjo Sausage maker Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    I wouldnt chuck it... Smoke away.... Chef jimmyj is our resident food safety expert and I have read that its a little forgiving with whole meats. Hopefully he will chime in. I'll shoot him a pm to look over your post......
  7. gitterson

    gitterson Newbie

    Hey all.  Thanks for the replies.  A couple of things:

    The butt was in the (cryo?) pack longer than the ribs.  It was still on the table, but probably only 2 1/2 hours out of the package.  That would *likely* keep it cooler longer.

    To try to answer some questions:

    Yes, it came from the fridge.

    Butt rub is:

    5 TBS black pepper

    1/4 cup turbinado

    3 TBS paprika

    2 TBS kosher salt

    1 TBS dry mustard

    2 Tsp onion powder

    1 Tsp cayenne

    The butt got to 140 internal after 6 hours total (3 on counter, 3 in smoker).

    I've had the most success with unnaturally high smoke temps for butts (I go to at least 202, up to 208 BEFORE resting).

    I *absolutely* made a boneheaded move by putting the probe in there.  Unfortunately, with a WSM, it's kind of a pain to get down there and probe it after a few hours.  *sigh*

    I don't expect any guests under 5 or over 60.  It's mostly 20 and 30 somethings.  There will be a few older folks scattered in, but probably not quite to that range.

    ...and David, I *will* drop by roll call.  :)  Thanks.

  8. gitterson

    gitterson Newbie

    ....the next question is, if I go forward with it:

    What do I do?

    Should I refrigerate IMMEDIATELY and warm them up faster than I normally would?  I usually do 250-270 for a couple of hours to warm it up.


  9. IMHO cooking pasteurizes the meat and makes it safe to eat. After you cook it, and you leave it out, and it falls into the danger zone, and you eat it, you become at risk.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2013
  10. gitterson

    gitterson Newbie

    Ok, the ribs are off.  Slightly overdone unfortunately (though still pulling and not falling).

    I had a bone and my brother ate a bone.  If we're not tossing chunks by tomorrow, we should be ok...yeah, I know - that's no measure of safety.  :)

    I put them right in the fridge.  In theory, that would keep them below the danger zone fastest.....right?  I hope it doesn't disturb the resting process - I've never put them right in the fridge.

  11. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    JB, evening.....  well, you have learned something today.....   Take a rack out, prep it, put it back in the refer....  same for the other cuts of meat...   The 4 hour rule starts when you put the meat in the cart at the grocery store, through the line, in the car, on the kitchen counter, into the refer or freezer....   all of that time, the surface is above 40 and bacteria is multiplying.....     Just so you know.....   

  12. gitterson

    gitterson Newbie

    Indeed Dave, lesson learned. I'd have rather learned it with...say, a package of chicken legs.  :)

    I *think* I'm going to let the shoulder finish out, pull it and freeze it for myself.  If it *did* turn, at least it will be only me that finds out.  If it did NOT, then I have a whole mess of lunches for the next 3 months.  :)

    Anyone in the greater Detroit area?  I've got 40 pounds of meat to smoke by Saturday!  Bring your smoker over and let's have a party....

  13. I HAVE TO ASK............WHY DID YOU ASK THE QUESTION?????  YOU ALREADY KNEW THE ANSWER..........NOW YOUR GOING TO SERVE IT????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????[​IMG]....6+ HOURS IN THE DANGER ZONE.....DOG FOOD TO YOUR GUEST?????

    why????........THIS IS A PRIME EXAMPLE OF YES PEOPLE...........YES IT MIGHT BE OK.........YES IT IS A BUNCH OF MONEY...........TRASH IT!!!


  14. Why would you post this? food saftey is number 1[​IMG]

    Last edited: Aug 21, 2013
  15. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    David, evening.......    we all realize food safety is Number 1 here...    we can't force folks to be food safety conscious....  Some stuff you just have to say, "I tried"..... know what I mean... 

    Gitterson learned a valuable lesson and seems amenable to making adjustment in how he treats raw meats..   Cool.....   I think we have a new ally in the battle against food borne illness...   Gitterson, evening..... welcome to the "Food Safety is Number One" group....

  16. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    themule69, that is a very rude way of greeting a new member! He had only been a member for 7 1/2 hours and you start yelling (yes when you type in all caps it indicates yelling) at him and basically said he was stupid for asking the question. He joined this forum because he had a serious question about food safety and you start yelling at him. This will not be tolerated on SMF.
    Then you try and call out a very experienced moderator who told the OP to go ahead and smoke it while he contacted our resident food safety expert to give advice. And then want to mention rules, you probably need to reread the forum rules.
    If you want to comment on food safety then you need to cite facts and not just yell at someone and give disparaging comments like "why did you even ask the question?" He asked because he did not know the answer and was looking for help, he wasn't looking to get yelled at!

    An official warning will be given later today for this action.
  17. gitterson

    gitterson Newbie


    Before going to town on me, I wish you would have actually read what I wrote:

    "I *think* I'm going to let the shoulder finish out, pull it and freeze it for myself.  If it *did* turn, at least it will be only me that finds out.  If it did NOT, then I have a whole mess of lunches for the next 3 months."

    Did you not understand this?  If I even finish cooking it, I'm going to freeze it for MYSELF.  

    I went on to say that I had 40 pounds of meat to smoke by Saturday...as in, I'm buying more and smoking it instead of serving yesterday's questionable meat.


  18. food safety is a touchy subject, theres tons of talks about it as youve seen...it IS important but not all of us have the same immune systems..i myself am an owner of an iron stomach, theres not too much if anything that will make me sick. i personally dont live word for word out of a food safety handbook, but thats just me. i think it really boils down to how confident you are in your methods or your cook, pair that with a few helpful pointers from folks here on the forum and im sure youll make the right decision. only you'll know the answer in the end, all we can do is help you along the way. good luck with your smokin endeavors and welcome aboard! have fun!
  19. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member


    it's always a good idea to err on the side of caution. I think you and you and your brother will be ok with the ribs as they were likely out of the danger zone within 4 hours since they take so little time to reach 140˚ once they hit the cooker. As for the butt, like I said, I would be ok with it as it's JUST outside the parameters of safe handling. If it had been out all night, or in a fridge that died at an unknown time, or left in a hot car, then yes, it would need to go. Your decision to prepare fresh meat for your guests, however,  is a sound one will take any worry out of the event.

    As you've witnessed, people can get pretty passionate about things here at SMF. This is one of the friendliest forums I've ever seen and the mods do a great job of keeping it that way. This thread is a perfect example of the spirit of this place. It's one of the few examples I've seen of things getting a little heated, yet the reason for it was primarily a concern for the safety of you and your guests. I hope you'll stick around and continue participating in the discussions here at SMF. There is a ton of great info, and I've learned more about smoking and cooking in general here than just about anywhere else. Plus, I've "met" a lot of really great people.
  20. gitterson

    gitterson Newbie

    Ok, last question here...I think.  :)

    A (documented) mistake I made was pressing the probe in at the onset, potentially pushing any bacteria from the surface into the meat.  

    With everything in mind that is represented in this thread, I wonder if I can just cut (rather than pull) about an inch inward from the bark on all sides (except the fat cap).  Would I (again, in theory) have safe meat on the outer edge?  For all intents and purposes, the outside of the shoulder would have come up to temp quickly (POSSIBLY under, surely NEAR the 4 hour mark).  If bacteria gets to the center, does it get "all over" after that?

    Thanks everyone.  All in all, this has been a good experience for me.  There are, let's call them "passionate", folks on every forum.  The fact that the moderators keep a handle on it is a big bonus for the SMF.  Thanks to all for your help.

    Last edited: Aug 22, 2013

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