Two winter survival basics people forget during a white-out: 1) food availability; 2) food safety. What are the best items to stock up on? Is your refrigerated food okay to eat after a power outage? How long will your freezer keep your food at a safe temperature without power?
With Jack Frost continuing to work overtime in the US, here are the foody facts you need to stay safe.
Stock up on non-perishable foods, both for your business and your home
There are a few essential food items that no home should be without during a white-out. Think along the lines of cereal, nut butter and pasta, tinned soup and dried fruit.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends having a three-day supply of non-perishables for each member of your household. (Remember, conditions may be so bad that you are unable to drive.) Add some fruit and veg to your list too. Okay, they’re perishable. But they’re also cheap, have a lengthy shelf-life, are easy to prepare and will keep you topped up with vitamins.
Stay cool during a power outage
When the teeth-chattering temperature outside is cold enough to clog diesel, it seems bizarre to worry about your food stocks spoiling by getting too warm. But investing in battery-operated fridge and freezer thermometers could save you a lot of hassle.
The FDA recommends making sure your freezer is at or below 0oF – and your fridge at or below 40oF. In the event of a power outage, having your fridge/freezer below the required temperature will keep your food safer for longer.
Keeping your food safe is about knowing your limits
Arcade Fire got it right: a power out is nothing to shout about. Especially if you run a food business. Unfortunately they are common when unprecedented levels of snow collect on power lines and tree branches. If you do lose your electricity, a full freezer should keep your food at a safe temperature for 48 hours (24 hours if your freezer is only half-full). Perishables – such as milk, yoghurt and meat – will stay safe for around four hours in an unpowered fridge. After this you could store them in a container outside. As long as the temperature is below 40oF (and stays there), you’re good to go.
If a power outage is likely, take to the oven
Power outages are hard to predict. But if it seems likely, you might want to consider cooking-up your meats and storing them in the fridge (or outdoors if and when you lose power). It means you won’t have to go without your protein. And there’s less chance of tasty treats going to waste. Cooked poultry as well as ham, lamb, beef, pork and veal will last three-four days when kept consistently below 40oF after cooking. (Allow your meat to cool completely before refrigerating.)
Cooking on gas…
During a white-out, firing up the BBQ is probably the last thing on your mind. But if you have a gas range or an outdoor grill, it will mean you are far less limited in terms of what you can and cannot eat. (If your cooker hobs are gas powered, even better. You can ignite the hob with matches or a gas click lighter.)
With a gas stove you can heat soup, boil water for pasta and rice (not to mention a much-needed cup of joe), make a simple stir fry or whip up an omelette or scrambled eggs. You can even get busy with sausages, bacon and beans for a simple fry-up. At home it can be a huge saving grace. And if you run a restaurant, you could win a lot of new fans by showing your culinary creativity and never-say-die attitude.
What to do when the power returns
It may not be at the top of your list, but one of the most important things you can do when your power comes back is bee-line for your fridge and freezer thermometers to check the internal temperatures. The sooner you check, the surer you can be on the safety-status of your food.
If the freezer temperature is at or below 0oF, your food will most likely be safe. If you want to be really sure, buy a handheld food thermometer and sample each package. Your refrigerated foods are likely to be safe providing they spent no longer than four hours outside the 40oF safe-zone.
If you are unsure, err on the side of caution and get rid of it. After the stress and disturbance of the cold weather, the last thing you want is to spend three days with a painful stomach.
Got any winter kitchen survival tips of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments.