Planned repairs, bad weather or overloading the power grid can lead to a power outage. On average, power outages last around 15 minutes, but in the event of a storm or a power plant failure, Germans have to go much longer without electricity. For many, the question arises: How long will the food stay fresh in the refrigerator and when should you throw it away? It doesn’t just depend on the food, other factors also play an important role. We explain why the stored goods don’t go bad straight away.
How long will food stay fresh in the fridge and freezer after a power failure??
How long the refrigerator or freezer compartment keeps the cold depends on several factors.
1. The thermal insulation of the device. Modern refrigerators are very well insulated and can therefore keep food fresh for longer. The higher the efficiency class of the refrigerator, the longer it can go without electricity. Older models have a significantly higher risk of spoilage, mainly due to poor seals and insufficient thermal insulation.
2. The room temperature. The higher the room temperature, the faster the food in the refrigerator and freezer compartment will warm up. In summer, food can go bad after just 2-3 hours. In contrast, they can stay fresh for over 20 hours in winter as long as the room is not heated during the power failure.
3. How often the refrigerator is opened. If possible, do not open the refrigerator during a power failure.
4. What kind of food you keep in the refrigerator. The shelf life can vary greatly depending on whether you have cheese, fresh meat, homemade ice cream or vegetables in the fridge. Below is a list of the different foods.
5. The temperature in the refrigerator and freezer compartment immediately after the power failure. If it is -10 degrees Celsius in the freezer and 4 degrees Celsius in the refrigerator, the food is most likely fresh.
Store food in the freezer and in the freezer
Basically, freezer compartments keep the food in the refrigerator fresh for 24 hours. Chest freezers allow a significantly longer storage time and keep frozen food fresh for over 50 hours. Most manufacturers indicate the storage times in the event of a power failure in tables. In addition, the modern refrigerators are equipped with a detector that shows a message on the display with the maximum temperature reached. If you have invested in a smart kitchen appliance, you will receive a message on your mobile phone when the refrigerator is disconnected from the power and when it is then switched on again. Using the time period, you can calculate how long the power failure lasted and estimate whether the food is still fresh. To be on the safe side, you should check the following:
- Smell and color. If deep-frozen goods no longer look good, if they are thawed and if you can smell a bad smell, you should dispose of the food or food immediately.
- Thawed baby food, ice cream and creams with cream should be thrown away. The risk that you or your children will consume spoiled products is too great.
- Thawed meat, eggs and fish should also be disposed of. They are among the perishable foods on the surface of which Salmonella bacteria can multiply. Frozen food of animal origin should be thawed in the microwave and cooked immediately, cooking the meat through.
- Thawed vegetables can be frozen for a maximum of one week. It is best to throw away completely thawed vegetables.
- You can use slightly thawed fruit for baked goods or dispose of them.
- Even slightly thawed pizza, frozen food and ready meals should be disposed of.
- Food that contains a lot of water usually thaws much more slowly than food that has a low water content.
In cases of doubt, i.e. if the food in the freezer compartment has not been thawed or defrosted, you should measure its core temperature. If it is 4 degrees Celsius or even lower, frozen goods are considered harmless. However, if the products have a core temperature of over 4 degrees Celsius, then you should not consume them.
How to Prepare for a Power Outage: Fill the freezer compartment with dry ice. Group the meat and fish and place them in a container. Even if the meat begins to thaw in the event of a power failure, the defrosting liquid will not drip directly onto the other food.
What not to do in the event of a power failure: Do not take the food out of the freezer or put it outside. Many amateur cooks make this mistake, especially in winter. Even if there are sub-zero temperatures outside, the sun’s rays can thaw the food.
How long can food be kept in the refrigerator in the event of a power failure??
The freezer compartment and the freezer are equipped with detectors, but unfortunately there are none in the refrigerator compartment. Here you should orientate yourself according to the smell and the appearance. Never try foods to test the taste. Otherwise, you risk food poisoning with bacteria like E. coli. Ready-to-eat dishes and perishable foods must not exceed 4 degrees Celsius for more than two hours. Only by observing this condition can you avoid the multiplication of harmful bacteria. Here is a list of foods and an explanation of when to throw them away:
1. For the following meat products, the product temperature should be below 4 degrees Celsius:
- Fresh meat and meat products, cooked meat and meat substitutes made from soy
- Thawed meat
- Hair game
- Minced meat
- Salads that contain meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken or eggs
- Broth, offal
- Hot dogs, pork bacon, sausages, beef jerky
- Garnished pizza
- All cans that contain meat and must be kept in the refrigerator after opening
- Casseroles, soups, stews with meat, fish or meat substitutes made from soy
2. You should definitely dispose of these types of cheese when the temperature in the refrigerator is above 4 degrees Celsius:
- Soft cheeses such as Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, Cream Cheese, Edam, Monterey, Jack, Ricotta, Mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, Queso.
- Grated cheese
- Low fat cheese
3. And these cheeses you can keep:
- Hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, Provolone, Romano
- Processed cheese
4. Some dairy products should be thrown away after 2 hours at over 4 degrees Celsius, others you can keep:
- Milk, premium milk, cream cheese, sour cream, buttermilk, yoghurt, soy milk – dispose of these products if the power failure lasts longer than half an hour.
- Opened starting milk, follow-on milk and children’s milk – discard these products if the power failure lasts longer than 15 minutes.
- Butter, margarine – keep it, the maximum temperature in this case is 10 degrees Celsius
- Milk products such as tzatziki and milk for cream cheese preparation can be stored at a maximum of 10 degrees Celsius.
5. Fresh eggs, hard-boiled eggs with shell, dishes with eggs and foods containing raw eggs such as puddings, quiche, etc. should be disposed of after 2 hours of power failure.
- Throw away fruit salads and coconut milk and desiccated coconut if the temperature in the refrigerator exceeds 7 degrees Celsius
- You can keep fresh fruit, fruit juices, canned fruit, almonds, dry fruit, raisins
7. Sauces and jams:
- Tartar sauce and mayonnaise with fresh egg should be thrown away when the temperature in the refrigerator exceeds 7 degrees Celsius.
- Peanut butter – keep it, the maximum temperature in this case is 7 degrees Celsius
- Keep taco sauce, mustard, olives, pickled cucumbers, the maximum temperature in this case is 7 degrees Celsius
- You should throw away fish sauces when the temperature in the refrigerator exceeds 4 degrees Celsius.
- You can keep dressings with vinegar
- You should throw away spaghetti sauces when the temperature in the refrigerator exceeds 7 degrees Celsius.
- You can keep waffles, pancakes, baguettes, bread, muffins, cookies, tortillas
- You should throw away cookie dough, cooked pasta, rice and potatoes, salads with pasta and mayonnaise or vinaigrette, cheesecake when the temperature in the refrigerator exceeds 4 degrees Celsius.
9. Pies and cakes:
- Cakes with cream, cheesecake and quiche should be thrown away if the temperature in the refrigerator exceeds 4 degrees Celsius.
- You can keep fruit cakes
- Peeled fresh vegetables, green lettuce, boiled vegetables, boiled tofu, vegetable juice, baked potatoes, potato salad, pickled garlic, vegetable soups should be disposed of when the temperature in the refrigerator exceeds 4 degrees Celsius.
- You can keep fresh vegetables and fresh herbs and mushrooms as long as they smell good and no rot is visible.
11. Fish and seafood:
- Remnants of fish or seafood, smoked fish, fried and cooked fish, fish products, cooked and fresh crustaceans and molluscs as well as live mussels should be kept at a maximum of 0 degrees Celsius. Therefore, if the power failure lasts longer than 30 minutes, you should throw this food away to be on the safe side.
If you are at home during the power failure, you can regularly measure the temperatures in the refrigerator and also know the duration of the power failure. However, if you are not at home, you should check the smell and appearance of the food. To be on the safe side, try to consume or use all perishable products during the week.
Food that you shouldn’t keep in the refrigerator
Here’s a mistake that many people make. To keep food fresh for as long as possible, we all too often keep products in the refrigerator that have no place there. Because there are also foods that cannot tolerate the cold very well. Such are among others:
- Vegetables that contain water spoil faster if they are stored below 7 degrees Celsius. Watery vegetables include cucumber, iceberg lettuce, lettuce, tomato, zucchini, and asparagus.
- Honey becomes too hard at temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius, so store it in the pantry.
- When stored in the refrigerator, the bread begins to mold much faster.
- Cooking oil is better stored in the pantry than in the refrigerator.
How to prepare for a power failure: Keep the food in separate containers in the refrigerator and freezer. Check that they smell and look good before consuming. After a power failure, try to use the food as soon as possible. When in doubt, throw them away.
Would you like to finally organize your refrigerator? With these tips and hacks, you will succeed!