Today a Facebook friend of mine revived a thread I had posted on another site ages ago. I know we're all adults and most of us have cooked for generations, so much of this is common sense to you. I'm posting this for the young people here who are learning. SQUISHY, this is for you kid. Read all the links. As old my first chef instructor, Chef Patricia used to say "I teach you this so you'll be smart. Besides it makes interesting cocktail chatter". This will be a long thread. Read it at your leisure. Todd was making gumbo for a party, it was real good - he took it to the party and very late that night when things had quieted down (very late) he still had about a gallon of gumbo. It had sat out at room temperature for quite a number of hours. It's great gumbo but he's concerned it being out so long risks food poisoning. He PM'ed me but I didn't see his msg until much later. My answer would have been the same I gave him if I had seen it earlier when he sent it. What do you think. If you were Todd what would have done with the gumbo ?? Here are some food resource links. Read this info. Keep this thread in the back of your mind and remember this info should you find yourself in Todd's dilemma - or have some ask you what they should do... Remember it is always better to be safe and throw away something you are worried will give someone food poisoning than to risk actually giving them food poisoning... Period. Here is a link that has scads of other links talking about proper food handing in the home. There are links with info and questions, read them ALL. Priceless info. http://food.oregonstate.edu/safety/ Not to be obtuse sounding here is what Todd SHOULD have done with the gumbo soon as people were done eating it - this is in the first two hours he is at the party, NOT AFTER... Reason being that food has a "ticking clock" of four hours. From the time you make it to the time you serve it to the time you want to refrigerate it, it should either be completely cooled down and refrigerated or tossed... In that four hours the warm food is the perfect environment for foodborne bacteria to grow and cause illness... So if it went more than four hours from the time it came off the stove to the time it was COMPLETELY cooled down (we're talking 40 degrees with a quick read thermometer) it should get thrown out. I know when people are at parties it's not easy to stay focused on stuff like this but anyone who has had foodborne illness will testify it's not something you want to repeat happening to you OR to do to someone else. When you have a big pot of soup or sauce you have cooked and want to pack it up there are two ways to do it - break it down into small containers and get it someplace cool (not the fridge) to cool off fast THEN cover and refrigerate it. OR once the pot has been off the heat say 20 minutes or so you can do what restaurants do: make an ice water bath in your kitchen sink and put the pot in there. The level of very iced water in this bath must be even with the level of the food in the container you are trying to water bath cool. Stir the product repeatedly until the temp reaches 40 degrees with a quick read thermometer. If all the ice melts in the sink add more. The object is a quick and thorough cool down... THEN break into smaller containers or refrigerate the now completely cooled product still in the pot in your fridge... Just putting warm food in containers and putting it in the fridge like that IS NOT good. You MUST get it cooled down before covering and refrigerate. Otherwise those warm containers of food will not only be their own little bacteria havens but severely bring down the temp of your fridge and create a real problem with a lot of food you already have in there... This link has a lot of food safety questions and answers. Read and re-read until you REALLY get this. Ask questions if you are not sure. http://www.ksfoodsafety.org/learn_food_safety.htm This below link gives you the info in detail AND pictures of what a proper ice bath should look like. There should be no doubt in your mind and if there is fire away with questions. I'm here to answer them and no serious question is a dumb question. http://www.ksfoodsafety.org/download/Cooling_Ice_Bath.pdf BIG "I teach you this so you'll be smart Besides it makes interesting cocktail chatter" Chef Patricia, my first instructor After I posted this first part I got a lot of "what if" questions. Here a young man asks me what if I take something to a party and it sits out three hours, can I reheat it and will it be safe still ?? From the time it is taken off the heat when initially cooked to the time it was to be served to the time it is TOTALLY cooled down (we're not talking TEPID, we're talking 40 degress with a quick read thermometer) - FOUR HOURS MAX... You make the call Chris, "three hours or so and has cooled down" is vague and uncertain enough I'd lean toward tossing it... What people think is "cooled down" and what we now KNOW is considered cooled down (if you read the links COOLED DOWN is 40 degress with a quick read thermometer). I would bet most "civilians" think cooled down is 70 degrees or so. (really).