I forgot about my beans on the stove overnight. There is no meat in them. Are they still ok, or should I be concerned about bacteria?

I started to cook some beans last night following this recipe: http://www.seriouseats.... Per the recipe, I soaked the beans for 30 mins, brought to a boil, and simmered for 30 mins. Then I covered and forgot about them on the stove. It is now about 15 hours later. Can I just simmer them now to finish cooking, or is there something unsafe about getting halfway through cooking and forgetting about them? Is this all clear or bacteria city?



Martin C. October 7, 2019
I have been boiling my black beans twice a day for 5 consecutive days and they taste amazing. I leave them untouched after boiling. I’ve used the fridge in the past but have gone bad in 2 days.
RR November 28, 2018
This Q&A was posted 6 years ago but hopefully this may be of use to someone. My recipe for frijoles en olla, instructs the cook to "set aside, preferably until the next day. ...put them into the refrigerator when they are cool, as they very quickly turn sour -- especially in hot, muggy weather. Just bring the up to a boil for a few minutes each day..." This is after having cooked the pinto beans for almost 3 hours. That said, Mrslarkin's experience is similar to mine. My family had beans on the stove for days, and served them after bringing them to a boil before serving or refrying. And THAT said, I'm going with the recipe to be on the safe side.
JessicaHansen November 17, 2012
Thanks everyone. Consensus seems to be that i'd likely be fine, particularly after a hard boil but that this us clearly against the rules and potentially dangerous. I threw out the beans, in large part because I hoped to feed them to my 2-year old daughter, and didn't want to take any chances. Thanks for all of the thoughtful responses!
mrslarkin November 16, 2012
We're talking just beans in water, basically. I wonder what the possible contaminants could be? In many cultures, legumes are soaked in water overnight all the time, and then boiled the next day. Has a scientific bean study been done that should be exposed? Because my whole family has, for decades, been soaking lupini beans on the kitchen counter for 4 days or so. And they've lived to tell about it.
ChefOno November 16, 2012

Pathogenic bacteria are *everywhere*. You should just assume that everything is or will be contaminated. Give bacteria the right conditions and they can replicate at a staggering rate, doubling in number every 20 minutes. One can become millions overnight. Fortunately most are easily killed at normal cooking temperatures (the pasteurization point) so when you cook your beans, they become safe to eat. Some bacteria, such as C. botulinum and B. cereus which are ubiquitous in the soil, can produce toxins that are not destroyed at pasteurization temperatures but can be inactivated at higher temperatures. Certain cooking techniques, such as slow cookers and sautéing are insufficient to reliably destroy such toxins. There have been countless cases of food poisoning resulting from improperly cooled rice used in stir-fries. And there have been numerous cases of food poisoning from undercooked kidney and other beans which contain a potent toxin from the get-go. Soak your beans, boil for 10 minutes, problems averted.

ChefOno November 17, 2012

And, yes, food scientists are well versed in the microbiology we're discussing, it's just that we are dealing with third level food safety here. Consumers are (hopefully) taught that food should be refrigerated after 2 hours (1 hour if the ambient temperature is above 90F). Professionals are told food may only be in the danger zone for 4 hours, a more complex concept but allows greater flexibility. We're discussing how -- and why -- the rules can be safely bent. For more information, I encourage you to read the article written by Harold McGee (linked above).

MaddyBelle November 16, 2012
Anything above four hours at room temperature is considered dangerous. I wouldn't play with it.
brandon November 16, 2012
health department would say no, but honestly I would heat em up and use em.
Greenstuff November 16, 2012
From the CDC:
Because botulinum toxin is destroyed by high temperatures, persons who eat home-canned foods should consider boiling the food for 10 minutes before eating it to ensure safety.

The whole website is here http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/botulism/clinicians/control.asp
mrslarkin November 16, 2012
Ugh, I hate when that happens. Are the beans too mushy to boil again?? If so, start with new beans. If not, I would give it a shot, drain and rinse the beans and start with fresh water, and a new garlic clove. Also, in step 8 of the recipe, you are cooking the rice and beans for 20 minutes, which is a good long time. I've been looking for good Nicaraguan recipes, so thank you!
mimishoeflypie November 16, 2012
The nice thing about blogs is learning new things. From now on I will use the 10 minute rule too.
Thank you.
ChefOno November 16, 2012

According to USDA guidelines, you should discard the beans.

That said, I, personally, wouldn't. I'd bring them to a full boil for 10 minutes and then proceed. That is, assuming the beans had not turned to mush by that point, always a possibility when boiling soft beans.

Here is what Harold McGee has to say about bending the rules:


Greenstuff November 16, 2012
This Harold McGee article may be what you're thinking about. You're right, there's a lot of conflicting information.
mimishoeflypie November 16, 2012
Reboiling for 3 minutes should kill everything. Beans were/are a trail pioneer and cowboy staple.
ChefOno November 16, 2012

Three minutes will not kill Bacillus Cereus for example (6.7 - 8.3 min. @ 212F). Ten minutes is the accepted time period for deactivating bacterial toxins.
boulangere November 16, 2012
No amount of cooking time will kill a toxin.
ChefOno November 16, 2012

They aren't denatured at pasteurization temperatures if that's what you're thinking about. I see Greenstuff posted the answer below.

Christine November 16, 2012
I read recently that stock left out overnight, if boiled again, was safe so I'm surprised by the above answer. I'm not stating that the beans are safe, but there seems to be very conflicting info out there.
ChefOno November 16, 2012

There are many aspects of food safety that are not settled within the scientific community. Add to that different rules for home and commercial operations. Multiply that by the number of myths and the amount of disinformation running around since before our parents' time………..The bottom line is you should never deliberately create a hazardous situation such as the one being discussed here. And if you accidently do, either be safe, follow the guidelines and throw it out, know *exactly* what the dangers are and how to eliminate them, or be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Kristen M. November 16, 2012
To be totally safe, you should throw them out, unfortunately. That's a long time in the danger zone.
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