Should hot food go into the fridge?

It is fine to store your hot food in a fridge, but there are some considerations you should bear in mind.

I admit it. I am one of those people who insisted on cooling hot food to room temperature before putting it into the fridge.

Then I found that the let-it-cool approach is not only unnecessary, but also detrimental to food safety.

Back in the olden days, when kitchen appliances were still somewhat underdeveloped, putting hot food into the fridge was a big no-no. Not so any more, say the experts. Apparently, modern fridges are able to handle the extra heat.

refrigerating hot food

Still, you do not want to put a large pot of hot stew into the fridge, because the stew probably would not cool quickly enough, which makes it unsafe for eating. When you are making stew for a whole lot of people in advance, your best bet is to take the pot straight from the stove into a water bath. Keep the lid open and change the surrounding water two or three times to accelerate the cooling process. You may also add some ice cubes into the water. Only then store the pot in the fridge. Even better, distribute the food from the pot into several shallow containers and do not stack them all together. Instead, let air circulate around them.

Of course, if you just want to refrigerate some leftovers, feel free to do it while the food is still hot. Leave the container open for an hour or so to avoid a build-up of steam, as this would soften that yummy fried coating and make your food taste not-so-nice.

food containers

All in all, it is better to refrigerate cooked food while it is fresh. If you let it sit at room temperature for about one hour (two in the winter) to cool completely… you may as well throw it away. Your food will not be safe for consumption, because bacteria grow rapidly.

And in case you are wondering, the danger zone for any food is between 4 and 60 degrees Celsius. Therefore, if the food has waited around for more than one or two hours, make sure that it either stays very hot or that it is chilled as soon as possible.