Keep your food from spoiling during a power outage
Pro tips for perishables, frozen goods and more
A spring storm hits, plunging your home into darkness. You’ve got your flashlight and radio from your emergency kit, and everyone is warm, safe and dry. But as the minutes tick by, you may find your thoughts creeping to the kitchen. Will that pot roast in the fridge start to spoil? How long before your ice cream melts?
Follow these tips to keep your food cucumber-cool until power is restored.
Before the outage
Install appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer
This helps you identify if your food enters the danger zone of higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep the fridge and freezer full
Filling the fridge with cold food and water helps keep everything cold longer (the same way a cooler full of ice will stay cold longer than one half full). Tuck extra bags and bottles of water into the fridge and freezer to enhance this effect. You can even freeze items like milk, leftovers and fresh meat that you don’t need to use immediately. Just don’t pack the fridge and freezer too full; cool air must still be able to circulate.
Drop the temperature
If you anticipate an outage or receive notice of a planned one, think ahead and set your refrigerator temperature to the coldest setting.
During the outage
Don’t open refrigerator and freezer doors
It’s tempting to check on that carton of milk, but keeping the fridge and freezer doors closed — and the cold in — helps your food stay fresh longer.
- Unopened, your refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours without power.
- Unopened, your freezer will keep food cold for about 48 hours without power.
After the outage
Assess food safety: fridge
- Refrigerated food is safe if the door was kept shut and the power was out for no more than four hours.
- Be sure to cook any meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs to a safe minimum internal temperature before eating to kill foodborne bacteria.
- If you have any reason to suspect foods in this category were not kept at safe temperatures, discard them.
- Once the power comes back on, open the fridge and check the thermometer you placed inside. Discard perishable foods that were kept above 40 degrees for 2 hours or more.
- Some foods may be safe to keep. Refer to this handy chart from foodsafety.gov to learn more.
- Discard any perishable food that was kept above 90 degrees for 1 hour or more.
Assess food safety: freezer
- Once the power comes back on, open the freezer and check the thermometer you placed inside. If it’s 40 degrees or cooler, food is safe to refreeze or cook.
- If food packaging contains ice crystals and/or is 40 degrees or cooler, it is safe to refreeze or cook. All other food should be discarded.
Stay safe. Be prepared. Learn how at pec.coop/be-prepared.