When it comes to food safety, most of us are dealing with a lack of information on the right food safety practices. Unfortunately, the lack of information can result in some serious health implications. Often improper food handling techniques have been associated with numerous minor and major stomach illnesses, prompting the need to strictly adhere to food safety guidelines. With lives getting busier, most of us like to bulk cook and store food in the refrigerator for later consumption.
One common question that often haunts chefs and restaurant owners is whether to put freshly cooked or hot food in the fridge immediately. There are many contradicting answers to this question. While some people are of the opinion that food needs to be stored immediately in a fridge, others support that food needs to cool down to room temperature before being refrigerated. Here are some tips on storing your freshly made hot food in the refrigerator.
- According to health experts, the most dangerous temperature for food is anywhere between 40º F and 140º F, as food at this temperature is prone to rapid bacterial growth.
- It is recommended to store hot food at 165º F or higher, and colder food at 40º F or below.
- Any food that you intend to refrigerate must not be left at room temperature for more than a couple of hours.
- It is extremely important to incorporate safe food handling and storage techniques so that your food remains safe for consumption and the efficiency of the cooling process is maintained.
- It is best to avoid storing food in deep containers. This helps to lower the temperature of the hot food to 40º F as fast as possible. With deeper containers, if the amount of food is high, the centre of the food may not cool down as desired within the 2-hour time frame.
- For maximum efficiency, divide large quantities of food, like meat, into smaller portions. Store them into several smaller, shallow containers before storing.
- Make sure to leave ample space on the refrigerator shelves. This helps air circulation and enhances the cooling process.
- You can choose to cool your steaming food in an ice water bath before placing it in the fridge. This will help your hot food to cool down faster. Alternately, you can leave your food covered on the kitchen counter to allow it to cool down before placing it in the fridge.
- Any hot liquids such as soup or stew must be covered before placing it in the refrigerator. Elevated moisture levels can place unnecessary strain on the fridge condenser.
- When reheating leftovers, maintain an internal temperature of 165º F for correct heating and make sure you turn the food regularly so that it is heated from all sides evenly.
- Any leftovers that have been left in room temperature for more than two hours must be discarded. If the outside temperature is 90º F or higher, discard such leftovers within an hour.