The Lies of StillTasty.com

By Matthew Yglesias

crispy_bacon_1

On Ezra’s recommendation I tried out StillTasty.com, a useful site that tells you how long you can keep food around before it goes bad. But is it useful? Or is it full of lies? For example, is it really true that once you open a package of commercial vacuum packed bacon and use some of it that the rest goes bad in 3-5 days? That’s definitely not my experience. I buy some bacon one weekend and cook some, then cook some more the following weekend all the time. Even the weekend after that! Yes, bacon does go bad eventually and, yes, you want to make sure to wrap it carefully if you want it to last a while, but that’s cured meat it doesn’t go bad in five days.

Onto another subject, is it really true that real parmiggiano-reggiano cheese goes bad faster in a freezer than in a refrigerator? On this I have no knowledge since I’ve never kept any around for nearly that long. But if StillTasty’s contentions are true, they’re very interesting. But can I really count on a site that expects people to eat a whole package of bacon within a five day span?

15 responses to “The Lies of StillTasty.com

  1. I suspect that how fast bacon goes bad depends on the exact cure used. In my experience, how long bacon lasts depends greatly on the brand, the humidity level in your refrigerator, and whether it is salt- or sugar-cured. I’ve had bacon get nasty/almost slimy in about a week (never bought that brand again) and I’ve had it last for weeks.

  2. I wrote about this yesterday on my blog. They also claim a zero-day shelf life for unrefrigerated pickles and beef jerky. These are preserved foods!

    StillTasty’s primary source of information seems to be US government agencies, which are notoriously over-cautious.

  3. And legions of college students are still alive today after eating pizza left over from the night before that was left out on the coffee table (or milk crates).

    I didn’t bother bookmarking the site after reading a couple of its recommendations when I saw it yesterday

  4. I had the same reaction looking at the recommendation for salami.

  5. It must have been the same site where Sara Moultan got her info for her GMA spot this week, it all sounds a little extreme. If we listened to them Coscto would go out of business.

  6. Zach (in Baltimore)

    Cheese lasts forever in a fridge if you follow certain methods to contain moisture, etc (check the Internet). Parmesean in particular lasts weeks for me in an airtight container. In fact I was just at my parents’ place, who don’t really know what to do with parmesan, and used a bit that I’d purchased for Thanksgiving… totally fine. Why put it in the freezer?

    In my experience, bacon gets scummy if you don’t wrap it well after opening because of all the fat, but seal it up and you’re totally right.

  7. Zach (in Baltimore)

    @Stuart … the pickles aren’t the problem. It’s just the case that brine is the perfect place for many things to grow, and once you unseal it, anything goes.

  8. I recently brined a brisket in my fridge in an open container for 2 weeks, and no one got sick. I had followed Martha Stewart’s instructions.

  9. I would never leave opened pickles unrefrigerated.

    The stilltasty site says they last a year once opened for quality, longer than that for safety –I don’t find that unreasonable.

  10. And legions of college students are still alive today after eating pizza left over from the night before that was left out on the coffee table (or milk crates).

    I just ate some today – and I’m not in college!

  11. But can I really count on a site that expects people to eat a whole package of bacon within a five day span?

    Can we really trust an alleged food writer who would leave delicious bacon in the fridge for more than 48 hours? It’s *Bacon*, man! Eat up!

  12. Pickles used to be distributed in barrels at room temperature. Shocking but true! Brine, assuming it’s properly acidic, is not actually a particularly pleasant environment for microorganisms. You can read as much at StillTasty in their discussion of ketchup.

  13. My son ate a corn dog last night that had been in our freezer for about two years. He said it was a bit freezer burned, but still ok.

    I told him it would probably be better with some baconaisse…

  14. Robert Cowger

    I vacuum pack all of the easily ruined foods using a vacuum sealer and bag. Then it is stored in the freezer. I opened and used, yesterday, a pair of beef tenderloins that had been packed and frozen since 2007. No problem, it was just as tasty.
    As for cheese, I put a folded paper towel upon which I put some vinegar, and then vacuum both the cheese and the vinegar towel. Cheese keeps this way for several years.
    I do not know how long. I use the cheese in a year or so and it is still good and as tasty, no freezer taste. Same with all of the other cheeses, remember they are fungus grown and vinegar controls fungus growth.
    I even put rice, beans and other dried fruits and vegetables in freezer bags and vacuum them shut. They last a long time.

  15. I just took a Microbiology test and I know for a fact that some of the still tasty comments are lies.. the fridge and freezer do not kill bacteria, they just prolong the growth. SO .. be careful what you eat.
    -Jenny
    Kitchen Scales

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