If you lose power, don’t store your food outside in the snow

man shoveling snow in backyard
Photo: Helen H. Richardson / Contributor (Getty Images)

After this week’s unfortunate sky dump of a snowstorm over Chicago and much of the country, we’re all mired in a winter wonderland. I took a short walk yesterday to see the fun, and the snow reaches well above my knees; some snowdrifts are up to my chest. Luckily, the city doesn’t appear to be hurting for power right now as we all blast the heat inside our homes—but Texas, we feel for you. Hang in there.

In the instance that we do lose power, many people might be wondering: Is it okay to move your food outside into the snow if your refrigerator stops working? Theoretically that would be okay, as long as the temperature was cold enough, right?

Not so fast. According to FOX4 a Kansas City affiliate, experts say you shouldn’t actually do this. The hard rule is that your refrigerator should be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the event that the power goes out, your fridge will keep food cold for about four hours while your freezer has around 48 before things get dicey.

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The USDA has a Q&A section on its website where it tackles some of these questions. Apparently, even if it’s quite cold outside, food can still thaw inside its packaging when exposed to direct sunlight. That means there’s a chance that foodborne bacteria could proliferate in your food. Yikes. There’s also chances that the outside air temperature could fluctuate, causing uneven temperatures that could potentially screw up your food too. Don’t forget dust, nasty car fumes, and general grime, along with curious animals that might rummage through your stuff while you’re sleeping.

What the USDA does suggest, however, is taking advantage of the freezing temps outside by filling small buckets or empty milk containers with water, and letting them freeze outside. After you’ve got solid blocks of ice, you can put them in the refrigerator or freezer to keep the internal temperatures lower for a while if your fridge is off. So be safe, don’t take chances, and no leaving that frozen pizza on the back porch, okay?

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

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DISCUSSION

murrychang
Murry Chang

You put it in a cooler outside and then pack the cooler with snow.  Best if the cooler is in the shade and not direct sunlight also.