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Cooling food safely

Food handling


Food that has just been cooked or taken out of the oven to cool should be cooled as quickly as possible to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Hot food cannot be put directly into the fridge after cooking.

Putting hot food into a fridge may cause the fridge temperature to increase above 5 °C.

If the fridge temperature goes above 5 °C all other food stored in the fridge is at risk of growing bacteria. 

You need to know the right time to put away food once it has been cooked.

Rules for cooling food

To make sure that food is cooled quickly you should:

  • stir cooked foods frequently to help the food cool
  • take food out of the larger container you cooked it in and carefully put it into smaller containers so it will cool quicker
  • monitor the temperature using a clean and sanitised thermometer
  • allow cool air to circulate around the containers of food to be cooled.

Food must be cooled to 21 °C within two hours.

Storage of cooled food

  • once food has cooled to 21 °C it must be put in the fridge, cool room or freezer to cool to below 5 °C in the next four hours
  • when food stops giving off steam it can be placed in cold storage
  • cover and mark containers with the food type, the time and the date, before putting in the cool room, fridge or freezer
  • cool on racks and not on the floor of a cool room
  • check that the temperature inside the fridge is below 5 °C while cooling food.

Once cooked food has cooled down it should not be left out of the fridge for any longer than two hours.

For example, if the cooled cooked food is to be used over the service period, it can be left out for two hours and portions heated to serving temperature as required.  Any unused food can then be put into the fridge to be used later.

However, if the cooled cooked food is left out for longer than four hours it must be discarded. 

Answer this practice question...

Hot food should be cooled within two hours to a temperature of

Incorrect! Why is this?

Correct! Why is this?

You have the right to reject the delivery if you find the food unsafe

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