Safe reheating for chili cookoff

melva02(z7 VA)May 13, 2008

My company is having a chili cookoff at our diversity fair tomorrow. The cooks are supposed to bring electric crock pots (slow coookers) to keep the chili hot for about an hour while people eat it. The fair starts at 10:30 a.m. so most cooks will be coming from their desks, not from home. I was planning to go to my friend's house to heat up my chili on his stove and borrow his big crock pot.

The cookoff organizer said he thought most people would just plug in their crock pots in the morning and let their chili reheat until the tasting. Is that safe? On one hand, the food will spend a lot of time in the danger zone between 40 and 140°F. On the other hand, if it's heated to 165°F before serving, won't that kill anything that grows while it's reheating? I think the biggest danger is that the crock pots may not heat the chili to a safe temperature by the time the tasting starts.

Any food safety tips for this particular situation? My chili is vegetarian and I plan to reheat it either at my friend's house or in a microwave at work, then move it to the crock pot, so mine will be safe.


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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Yes. Its heated for a heat, which if prepared well, should not affect the safety. Most chili has cooked beef, or meatless ones that have acid from tomatoes. I wouldn't leave it out for more than 24 hours and then heat it, as that may be a bit more unsafe. Made the night before, cooled and refrigerated, then in the morning placed in a crock pot to heat it again, is just fine. I would expect everyone would start the heating in a crock pot before 8am. Only thing is, if its on a low setting it will take forever to get hot again. If the crock itself can be placed in a microwave for a couple of minutes, that can get it a little warmer much faster, then it can go back to the crock pot heater. Another option is to also bring an electric hot plate. These can get quite hot very fast and could heat up the chili much faster, but you need to stir it so it doesn't burn. Your decision to reheat in the microwave would be nearly the same way you would normall heat and serve it the next day after you made it.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 8:02PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

There are two issues. One is the safety issue you describe. The other is simply to have it heated sufficiently to be appetizing. All I can say is that you are right to take measures so that it is really hot prior to the start of serving. One idea would be to start reheating while getting ready for work, then wrap the pot in towels while traveling.

So far as what others do... Well, there's a limit to the amount of responsibility you can take on your own shoulders. I hope it turns out well. Let us know.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 9:53PM
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Take along an instant read thermometer and insert it into each pot of chili before it is served. If it is less than 165* then more heating is necessary to be safe. Other foods served hot may need different temperatures to be safe.

Since you have already gone off to work today with your chili, you probably won't be reading this and it will be too late, but I thought I'd post it for those who take "pot luck" dishes that have to be served hot.

Nancy the nancedar

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 7:11AM
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melva02(z7 VA)

Well, I decided to heat up my chili before I went to work. I started it in its pot on the stove at my friend's house (where I was borrowing a big crock pot). I started it on high thinking I could turn it down once I got a little heat into it, but it started burning almost immediately, so I gave up on that and transferred all but the burned layer to the crock pot, and heated it in the microwave. When I got to work I plugged it in, and then about 90 minutes later I brought it out to the cookoff where they kept it plugged in for about 2 hours. I didn't stay to find out how the other people heated theirs...I didn't eat any either, since there was other food at this fair.

I did bring up the food safety concerns with the organizer while discussing logistics for my own chili, so I guess Jim is right, that's all I can do. Nancy, the idea about the thermometer is great; if I ever run something like this I'll definitely use that. A few years ago many people got sick after eating catered food at a robotics competition in Richmond...I can't remember why.

Thanks for the advice! I love having this forum as a resource. Yesterday at work I gave the safety presentation at our staff meeting, and I chose food safety. It was easy to plan, and at the end I gave a little sidebar on botulism and the risk of canning green beans in a BWB. People seemed interested and asked questions, and today at the diversity fair my coworker pointed out that his barbecue sandwich was below 140°. They learned something via me thanks to this forum!


    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 11:15PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

You did well Melissa, by using those opportunities to spread awareness of food safety. It must have given pause to the organizer and your safety presentation was timely, to say the least! Sooner or later, most likely sooner, everyone you spoke to will face a pot luck situation and will remember your advice.

Next time, volunteer for the committee and use your clout to set up better procedures.

We had a similar "diversity" luncheon where I used to work. Thankfully it was a spontaneous, grassroots happening and was highly enjoyable. It would have been ruined if been one of those "you are encouraged to attend" sort of things. I became locally famous for my lima beans which, ironically, I had learned to prepare totally from my friends who were instigators of the luncheon. They are good!


    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 5:18PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

I've seen people get sick after eating a hot dog off the grill. A whole family had food poisoning that same night, except one kid to passed on the hot dogs.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 12:32AM
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melva02(z7 VA)

I work for the electric company and they really do a good job with focusing on diversity. This fair was huge, it was sponsored by the central VA diversity council (we have a council for each of our major geographical areas). Everyone was encouraged to attend but not forced, and they had buses going to it from the downtown areas where people don't want to move their cars. Supervisors made accommodations with the workload, so even the union guys came out.

My favorite part was the fashion show. The theme of this year's fair was "powered by generations" so we got to see some of our coworkers macking it down the runway dressed up in outfits from the past few decades. And of course they had some linemen modeling past and present safety clothing...I'll take the JC Penney work clothes catalog over GQ anytime. ;-) Of course I would never make such objectifying comments at work. 0:-)


    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 11:52PM
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