Food Safety Issues/storing leftover food


I would like to know if it is safe to store hot food in the fridge or should it cool to room temperature before storing. What is the correct procedure?

Hi Diana,

A refrigerator is not designed to cool down very hot food, so you should allow the food to cool first, though not to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator.

You should not put deep containers of hot food in the refrigerator but instead, place the hot food in shallow containers (less than 4-inches deep) so it will chill quickly. A large pot of soup or stew, for instance, should be divided into smaller portions and placed in shallow containers before being refrigerated.

If you were a restaurant you would have 6 hours to get the hot food down to an internal temperature of 41 degrees F.  The procedure is to drop the food down to 70 degrees in 2 hours, and then to 41 degrees in 4 more hours. You could place the containers in an ice bath in the sink to help get the heat off the product before placing it in the refrigerator to ensure that it goes down to 70 degrees or cooler within 2 hours.

Happy Holidays,


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Carol Schlitt


I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.


I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc -

National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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