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How did the heat impact my pantry?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
I am a novice cook looking to understand how ingredients and food store as part of my learning experience. I just moved into a new apartment at the start of 2012. As spring and summer came without A/C I soon learned that I would not be in the kitchen at all during the warm months. It was typically around 80 to 90 and 95 on the warmest days in my kitchen (I'm in an upstairs apartment). I do live in Wisconsin so my kitchen varied between 50% and 60% relative humidity on average. My pantry of course was the same temperature humidity. My question is, how do pantry items hold up to that? I have canned beans for example, an unopened jar of sun dried tomatoes, and tuna. Are these products affected? What about my spices and extra virgin olive oil? I'm worried they would have gone bad from being in such heat for so long. Am I being paranoid? I ordered some type 00 flour and cans of authentic San Marzano tomatoes online around May of this year. Some of the cans were slightly dented. What are the chances the tomatoes are bad? The flour came in a big plastic sack and I transferred them to clear plastic tubs with lids when I got it and stored them in the pantry. How can I tell if the flour is bad? I just worry that the heat destroyed some of this food. Any tips on storage or something else I can be doing?

Thanks for the understanding and consideration. I look forward to information anyone can provide.
post #2 of 3

I live in a top floor apartment in Chicago without AC and I don't really worry that much about it. Commercial kitchens probably get hotter every night all year round than my apartment does for a few days in the summer. (OK. This year it was more than a few days.) Mostly what I have problems with is chocolate melting and herbs and spices losing flavor.


I wouldn't worry about the canned goods--except maybe the dented cans. Don't know what it is about San Marzano tomatoes but every time I see them in a store at least half of the cans are dented. Lots of people eat things from dented cans without incident but I don't buy them myself. 


Here's what the USDA has to say on the subject of dented cans:


Is it safe to use food from dented cans?
If a can containing food has a small dent, but is otherwise in good shape, the food should be safe to eat. Discard deeply dented cans. A deep dent is one that you can lay your finger into. Deep dents often have sharp points. A sharp dent on either the top or side seam can damage the seam and allow bacteria to enter the can. Discard any can with a deep dent on any seam.



Smell your olive oil. That should tell you what you need to know. Does it smell nice and fruity or just oily? I know the bottle I had over the hottest part of the summer did seem to suffer from the heat and I threw more of it out than I care to think about.


If the flour is whole wheat, I would also suggest the smell test.  If it's not whole wheat it is probably OK. It's the oil in wheat germ in whole wheat flour that gets rancid.


For more information, here is the USDA web page on food safety:

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
That makes sense. The cans do appear to be sealed and do not appear to have taken on air or are bulging or otherwise harmed. Thanks for your input.
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