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Keep Pumpkin Pies Safe This Holiday Season!

Store homemade pumpkin pies in the refrigerator.

Store homemade pumpkin pies in the refrigerator.

To refrigerate pumpkin pies or not to refrigerate? That is the question. You have seen pumpkin pies in the bakery section of supermarkets not refrigerated and you wonder if you can do the same at home. Unfortunately, homemade pumpkin pies need special care to prevent foodborne illness.  Pumpkin pies are a custard-style pie made by using potentially hazardous foods such as eggs and milk.  Food temperature controls are especially important with foods classified as potentially hazardous.

Pumpkin pies also have a high moisture and protein content. They must be kept at a refrigerated temperature of 41° F or cooler. If the pies are left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours, bacteria grows more rapidly and can cause a foodborne illness.

When cooking, make sure to test your pies for doneness by inserting a clean knife in the center. The knife should come out clean. Remove the pies from the oven and allow them to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes. After they have cooled, cover and refrigerate to keep them cold.

So, why are pumpkin pies displayed at room temperature at the supermarket?  These pies are formulated with shelf-stable ingredients, such as preservatives, that prevent harmful bacteria from growing.  Commercial pies must be properly labeled, “approved by the Food and Drug Administration”. They will carry the letters “RT”, which means they meet the guidelines required for display at room temperature. The label will also give a “sell by” or “use by” date. Even these pies should be refrigerated for storage at home especially after they have been cut.

Additional pie safety tips include making sure you purchase clean, refrigerated and uncracked eggs. Keep hands clean by washing them with warm water and soap before handling ingredients. Also, wash utensils, equipment and work surface area with hot soapy water before and after contact with eggs. Never leave milk or eggs out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.

Enjoy those traditional holiday feasts, but keep them safe!