In this month's Curious Cook column in the New York Times, I write about dealing safely with leftovers.
Last April, the noted food writer Michael Ruhlman suggested on Twitter and in his blog that many home cooks are unnecessarily afraid of bacteria, and that it’s okay to prepare a chicken stock and keep it on the stovetop for days at a time. Michael—Mr. Ruhlman in Times parlance—heard back from many “mystified” readers, and suggested to Pete Wells, the editor of the Dining section, that the Times address the issue of safe stock handling. And Pete suggested it to me.
So the column is in no way aimed at Michael, a fine writer with whom I’ve worked in the past. In fact it was his idea. He wanted to understand a complicated issue better, not simply justify his own perspective. I admire him for that.
It turns out that keeping stock on the stovetop is not such a good idea. For an expert opinion I checked with O. Peter Snyder, a consultant and educator whose writings about food safety are unusually crisp and down to earth. His website includes an extensive list of downloadable guides to handling food. Most of these are aimed at the food industry, but there are also guides for the home cook and for organizers of large group events, where a simple mistake can make many people sick.
For the case of the Japanese family I describe in the column, see
Shiota, M. et al., Rapid Detoxification of Cereulide in Bacillus cereus Food Poisoning. Pediatrics 2010, 125: e951. Doi 10.1542/peds.2009-2319