Is It Bad To Put Hot Food In The Fridge?

You know that it's important to chill food in the refrigerator once you're done with your hot meal, but how soon can you actually put your leftovers away? Do you have to give them a cool-down period on your counter before stashing them? Is it actually a bad idea to put hot food in the fridge, or should you get it in there ASAP?

There are a few thoughts on the topic. Some people think that if food goes in the fridge while it's still hot, it will spoil inside the fridge. However, that's not so, reports AARP. Shelley Feist, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education, told the publication that it's vital to get food in the fridge within a two-hour period of time. Leaving it out any longer puts you in the "danger zone," where bacteria can rapidly multiply.

Another concern is that large quantities of food in large containers can take longer to completely cool in the fridge, and in the meantime, it can raise the temperature of the inside of the refrigerator, putting the rest of the food inside at risk of being at too warm. In that case, Feist suggests putting the food into small, shallow containers. 

This advice corresponds with USDA recommendations. They note that to prevent the growth of bacteria, it's crucial to cool the food rapidly. Even if it's still warm, dividing it into smaller containers will allow each one to cool quickly inside a fridge. For example, if you have a large heap of meat leftover from your dinner, chop it into smaller portions before chilling, and if you have a ton of soup leftover, divide it between small containers. 

The USDA even says that you can put hot food directly into the refrigerator. Another option is to rapidly cool it off in an ice or cold water bath before refrigerating.

The bottom line is that keeping the food on the counter for long periods of time is not recommended, and putting hot food in the fridge is perfectly safe.