Danger zone

Hot and Cold

You have just entered the Danger Zone!

The bacteria that cause food-borne illness need the right environment to thrive in. We’ve already seen how something as simple as soap and water can destroy bacteria by creating a toxic-for-them environment. 

Another way to keep bacteria at bay is by keeping food at the right temperature – either hotter than 60C (140F) or cooler than 4C (39F).

 Temperatures between 5C and 59C let bacteria grow. This is the danger zone for safe food handling.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. 

In practice, here’s what that looks like.

Hot foods 

Keep hot foods on the stove or in the oven. The food itself should be 60C or higher. If you have a kitchen thermometer, use it to check the temperature of the dish. Keep this hot food hot while serving.

You need to cool down hot foods from 60C (140F) to 20C (68F) within 2 hours of taking the dish off the heat. 

To quickly cool hot foods for storage, remove the pot or pan from the heat source and remove the lid. Stir the food a few times to move hotter food from the centre of the dish to the surface of the pot or pan. Doing this helps the dish cool down evenly. Plunge the pot in a bath of ice water (or even snow! Yes, I really mean snow, clean snow) and stir to make sure it cools down quickly and evenly eliminating “hot spots” where bacteria can thrive. .

Divide the food into smaller portions and place in the fridge. Shallow dishes are ideal for letting more heat dissipate from a food. 

Cold foods

If you have foods that need refrigeration out at room temperature, use ice to keep it cold. It will begin to warm up and bacteria will start to grow. It will take time to cool the food from 20C (68F) to 4C (40F)  Put it back in the fridge after serving.

If you’re ever in doubt about how long a food has been out at room temperature, be safe and throw it out. It is a shame to waste food but it’s preferable to food poisoning!

In summary 

You have 2 hours to cool down hot dishes to room temperature and then 4 hours to get to down to 4C (40F) and store in fridge.

The safe temperatures for storing foods are hotter than 60C (140F) or cooler than 4C (39F).

Eat, drink and be healthy!