Can You Put Hot Food in Your Refrigerator?
If you're like most people food safety is somewhat of a mystery. Unfortunately, the consequences associated with improper food handling and storage can be dire, ranging from mild stomach upset to severe illness or even death—prompting a need for strict adherence to food safety guidelines. One of the most common dilemmas that homeowners face is whether or not to put hot food in the refrigerator, and the experts at Mr. Appliance® have the answers you need to ensure your leftovers are stored safely and correctly.
Can You Put Hot Food in the Fridge?
Depending on how many people you ask you are likely to receive conflicting advice on the topic of storing hot food. Some insist it is necessary to allow food to cool on the counter before placing it in the refrigerator, to prevent raising the temperature of the interior and contents, while others believe there is no harm in going straight from the stovetop to the fridge.
While there are several important factors to consider throughout the process, experts advise putting your leftovers into the refrigerator as soon as possible in accordance with the following guidelines:
- The danger zone for food items is anywhere between 40º F and 140º F, where bacteria growth can double in as little as 20 minutes.
- Keep hot food hot at 165º F or higher, and cold food cold at 40º F or below.
- Food that requires refrigeration should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Tips for Putting Hot Food in the Fridge
Because it is important to get food out of the danger zone as quickly as possible, proper storage techniques are needed to maximize the efficiency of the cooling process. Tips include:
- Avoid the use of deep containers. The goal is to lower the temperature of the hot food to 40º F as quickly as possible—but if the volume of food is too great there is a good chance the center of the food may not chill within the desired 2-hour time frame.
- Divide large quantities of food including meat, into smaller portions and place them in several smaller, shallow containers.
- Leave enough space on the refrigerator shelves around your leftovers for the air to circulate, to enhance the cooling process.
- Steaming food may be chilled in an ice water bath prior to placing it in the fridge to cool it down faster.
- Steaming food may also be left on the counter until it has stopped steaming prior to placing it in the fridge.
- Be sure to cover any hot liquids such as soup or stew before placing them in the refrigerator, as the elevated moisture levels can put unnecessary strain on the condenser.
- Reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165º F, and make sure it is heated evenly all the way through.
- Discard leftovers that have been left out at room temperature for two hours or more, or for one hour if the temperature is 90º F or higher.