Originating in Texas where it was called "a bowl of red," chili has emotional advocates on both the "only with meat" camp and chili-with-beans camp. But whether your chili is a vegetarian bean version, an elegant white bean and chicken version, or a classic beef only version, it needs to be simmering and steaming on the stove top or you need to follow safety guidelines for any type of food left off the stove.
On the Stove Top
As long as the chili remains steaming, at a temperature above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it is safe for hours. The problem with leaving it on the stove top is that it can get dried out. If you leave the chili on the stove, check it every 15 minutes, add additional water or stock to keep it steaming and give it a thorough stir. Use an instant-read food thermometer in the chili if you have any doubts about the temperature.
On the Counter
Once you remove the chili from the stove, you can keep it at room temperature for up to two hours, and reheat it on the stove or in the microwave back up to at least 165 F for serving. A better choice for a buffet is to keep the chili in a heated chafing dish or slow cooker where it can stay at a temperature of at least 140 F.
Since slow cookers typically keep cooked foods between 170 and 280 F, chili will be safe for hours as long as the slow cooker remains on. The warm setting will keep the chili within the safe 140 F range. As happens on the stove top, the chili will dry out and become overly thick and you will need to add more liquid periodically.
In the Refrigerator
Simply placing a large pot of chili in the refrigerator is not safe. The fridge itself will accommodate a warm pot, but the chili might take longer than the safe, two-hour period to cool off completely to 40 F. After two hours, food that is still warm, in the danger zone between 40 and 140 F, is more susceptible to the growth of harmful bacteria. Divide the chili into several smaller bowls to ensure that it cools to below 40 F within the two-hour safe time period.
- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- USDA Food Satety and Inspection Service: 7 Food Safety Steps for Successful Community Meals
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Food Thermometers: A Key to Food Safety
- USDA Food Satety and Inspection Service: Slow Cookers and Food Safety
- Super Foodsafety.gov: Bowl, Slow Cookers, and Food Safety: An Unbeatable Team
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images