Refrigerate your pumpkin pie, even if the store doesn’t

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The U.S. pumpkin crop has been plentiful this year, so pre-season sales should offer opportunities to purchase pumpkin for breads, rolls and muffins, cakes, cookies and pies, said Karen Blakeslee, Kansas State University Research and Extension food scientist.

And, while a traditional Thanksgiving dinner might seem incomplete without a pumpkin pie, consumers may question why pumpkin pies can be stored on a grocer’s shelf when the general food safety recommendation for pumpkin (and other custard-style) pies requires refrigeration, Blakeslee said. Custard-style pies are prepared with eggs and milk, ingredients that have a high moisture content, and when stored at room temperature attract bacterial growth, the food scientist said.

Guidelines

To qualify for display at room temperature, commercial pumpkin pie recipes must be formulated with shelf-stable ingredients such as preservatives and antimicrobials, Blakeslee said. Labels on the shelf-stable pies will include “RT,” which means that the commercial product meets the guidelines for shelf storage at room temperature, and “sell by” or “use by” dates, Blakeslee said.

Once purchased and taken home, the pies will fare best if refrigerated before and after cutting, said Blakeslee, who spends her working hours answering food and food safety questions as coordinator of K-State Research and Extension’s Rapid Response Center.

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