As an enjoyer of large, elaborate steak dinners, I often find myself with a partially eaten, leftover baked potato. Perhaps you’ve experienced this as well. It’s not a bad thing — you can use the leftovers to make really good breakfast potatoes — but you should take a small amount of care when storing them.
If you are in the habit of wrapping your potatoes in foil when you bake them (I usually leave them naked for a crisper skin), be sure to remove that foil as soon as your spuds come out of the oven. Foil decreases the amount of oxygen the potato sees, and a lack of oxygen can lead to botulism, which no one wants. According to FoodSafetyNews.com, cooked potatoes are a Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) food, a category of foods that must be stored with care:
Foods in this category are prone to bacteria growth for several reasons: They are moist, contain protein and have a neutral or slightly acidic pH. This combo lends itself to the growth of microorganisms and the production of toxins.
As you are probably aware, it is important to keep these TCS foods out of the temperature danger zone:
Your potato is at a dangerous temperature when it is between 5–57 degrees Celsius. Food experts call this range the temperature danger zone because within these temperatures, it is easiest for bacteria to multiply to unsafe levels on your food.
Baked potato botulism outbreaks are rare, but they do happen, and this is one instance where it really is better to be safe than very very sorry. Luckily, steeling yourself against baked potato botulism is very easy — you just have to follow some simple food safety rules, and remove the foil from your potato as soon as it comes out of the oven, even if you are planning to pop it in the fridge right away.
Problems arise when potatoes (and other TCS foods) sit at room temperature for four hours are more, but that should give you plenty of time to consume your baked potato (Food Safety News recommends eating them within two hours to be extra safe, which is still plenty of time.) You can also keep the potatoes hot, but that can lead to drying out or overcooking your potato.
Removing the foil, however, is something you should do right away, even if your potato goes directly from oven to fridge, as it will have to pass through the danger zone while it cools and that, coupled with a lack of oxygen caused by the foil, can create favourable conditions for botulism:
The good news is that botulinum bacteria need a low-oxygen environment to grow and thrive, which means that most food is safe from botulinum bacteria. The bad news is that when you wrap your potato in aluminium foil to bake, the potato is now in a low-oxygen environment.
Luckily, all you have to do is let your potato see some oxygen. So eat your potatoes while they’re hot, foil removed, and get any leftovers in the fridge as soon as you’re done enjoying your spud.
Tune into these important food safety tips for cooked potatoes |Food Safety News