At what temperature can you put cooked food in the fridge?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “ at what temperature can you put cooked food in the fridge?”. We will also talk about how to store hot foods hygienically.

At what temperature can you put cooked food in the fridge?

Food prepared in large batches or the leftovers from your daily meals can be put straight away in the fridge no matter how hot it is, temperature is not an issue. 

It is important to store the hot food within the 2 hours mark before the bacteria and other pathogens start growing in the food.

The flavour and texture of the dishes do not change if the food is stored in the fridge. It is essential to not leave the hot food at room temperature. 

There is much time and effort given to preparing and cooking the meals, but it would all go haywire if it is not stored on time.

The growth of Salmonella is a concerning issue if the food is left out for too long. Gastro-related illness cannot be avoided if mishandled food is consumed.

How long can hot food stay outside the fridge?

The simple rule of thumb is that the food once cooked can only stay outside the fridge for not more than two hours. Hot food left outside with a temperature between 40 F to 140 F will certainly help grow bacteria and pathogens because they thrive in this environment.

Any hot food left outside for more than two hours should be discarded to avoid any food-borne illnesses. People practising proper food storing methods have no food poisoning issues. 

Rapid cooling of food needs to be done in case of large batches of hot food being prepared at home, for example, big pots of soup, stew, or curries.

How to store hot foods hygienically and quickly? 

Your fridge can handle the job of cooling down the hot food inside it but we can help speed up the process with these handy tips.

Cook well

It is really important to prepare your dishes well. The food needs to be cooked properly. For example, the meat’s internal temperature needs to be at par to avoid any bacterial growth during storage.

Cool quickly

It is crucial to rapidly reduce the temperature of the hot food within the two-hour time frame in order to reduce the risk of pathogens’ growth to avoid any sickness. A big batch of soup or stew or curries can be decanted into smaller containers to help them cool faster.

Using an ice bath or cold water in a vessel to place the smaller container can help reduce the temperature rather quickly. Storing hot food in shallow containers can also help in the process. 

In the case of foods like lasagna or meat dishes, it can be cut into smaller pieces which can speed up the cooling process.

Wrap properly

As important as cooling the hot food, wrapping the containers well is as crucial as it helps preserve the flavours and stops the mixing of smell from other food inside the fridge. It also helps prevent the growth of bacteria. 

The steam from the hot food can cause condensation which can settle in the back wall of your fridge and turn into ice. 

This will turn any food items touching the wall to freeze. For example, any fresh fruits or vegetables touching the fridge wall will freeze and get spoilt.

One thing to keep in mind is to avoid stacking the containers as spacing is very important for the air to flow around to help cool quicker.

Can you freeze cooked food?

The answer is yes. Freezing the cooked food is the safest way to store it for future consumption. 

One thing to consider when freezing hot cooked meals is the cooling of the food should be achieved in the fridge before putting them in the freezer.

The large batches of stews, curries, or cooked meat or poultry should be portioned into smaller batches before freezing them so as would be easy and hassle-free when defrosting for consumption when needed. 

Freezer burn is the main con of freezing cooked foods. In order to avoid freezer burn, always make sure the container or the freezer bags are properly sealed to avoid any contact with air. Wrapping the container with plastic wrap does the trick.

Cooked food items in the freezer last from 3 to 6 months depending on the protein content, carbohydrate, and starch content. Any longer than this time period, the food will still be safe to consume but the flavour, texture, and colour will deteriorate.


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “at what temperature can you put cooked food in the fridge?”. We also talked about how to store hot foods hygienically.

I hope you find this blog useful. If you have any questions, please let us know.