Cool Hot Foods
From 140°F to 40°F or colder within four hours. Quick Cooling slows the growth of harmful bacteria. Harmful bacteria can cause foodborne illness.
Cool Foods Using One of These Steps:
- Reduce the size of large pieces of hot food by cutting large items into smaller pieces (no more than two inches thick). Divide large batches into smaller portions.
- Pour thick foods into pre-chilled shallow pans to a depth of no more than two inches. Pour thinner liquids to no more than 3 inches deep. Thick foods include gravy, chili, stew, mashed potatoes, and most vegetables. Thin foods would include most soups, excluding chowder.
- Put a mixture of half ice and cold water in a large pan or sink. Immerse the pan of hot food into the ice water bath.
- When the food reaches a temperature of 70°F, cover it and transfer it to a refrigerator to complete the cooling process.
- Place the pans of food in a quick chill unit or a blast chiller for rapid cooling.
- Stir food regularly
- Check the food temperature in several places to ensure it will cool within 4 hours.
- Never use the refrigerator or freezer to cool large quantities of hot food.
- Label cooled and stored foods with the date, food type, and time prepared.
- Take corrective action if food is not cooled to 40 °F within 4 hours. Reheat to 165 °F for 15 seconds in two hours. Discard food if it is not served immediately.
Materials in the For Safety's Sake series were produced by members of a special Food Safety Agent Resource Team and have been peer-reviewed by individuals from Family & Consumer Sciences and The Food Science Department at North Carolina State University.
Date: November 1998
Publication date: Dec. 29, 1998
Revised: Oct. 4, 2023
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