Can You Safely Keep Your Food Outside if the Weather Is Cold?
Drive by any random house in the Southern Tier during the winter months and you'll likely spot food being stored on a porch or a deck. It's what our families have done for generations but, is it safe?
I jokingly mentioned to friends that this is the use the porch as a fridge season and wished them well if they celebrate as my husband and I do. I wasn't really prepared for the variety of replies I got because I thought literally everyone set extra food out in the cold when the refrigerator was stuffed thanks to all the extra holiday foods taking up residence.
Some thought my comment was silly, others agreed that they do the same, and then there were some who mentioned that while they were all for using the porch as a fridge, their spouses weren't which led to some friction and even the tossing of some food.
My family lives in the country and we have a plethora of woodland creatures so when we use the porch for food storage, we put things inside coolers to keep the critters out, but we don't add ice because it's cold enough outside. Or, is it?
The mixed bag of comments I got from friends made me curious whether or not it's actually safe to store perishable foods outside during winter whether because room is limited in the refrigerator or because of a power outage.
According to Shelf Life Advice, perishable foods such as pre-cooked casseroles and such, should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours because after that amount of time is when pathogens (bacteria, viruses, etc.) will start to spread like wildfire.
Generally speaking, you should be okay to store food outside as long as the temperature is somewhere between 30 and 40 degrees. Anything colder and food will freeze (which isn't an issue if you're trying to keep frozen food frozen) and anything warmer may lead to the growth of harmful bacteria.
One friend mentioned that they use the porch to store alcoholic beverages for their holiday gatherings this time of year. Keep in mind that alcohol can still freeze and soda certainly will if the temperature gets low enough. When wine, beer, liquor, and such will freeze is all dependent on its alcohol content and The Spruce Eats has a fantastic chart spelling out freezing points for different volumes of alcohol.
Soda, on the other hand, will freeze once it reaches 30 degrees (and the same is true for most beers). Regular soda, that is. Diet soda tends to freeze right around the 32-degree mark.