It’s a dilemma most people have encountered but can never find a straight answer online: which leftovers are safe to reheat and which aren’t?
Rice has made headlines in recent weeks after TikTok users claimed it gave them severe food poisoning – but most Chinese food makers reheat it for days.
Kim Lindsay, an accredited practicing nutritionist in Australia, told DailyMail.com that she has four foods that are quite risky to reheat – and four that, contrary to popular belief, are actually okay.
For example, she says despite the myths circulating, fish is perfectly safe to heat. However, your colleagues may not be happy when you start cooking salmon in the microwave.
Not sure: eggs
The FDA recommends leaving egg dishes out for no more than two hours, or an hour in hot weather
They seem to last forever – up to six weeks – in the fridge before cooking. But if you have eggs left over from yesterday’s breakfast, you are more at risk.
You can easily put them in the microwave or oven. The problem is when they stay in place.
Eggs can contain the bacteria salmonella, which causes food poisoning, and leaving them out for a long time gives bacteria more time to multiply.
Lindsay says eggs stored in temperatures between 40 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit are the “danger zone.”
“Germs can grow faster at this temperature,” she said. “When a food contains more pathogenic and more harmful bacteria, there is an increased risk of food poisoning when it is consumed,” she said.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends that eggs or dishes containing eggs should never be left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours or one hour in hot weather.
The agency also recommends using up leftover egg dishes within three to four days. Be careful with the microwave though.
“The tricky thing about the microwave oven is that it can be a bit uneven when it heats up. Sometimes it’s hot at the edges and cold in the middle, or vice versa,” said Ms. Lindsay said.
She recommends stirring the dish halfway through the microwave, and inverting the container to ensure the heat is evenly distributed.
“If you want to use a recipe where eggs are not cooked through, buy pasteurized eggs that have been heat-treated to kill any disease-causing microorganisms. [and] keep the diet going,” food safety expert Toby Amidor told DailyMail.com.
Not sure: rice
Bacillus cereus, a bacteria found in rice, is heat stable, meaning it can still form if rice is reheated
Leftover rice is a staple of Chinese cuisine and is usually considered completely harmless. However, it made headlines on TikTok after users claimed it gave them food poisoning.
This is because cooked rice contains Bacillus cereus, a spore-forming bacterium commonly found in soil and vegetables.
It is found in many raw and unprocessed foods, including potatoes, peas, beans and certain spices.
“Rice is a big risk,” Ms Lindsay said. “These spores are heat resistant, so even if you heat them, they can still cause harmful pathogens.”
Bacillus cereus disease symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
“A lot of people pre-rinse rice to get rid of the bacteria,” Ms Amidor said.
Rice isn’t the only grain that can harbor bacteria. Any grain poses a similar risk if not properly stored and reheated.
Not sure: spinach
Leafy greens like spinach contain nitrates, which can be converted into carcinogenic properties
Reheating spinach can be directly linked to an increased risk of cancer.
Leafy greens like spinach contain compounds called nitrates.
When nitrates are heated, they can break down into other compounds that increase cancer risk.
Nitrates themselves are harmless. However, bacteria already living in the mouth and enzymes in the body can convert it into nitrites and then into nitrosamines. It has carcinogenic properties that can cause cancer.
One study estimated that people get about 80 percent of their nitrates from vegetables.
Nitrates are also found in fennel, radishes, carrots, bok choy and beets.
If spinach is not heated properly, the listeria bacteria can still live on it.
It can cause listeriosis, a serious infection that causes fever, flu-like symptoms, headache, stiff neck, confusion and even seizures.
In general, ready-to-eat salads and store-bought vegetables carry a risk of listeria, Ms Lindsay said.
Not sure: potatoes
Potatoes left at room temperature or heated in foil for too long can increase the risk of botulism
As with rice, the problem with potatoes is not the heat itself, but leaving it out too long.
Leaving them at room temperature for more than two hours puts you in the “danger zone” that can lead to Clostridium botulinum growth.
This causes botulism, a condition in which toxins can attack the body’s nerves and cause breathing problems.
This leads to symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. It ends fatally in one out of ten cases.
Baked potatoes cooked in foil also have an increased risk of botulism.
“The bacteria that comes out of the soil will be on the potato, and then the aluminum cuts off the oxygen and it’s free to grow,” Ms Amidor said.
Ms Lindsay says part of the risk posed by mashed potatoes is their perishable ingredients such as milk, butter and cream.
“Make sure you leave it out for less than two hours and reheat to steam and keep in the fridge to reduce the risk of food poisoning, especially if you’re using those perishable ingredients like butter and milk.” or have cream,” she said. said.
As long as they are properly heated, most types of fish are safe to reheat in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven.
Despite its negative reputation for leaving an unpleasant smell in the office microwave, fish has little risk of being reheated the next day.
“Fish is safe to reheat,” Lindsay said.
The FDA states that seafood that is caught fresh and then frozen immediately is safe to reheat.
As with rice and eggs, you shouldn’t keep them at room temperature for more than two hours at a time.
While you can microwave it and not get sick, heating it this way can dry it out and ruin the texture.
Cooking in the oven or on the stove will prevent drying out.
The FDA recommends refrigerating cooked fish for no more than three to four days and making sure it is cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ms. Amidor suggested covering the fish while reheating it to ensure it reaches the ideal temperature.
Safe: Deli Meat
The risk of listeria is lower with heated sausage products
Delicatessens have long caused panic over Listeria warnings.
However, Ms Lindsay said there was little cause for concern.
“When it is cooked and heated, it is completely safe,” she said.
Cooking the meat helps kill the listeria, Ms. Amidor said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends heating processed meats and cheeses to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill Listeria.
The condition is caused by a bacterial infection that a person gets after eating contaminated food.
Additionally, much of the risk is in people who are pregnant, immunocompromised or over 65.
“Someone with a good immune system has a pretty low risk,” Ms Amidor said.
Heating milk can destroy bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli
While you probably drink milk cold, sometimes you may need to heat it up for a recipe.
This is unusual, but not unsafe.
“Because it is a perishable product, it will probably get a little more attention, like the expiry date of milk and cream. And that’s why you want to make sure you do,’ said Mrs Lindsay.
However, Ms Lindsay said heating at high heat can kill forms of bacteria such as listeria, salmonella and E. coli.
“It’s going to have this high heat that destroys that bacteria, and then it should be safe to consume.”
However, breast milk and formula may have a greater risk of nutrient excretion.
“If you keep heating the stuff up and down, you might destroy some of the vitamins,” Ms. Amidor said.
Reheating chicken to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit lowers the risk of salmonella
Although it will probably have better texture and flavor on the stovetop or in the oven, chicken is still safe to reheat in the microwave.
The key turns it every two minutes until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
This lowers the risk of salmonella.
According to FDA guidelines, Ms. Lindsay that chicken poses few safety concerns as long as it is not left out for more than two hours.
The FDA also recommends refrigerating cooked chicken for no more than a day or two.
For fried chicken, Ms. Amidor suggested heating it in the oven to keep the breadcrumbs crispy.
Crystal Leahy is an author and health journalist who writes for The Fashion Vibes. With a background in health and wellness, Crystal has a passion for helping people live their best lives through healthy habits and lifestyles.