A couple of weeks ago I awoke to a dark and silent house. The power was out. It turns out that a giant tree limb had fallen on the street behind my house, taking down the power lines with it. It took most of the day but the power was restored and things went back to normal. However, sometimes power outages can last for much longer, as was the case six years ago when a massive outage affected much of northeast North America for a few days. We’re also in the middle of hurricane and tornado season and power outages are common during these storms.
If you’re concerned about power outages and the contents of your fridge while you’re away, consider this tip: Place an ice cube in a ziplock bag and lay it flat in the freezer. Check on it when you return – if the ice cube is still intact, everything in the fridge and freezer should still be good. If the ice cube has melted and re-frozen, the power was out for an extended period and the contents are not safe to eat and should be discarded.
If the power is out for a relatively short time, refrigerated foods should still be safe for about 4 to 6 hours. Do not open the fridge during this time, as it will let in warm air and increase the temperature. If the power outage is going to last longer, add bags of ice to the fridge. A refrigerator thermometer is good to have so you can ensure that the proper temperature is maintained in the fridge and freezer, particularly if you live in an area that is prone to a lot of blackouts. A good guideline for safe food handling is: If in Doubt, Throw it Out.
For more information about food and water safety during power outages, visit: Food and Water Safety when the Power Goes Out.
There is a new Kitchen Tip of the Week posted each week. You can also check out the archives for more helpful tips and tricks.