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4 to 40 in 4 hours guidelines


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Below is a post that a friend of mine Chef Jimmy J (the food safety administrator in a US forum where Steve and I manage the UK group) made over a year or so ago that clarifies one of the food safety "rules" that has led to a lot of perfectly good food being thrown away because of its misinterpretation. Too many people consider it as an inflexible rule, rather than the general guideline that it is. Rather than recreate the information, I have quoted the post below and at the bottom you can find a link to the original post.


You will often see this called, " The Rule " . This RULE, a Guideline actually, is the most frequently misquoted and misused info on <<forums>>. More perfectly good meat has gone in the garbage at the hands of this," RULE " then from folks cleaning their Refrigerator or Freezer!!!

Rules have set parameters that cannot, under any circumstances, be exceeded...Guidelines set useful control points that need an action or review but leaves the operator open to interpret data and decide on action based on variables and changes.

Here is the 40 F to 140 F in 4 hours Guideline...

Uncured Meat that is not Intact as in Ground, Injected*, Boned/Rolled &Tied or have multiple Punctures to insert flavorings, should be cooked at a temperature, 225+ F, that will get the Internal Temperature from 40 to 140 degree in 4 hours.

If the Meat, a Pork Butt, Beef Brisket, Etc, is Intact, other than Therm Probe, it don't matter if the IT takes 4 hours or 24 hours to get above 140 if we want it there at all!!! The interior of muscle is Sterile, so there is no Bacteria to worry about.
The reason for the term Guideline over Rule is because if the meat takes 4 hours and 5 minutes to reach 140, or 4.5, 5 or even 6 hours, is all lost? NO! We add variables that need consideration. Bacteria rapidly grows to Unsafe Levels in, " The Danger Zone, 40 degrees to 140 degrees, " Only under PERFECT conditions. Bacteria need the right Temp, Moisture Level, sufficient Food and Time to grow. Remove, reduce or affect any of these and growth slows or stops. Like most of us, bacteria don't just jump out of bed and go to work. If conditions go from one of no growth to a condition that sustains growth the bacteria need time, often hours to Wake up and start multiplying This is called the " Lag Time " before growth. Then they need more time to grow from a few to dangerous levels. Additionally, where one type can still survive at the extreme of 140, many others slow or stop growing at temps as low as 120 degrees and are killed at 130 degrees if held there for sufficient time. Are THESE bacteria an issue if we run over 4 hours? NO again, they were dead an hour or so ago. Now add ingredients that Inhibit Bacterial Growth like Salt, Sugar, Alcohol and Acid, with a Wet or Dry Brine, Marinade, even Injected* and the 4 hours can be exceeded by a couple hours with no concern.

(*Injecting Chicken or Beef Broth is more of a concern, than injecting a high salt brine or marinade that contains salt, sugar, acid or alcohol.)

Yes, we need to Cover our Butts and assume ANY or all types of bacteria may be on the meat and Handle it properly, watch smoker and internal temps, be aware of and follow "Guidelines".
Yes, we are here to learn, teach and help each other. However if you are going to tell a member in a panic to, " Toss that DEADLY meat out! ", based on a Guideline...You better Know what the 40 to 140 in 4 Guideline is and if YOU are unsure, reassure the panicked member to hang in there, that we can help and pass the question on.

You want a good " RULE "...It is NOT, " When in Doubt, Throw it out. " The Rule is, " When in Doubt, PM somebody that KNOWS the answer! "...JJ

40 to 140 in 4...A Guideline and what to consider...

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