NC State Extension Publications

Refrigerated Foods - If the Power Goes Out, What Can I Keep?

  • Keep the refrigerator doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
  • Place a thermometer in your fridge and freezer.
  • Use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer to check foods (cooking and storage temperatures).
  • Have items that don't require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated on an outdoor grill.
  • Unsafe food may not appear or smell to be spoiled.
  • A closed fridge will keep food below 41°F only about four hours after a power loss.
  • A closed freezer can keep food below 41°F for up to 48 hours if full and kept cold.

Meat, Poultry, and Seafood

Item Held above 41°F for over 2 hours
Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood; soy meat substitutes Discard
Thawing meat or poultry Discard
Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad Discard
Gravy, stuffing, broth Discard
Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef Discard
Pizza - with any topping Discard
Canned hams labeled "Keep Refrigerated" Discard
Canned meats and fish - opened Discard


Item Held above 41°F for over 2 hours
Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk Discard
Butter, margarine Safe
Baby formula - opened Discard


Item Held above 41°F for over 2 hours
Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products Discard
Custards and puddings Discard


Item Held above 41°F for over 2 hours
Soft Cheeses: bleu/blue, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco Discard
Hard cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano Safe
Processed cheeses Safe
Shredded cheeses Discard
Low-fat cheeses Discard
Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar) Safe

Sauces, Spreads, Jams

Item Held above 41°F for over 2 hours
Opened mayonnaise, tarter sauce, horseradish Discard if above 50°F for over 8 hours
Peanut butter Safe
Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles Safe
Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, hoisin sauces Safe
Fish sauces (oyster sauce) Discard
Open vinegar-based dressings Safe
Opened creamy-based dressings Discard
Spaghetti sauce - opened jar Discard

Casseroles, Soups, Stews

Item Held above 41°F for over 2 hours
All Discard

Pies, Pastry

Item Held above 41°F for over 2 hours
Pastries, cream filled Discard
Pies - custard, cheese filled, or chiffon; quiche Discard
Pies - fruit Safe

Bread, Cakes, Cookies, Pasta, Grains

Item Held above 41°F for over 2 hours
Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas Safe
Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough Discard
Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes Discard
Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette Discard
Fresh pasta Discard
Cheesecake Discard
Breakfast foods - waffles, pancakes, bagels Safe


Item Held above 41°F for over 2 hours
Fresh fruits - cut Discard
Fruit juices - opened Safe
Canned fruits - opened Safe
Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates Safe


Item Held above 41°F for over 2 hours
Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices Safe
Greens - pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged Discard
Vegetables - raw Safe
Vegetables - cooked; tofu Discard
Vegetable juice - opened Discard
Baked potatoes Discard
Commercial garlic in oil Discard
Potato salad Discard

For More Information

This factsheet is also available in Infosheet Format.

For more information on disaster preparedness and recovery visit the NC Disaster Information Center.


Extension Food Safety Specialist and Assistant Professor
Agricultural and Human Sciences

Publication date: July 1, 2014

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