In a safe controlled environment, bacteria can be very beneficial. Yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, sourdough starter, beer, wine, cheese, chocolate, miso, soy sauce, and more all benefitted from the controlled growth of bacteria and yeasts.
Unwanted bacteria growth, however, leads to foodborne illness, and thrives in the Temperature Danger Zone (TDZ) which ranges from 41°-135°. While temperature is the easiest variable to control at home, it is also the one most overlooked and abused.
Defrosting meat on the counter at room temperature for 10-12 hours, hot soup ladled into Tupperware and put straight into the refrigerator, leaving the milk on the counter for a few hours by accident happened more times than I can count in my own and my friends households growing up.
Not only is this dangerous, but improper cooling and reheating can actually lead to flavor loss. At best flavor loss is a huge bummer, at worst, its a huge waste if no one will (or can) eat it!
Cooling Food Safely
Bacteria multiplies fast in the Temperature Danger Zone which means food needs to be cooled quickly and efficiently.
Cooling a couple gallons of foods like soups/stews, casseroles, or refried beans quickly and safely in a home kitchen can be daunting but PLEASE NEVER add plain ice into the pot. You worked so hard to create this flavor masterpiece don’t dilute the flavor with freezer burn, okay?
Additionally, you don’t want to put your hot food straight into the refrigerator. Instead of the hot food cooling faster, the inside of the refrigerator will heat up, thereby warming everything around and risking unwanted bacterial growth throughout the ingredients in your refrigerator.
Instead, try these methods:
- place your pot in the sink filled with ice and cold water. Stir and replace the ice as needed.
- Spread food in a thin layer – more surface are= more heat release.
Remember, the food needs to go from 135°- 41° in 6 hours or less to remain safe.
- 135°-70° in 2 hours
- 70°- 41° in 4 hours
Reheating Foods Safely
Reheating food is fairly simple in comparison to cooling it down and the rules apply to any cold food, not just leftovers. Simply heat the food to 165 degrees for 15 seconds within 2 hours of removing it from refrigeration or the freezer. Easy as pie.
Having a kitchen thermometer will make a big difference in your cooking and the safety of your food. We like this one because it is magnetic, extremely fast and accurate.
Save Your Snacks!
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