Join AARP today! Veterans and military families receive a gift and up to a 30% discount.
by Beth Goulart, AARP Bulletin, February 25, 2010
Myth: Hot food will spoil if refrigerated before cooling to room temperature.
Facts: Just the opposite. Give your fridge some credit. It’s designed to chill food and keep it cold. It can even protect you from getting sick, so there’s no need to be shy about letting it do its job.
“Time plus warmer temperatures equals growth of bacteria,” says Shelley Feist, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education. In other words, leaving food out at room temperature encourages bacteria to thrive. “We have what’s called the two-hour rule: Food should only be out for two hours before it’s put in the refrigerator,” says Feist. Any longer than that in the “danger zone” of temperatures between 40 degrees (the maximum recommended setting for home refrigerators) and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and bacteria can multiply to dangerous numbers.
If putting a whole pot of hot soup in the fridge still troubles you, consider repackaging it into smaller, shallower containers, advises Feist. “That helps cool it more quickly,” she says. And the extra effort beats the alternative of forgetting the soup overnight, only to toss it in the morning for fear of getting sick.
To help your refrigerator run as efficiently as possible, take these additional steps recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy:
• Defrost regularly if you have a manual-defrost model.
• Replace the seals around refrigerator doors if they are no longer airtight.
• Cover liquids you refrigerate. If left uncovered, they can release moisture that makes the compressor work harder.
Beth Goulart is a freelance journalist based in Austin, Texas.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
You'll start receiving the latest news, benefits, events, and programs related to AARP's mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age.
You can also manage your communication preferences by updating your account at anytime. You will be asked to register or log in.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at