Got a big dinner party planned, or just trying to get ‘prepped’ for the week ahead? Either way, you’ll be wanting some help saving a little time at a later date. Can you make curry ahead of time? Yes of course you can! But you’ll need to do it safely. Today I’ll give you some tips about food safety and show you how you can pre-prepare curry for later use. Let’s get the cooker on!
Quick Answer | Can You Make Curry Ahead of Time?
Yes, it is entirely possible to make curry ahead of time, up to a couple of days ahead, in fact. You’ll tend to find that curry tastes even better if it has been left to chill in the refrigerator. Provided you observe proper food hygiene and don’t push your luck, it is safe to make curry in advance. It is no different from any other cooked food.
To find out how to do it, read on…
How Far Ahead Can You Make Curry?
Curry is actually no different than any other cooked food that you make.
As a general rule, and according to the UK National Health Service, cooked food stays good for 2 days. After this period, it is time to strongly consider whether you want to really eat that Korma.
Why only 2 days?
Well, it all has to do with bacteria.
You’ll find bacteria pretty much everywhere in the world. As a general rule of thumb, the more bacteria there are in food, the worse it gets for your health.
‘Bad for your health’ means food poisoning.
Cooking destroys the majority of bacteria in your food. This makes it safe to eat, and why you’d only consider eating a piece of chicken after you have cooked it and not before. Can you pre-cook chicken for curry? Yes, indeed, check this out!
With it so far?
But here’s the thing about those pesky bacteria. They love to breed and multiply. Bacteria needs four things to really get going: -
- The Right Temperature
… And multiply they will!
How bad can it get? Well, do the maths… If you have one single bacterium doubling at a rate of once every 15 minutes, you’ll have 16 by the first hour… By hour number 5, you’ll have over a million bacteria.
Here’s a video showing you how quickly bacteria multiply: -
Moisture and food you can’t control… But something you can influence is the temperature of your food.
Enter… The fridge.
The reason fridges work to keep food good is because they delay the rate of bacterial growth.
When those little bugs are chilly, they don’t like to get jiggy, at least not as often. But eventually, they persevere until they are up to more harmful numbers.
How long does this take?
It varies, but to be on the safe side, 2 days is a nice, round, and easy to remember number that will stop you from getting ill.
Why Make a Curry Ahead of Time?
There are plenty of reasons to make curry ahead of time.
The best bit?
It is completely safe to do so!
Here are some reasons why you might want to do it: -
- You are cooking different types of curries to serve all on the same evening and want to lighten your workload.
- You are cooking for company and want to be able to spend time with your guests.
- You love curry that much that you want to eat it a couple of days in a row.
- You have time now but not later.
- You want to take a portion to work.
- You have made a curry and decided to change the menu last minute
Remember, curry is just like any other cooked food. You can treat it and store it in the same way, and it will be fine.
What About Storing it Longer than Two Days?
This is also possible. But you’ll need to know how to freeze curry safely.
Where can I find that information?
I’ve written a detailed article on freezing curry right here.
How to Make Curry Ahead of Time and Food Safety Tips
With the above in mind, let me offer you some tips on making curry ahead of time and how to observe proper food safety when getting your curry ready.
Make Sure your Curry is Fully Cooked Beforehand
Listen, guys, we want to start from a position of strength. As I said above, cooking kills bacteria and makes food safe to eat.
If you don’t get rid of the bacteria, then they can breed at a quicker rate. There are things I like in curry and things I don’t.
Bacteria is one of the things I don’t!
Cool Your Curry Quickly
OK, here comes the science bit, concentrate!
It is an old wife’s tale that cooling hot food quickly is dangerous. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Because of the way foodborne bacteria behaves at given temperatures.
Ever heard of the ‘Danger Zone’?
This is a window of temperature when bugs in your food can grow quicker. The longer your food spends in the ‘danger zone’, the more likely it will become overrun with harmful bacteria.
Where is the danger zone for food?
It is any temperature between 8°C and 60 °C… Yes, that does include room temperature.
By chilling your food quickly, you reduce the amount of time that it is in the danger zone. So, once it is safely tucked into a container, and has cooled a little, whack it in the fridge!
Store Your Curry in an Airtight Container
There are a couple of reasons why storing food in airtight containers works well.
First, it stops your curry from drying out. Nobody wants a curry with skin on top… Although you can get skinny curries!
Second, it reduces the amount of air around your food, further inhibiting bacterial growth.
Thirdly, it stops any spills in the fridge. These can go bad if left to do their thing… Besides this, curry makes one hell of a stain.
Finally, it stops any other food dripping into or cross-contaminating your curry.
Oh, and before I forget, it isn’t good practice to store cooked food next to things like raw meat or fish. Put your curry on a high shelf above uncooked ingredients.
Make Sure Your Fridge is Cold Enough
While the danger zone is around 8°C, you want to steer well clear of it. So you want your fridge to be at 5°C or below. Obviously, if you go too cold, then food will start to freeze.
When Reheating Your Curry, Make Sure It Is Piping Hot
Alright, so it has got to the time to reheat your curry.
But there are a few things to remember.
Your hot food did pass through the danger zone on the way to being cold… The last thing you want to do is warm it back up to stay in the danger zone.
Remember what I said?
Heat kills bacteria. So, make sure that your food is hot.
In order to make sure your reheated food is completely safe, heat it to above 70°C for at least 2 minutes to ensure that all those food bugs have died!
Can You Reheat Curry Twice?
OK, while you probably could, it isn’t a good idea for a couple of reasons
Well, you are increasing your risk of food poisoning. Every time your food passes into and out of the optimum window, there is a risk that bacteria will grow.
Secondly, according to the US Department of Agriculture, because of the way that various molecules and proteins behave within food, heating it up and cooling it down will reduce the quality.
There’s no point making curry ahead of time if it’s not very palatable when it comes to serving it!
How Long Will Curry Last Out of the Fridge?
Ah, this is a good question!
About 2 hours.
Curry shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. And sadly, once it has passed this time, there isn’t much you can do to make it safe.
Certain types of food bugs develop heat resistance, so even cooking isn’t going to help from this point on.
Can You Make Curry Ahead of Time? | Final Thoughts…
It is absolutely possible to make curry ahead of time, provided you follow some simple (and common sense) food hygiene rules. In short, cook your curry through, store it safely, and cool it down to below 5°C. You can make curry for up to 2 days ahead of time using these simple rules. Now that you have freed up some time, what are you going to make? Why not have a read of my curry guides and see if you can find something delicious?