How Long Can Ground Veal Sit Out?

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Some potentially dangerous microorganisms are associated with ground veal, including salmonella and E. coli. Proper handling is essential to preventing foodborne illnesses. Your ground veal -- whether or not it's still in its packaging -- is most susceptible to rapid bacterial growth when it sits out too long in the temperature "danger zone." Familiarize yourself with this concept and basic food safety rules to avoid making yourself, your family or your guests sick.

Danger!

  • The temperature window between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 F is referred to as the "danger zone" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When your ground veal is within this range, bacteria counts can increase up to 100 percent in as little as 20 minutes. This is why your refrigerator must be set below 40 F; it's also why you can't safely slow-cook meat at temperatures below 170 F.

The Countdown

  • Room temperature -- generally considered to fall between the mid-60s and mid-70s -- falls squarely within the danger zone. Ground veal may safely be left out at room temperature, and even between 40 F and 90 F, for as long as two hours. However, bacterial growth accelerates when the atmospheric temperature or that of the veal exceeds 90 F but still falls within the remainder of the danger zone. At this temperature, ground veal can only safely sit out for as long as one hour.

Safe Storage and Handling

  • Refrigerate fresh ground veal below 40 F during storage. Cook it within two days of purchase or freeze it. Your freezer should be set to 0 F. Store packaging is too porous for more than short-term use in the freezer; for storage of longer than two months, repackage the veal in an airtight bag or reinforce the store packaging with layers of plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.

Safe Thawing

  • It's unsafe to defrost frozen ground veal at room temperature, as it generally needs to sit out too long to fully thaw. The best way to thaw it is by simply moving it to the refrigerator one to two days before you plan to cook it. It can even be safely re-frozen without cooking with this method. Alternatively, submerge an airtight package of ground veal in cold water for one to two hours, replacing the water with new, colder water every half hour. Cook the food promptly after thawing. Your microwave's defrost setting works, too, though it partially cooks the veal at the same time. This can negatively affect the quality of your finished product and necessitates immediate cooking after thawing.

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