Keep Holiday Pies Food Safe

What’s Thanksgiving or Christmas without your favorite homemade pumpkin pie? When you make them, also remember to make sure to refrigerate your pies to keep them food safe!

Pumpkin pies are a custard-style pie made by using potentially hazardous foods such as eggs and milk. Food temperature controls are especially important with foods classified as potentially hazardous.

According to the USDA, it is not safe to eat homemade pies with egg-based fillings that have been allowed to sit at room temperature for two hours or longer. The reason is that bacteria will grow rapidly when the homemade pie is kept at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. To prevent foodborne illness, the pie should be refrigerated within two hours.

If a pie contains milk, cream and or eggs, it should be refrigerated. This includes milk and cream in any form – regular milk and cream (no matter what the fat content), buttermilk, sour cream, cream cheese, and evaporated and condensed milk products. Those ingredients contain high levels of protein and moisture that are fertile grounds for the growth of bacteria.

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After cooking a pie, cool it at room temperature for only 30 minutes after removing it from the oven. Then, refrigerate it to complete the cooling. It’s okay to place the pie in the fridge if it’s still warm.

Store-Bought Pies at Room Temperature?

You may be wondering why it is then, that you see pumpkin or pecan pies on display at the grocery at room temperature. Food safety specialists point out, commercially produced pumpkin pies have preservatives and other ingredients added to make them shelf-stable to prevent germ growth for five days. This is identified by proper labeling found on the box or container. However, even those pies should be refrigerated for storage at home especially after they have been cut.

What is the Temperature Danger Zone?

The Temperature Danger Zone is the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F. At warm temperatures, 60°F and above, bacteria that cause foodborne illness can begin to multiply. At temperatures of 80°F and above, they multiply rapidly.

While foodborne illness usually means uncomfortable intestinal flu-like symptoms, it can be serious for young children, the elderly and persons with chronic illnesses.

The 2-Hour Rule

If you pack perishable food in an old-fashioned brown paper bag, it can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime. Perishable lunch foods, such as cold cut sandwiches and yogurt, can be left out at room temperature for only 2 hours before they may become unsafe to eat.

Additional Pie Safety Tips

Additional pie safety tips include making sure you purchase clean, refrigerated and uncracked eggs. Keep hands clean by washing them with warm water and soap before handling ingredients. Also, wash utensils, equipment and work surface area with hot soapy water before and after contact with eggs. Never leave milk or eggs out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.