Can I put warm chicken in the fridge?

In this article, we answered the following question: Can I put warm chicken in the fridge? We discuss whether we should put cold or hot food in the fridge, the risks of letting food cool inside or outside the refrigerator. 

Can I put warm chicken in the fridge?

You can put warm chicken in the fridge, however, you should not put it hot or just a few minutes after it was cooked.  If we put hot food in the fridge we risk that the cold food that is already inside will get hot and spoil. 

In addition, the refrigerator should not be exposed to overstressing of temperature. It would be convenient to let the dish cool a little, although not more than two hours since if this time is exceeded, it cannot be guaranteed that the food is in the same state. In professional kitchens, they usually use the blast chiller before refrigerating recently cooked meals.

Should I put warm chicken in the fridge?

In the US, most people are concerned that microorganisms and bacteria will easily infiltrate and contaminate the food that is not chilled in the refrigerator.  On the other hand, in Europe, people are more concerned about the effect hot food has in the fridge: a fridge consumes more energy if hot food is stored, which is why most Europeans put food in the fridge once that it has cooled properly. 

It is clear that people are right on both points of view and, in reality, these approaches are not totally incompatible. Certainly, food spoils more quickly if it is stored for a long period in a warm environment, without cooling. 

This is precisely why refrigerators were invented: to extend shelf life by rapidly chilling food and storing it at a low temperature. It is also clear that any refrigerator has to work and consume much more to preserve the “cold level” inside if someone places a bowl of hot soup in it. And of course, the hotter the food and the larger the quantity, the longer a refrigerator needs to return to its original temperature.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises refrigerating food as soon as possible because at room temperature (between 5ºC and 65ºC, considered the “danger zone”), the risk of bacteria growth increases. 

However, attention should be paid to how this cooling process runs, because there are some drawbacks:

  • It heats the food next to it: putting hot food in the fridge causes a rapid rise in the temperature inside and, consequently, an increased risk of contamination from other foods and a reduction in storage time. 

It is advisable to leave enough space around the hot food for air to circulate and to improve the cooling process and place the food, if it is a little warm, on top because in this area the temperature remains more stable. In addition, hot air tends to rise and cold air falls, therefore if we put it up, warm temperatures will affect less food.

  • The food cools unevenly: if we want to cool a large amount of food, the cold will not reach all parts equally. The cooling takes place on the surface and the volume: the smaller the portion, the faster it cools. Therefore, it is advisable to divide it and store it in shallow containers to speed up the process.
  • It can cause condensation inside the fridge: steam from hot food leads to condensation, which will form water droplets and even ice on the back of the fridge. Over time, excess moisture leads to the growth of mold and mildew, as well as contributing to the spoilage of food. 

The cool, humid, and dark space quickly provides an ideal place for all types of bacteria and fungi. To avoid this, it is advisable to seal the container with a lid. This is especially recommended in the case of liquid preparations such as soups.

  • Beware of cross-contamination from raw to cooked foods: better not put both foods aside because microbes from one (usually raw) can pass to the other. It is advisable to store raw foods in the lower part of the refrigerator and cooked ones on the upper shelves.

How long does cooked chicken last in the fridge?

Cooked chicken lasts for 2 or 3 days in the fridge, however, if we are referring to non-packaged chicken – which we buy whole or cut in the butcher shop – it is better not to exceed 2 days.

The difference is that the meat trays are usually packed with a modified atmosphere, adding gases that allow them to extend the shelf life a bit. Chicken is one of the most widely consumed products on the market, but also one of the riskiest if not handled correctly.

If the idea is to freeze the chicken, the duration will also depend on the freezing system. If frozen at home from fresh chicken, it shouldn’t be more than 3 months in the freezer. On the contrary, if it is chicken that we already buy frozen, the duration can be extended by 12 months.

In any case, it is important to always freeze it as soon as possible, and while the chicken is in perfect condition, not when it has been forgotten in the fridge and starts to look bad.

The chicken needs cold for its correct conservation. The room temperature that is reached in many kitchens in summer is the perfect breeding ground for the reproduction of bacteria.

Avoid leaving meat out both raw and once cooked if it is not going to be consumed immediately.

Conclusions

In this article, we answer the following question: Can I put warm chicken in the fridge? We discussed whether we should put cold or hot food in the fridge, the risks of letting food cool inside or outside the refrigerator. 

We remind you that leaving food to cool outside the fridge may increase the risks of contaminating it with harmful bacteria. On the other hand, putting it in the fridge will make it cool unevenly and will cause condensation inside the fridge. 

What is your choice? If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

References

FDA.gov – Are You Storing Food Safely?

Medlineplus.gov –  Food Safety

Goodsafety.gov – Be Food Safe: Protect Yourself from Food Poisoning

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *