No, hot food doesn’t need to cool down before going in the fridge

U.S. food and health agencies say it’s a myth that hot food shouldn’t go in the refrigerator.

A question many families face following the Thanksgiving feast or any type of big meal is how to store the leftovers.

On Google, searches for “is it safe to put hot food in the fridge” increased Thanksgiving week. Earlier this month, a Reddit post about letting food cool before it goes into the fridge garnered more than 1,000 comments.

THE QUESTION

Does hot food need to cool down before going into the fridge?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, hot food doesn’t need to cool down before going into the fridge.

WHAT WE FOUND

FoodSafety.gov, the federal government’s one-stop-shop for food safety information, says it’s OK to put hot food in the fridge and the Washington State Department of Health says it’s a myth that hot food needs to cool down before being refrigerated. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends putting food in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking. Doing so helps prevent bacteria growth.

“Bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40 F and 140 F,” the USDA says. “Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator or be rapidly chilled in an ice or cold water bath before refrigerating.”

As for large amounts of hot food, such as a big pot of soup or whole roasts, the USDA recommends dividing it into smaller portions, putting it into shallow containers and placing those containers in the fridge as soon as possible.

Minh Duong, a postdoctoral associate of food safety at Virginia Tech, said it’s important to set refrigerators to 40 F or lower and to have adequate airflow.

“Something you might want to try to avoid is stacking containers on top of each other,” Duong said. “This will allow you to prevent uniform distribution of the air in your fridge.”

MORE from VERIFY: Verifying which Thanksgiving foods are safe for pets

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