Probably the biggest area of confusion in the kitchen is around expiration dates – when you buy something at a store the has an expiration date, is that the date the store has to sell it by, or the date you have to eat it by? What if I freeze it – does that buy you more time, or less? One of my favorite resources (both for myself and clients) is Stilltasty.com.
Their “Keep It or Toss It?” engine lets you type in a food and find out how long it should stay fresh in the fridge or freezer – and, most importantly for personal chefs, it differentiates between raw and cooked foods, which many other resources like this don’t. For instance, I typed in “pork tenderloin” (I’m plagued by spoiled pork) and found that all cuts of pork will stay at their best quality when frozen raw for 4-6 months, but once cooked, are best eaten within 2-3 months. (And it always notes that food properly stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit will keep indefinitely, in terms of being safe to eat – it’s the taste and/or texture that will suffer past the recommended dates.)
Another cool thing: the “Your Questions Answered” section, where it addresses such often-pondered questions like “Can You Safely Drink Milk After the Sell-By Date?” (sure, for up to a week usually) and “I Left Pizza Out Overnight – Is It Still Safe to Eat?” (they say no; I say yes provided you sizzle the hell out of it in a covered skillet til it has reached 165 degrees to kill off any nasties…or maybe I just hate wasting pizza, and having never had food poisoning am willing to risk it – until I get food poisoning, after which I’m sure I’ll change my tune.) They source their data mostly from US government sources, research studies and food manufacturers, and they do a nice job of balancing an abundance of caution with a healthy dose of common sense.
For personal chefs, this expiration date info is great to point clients to, in case they have questions about the expiration dates on meals you prepared eons ago that they’ve just discovered in their freezer. And the “3 Ways to Defrost Food Safely” is worth referencing too, so they know it’s not just you telling them the best way to thaw meals is overnight in the fridge. (And I guarantee that food-obsessed people will be unable to tear themselves away from the site without reading the entire “Your Questions Answered” section.)