How long should spaghetti sauce cool before putting in the fridge?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: How long should spaghetti sauce cool before putting in the fridge? We will give you a few tips to speed up the cooling of leftovers and discuss whether it is safe to store a hot spaghetti sauce in the fridge.

How long should spaghetti sauce cool before putting in the fridge?

Spaghetti sauce should cool no more than two hours before putting it in the fridge. Cooked food stored at room temperature is vulnerable to attacks by microorganisms and enzymes. The danger zone is called the temperature range between 4⁰ ° C and 60⁰ ° C. 

Your refrigerator is set at 4⁰ ° C because microorganisms and enzymes work slowly in the cold. At temperatures above 60⁰ ° C, they are either destroyed or inactive.

At room temperature, the food is in the danger zone. The amount of bacteria doubles every 20 minutes. The food is therefore at risk of souring, a qualifier that designates a food that becomes acidic as a result of the multiplication of microorganisms.

It is therefore important to cool your food quickly to spend as little time as possible in the danger zone.

So, as soon as the rest no longer steams, it should immediately be put in the refrigerator. Perishable food that has spent more than 2 hours at room temperature should be discarded.

Some tips to speed up the cooling of leftovers

Separate into small portions – Spaghetti sauce will cool more slowly if left in its pot than if you pour it into small containers. The reason is that the food contact surface with the outside is greater when it is divided, which shortens the cooling time. Shallow containers should be preferred, to optimize the contact surface and thus cool the center more quickly.

Submerge it in cold water – Food will cool faster if its container is submerged in water rather than in air, even if the temperature of the water and the air are the same. Indeed, water is a better conductor than air. Heat exchanges take place more efficiently in this environment. 

Brew it – If possible, stir the food from time to time to allow the center to cool better.

Let it breathe – Do not close the lid to let steam out and cold to enter, which will shorten the cooling time. Leave the lid open, even in the refrigerator, as long as the food is not cold.

Don’t overload your fridge – Be careful not to overload your refrigerator with large amounts of hot food. This could heat up food nearby, which is undesirable! Also, make sure you have enough space between your containers for cold air to circulate well.

Other relevant tips: Not many people do, but keeping track of the refrigeration date of your leftovers helps you better track their shelf life. Usually, leftovers will keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator, before becoming expired. If in doubt, throw them out!

Is putting the hot sauce in the fridge a bad idea?

We can be afraid that our hot meal will increase the temperature of the refrigerator, and that this could make the food sour. And we wouldn’t be totally wrong. Condensation caused by hot food may cause the heat in the refrigerator to rise above the recommended temperature limit (4˚C).

The good news is that this only happens … when your refrigerator is very old! Newer refrigerators have a thermostat that stabilizes the temperature in order to keep it within recommended limits.

What to be concerned about, however, is whether your large pot of soup will cool down quickly enough to reach a safe temperature once in the fridge. To avoid all risks, it is recommended to divide your dishes into small containers so that the inside cools quickly. 

If the dish is still steaming, you can also let it cool in a dish of cold water, or on the counter (briefly, however) until the steam subsides. You can also place ice pack style ice packs under the dish so that the heat escapes even faster.

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.

In any case, remember one thing: never leave food for more than two hours at room temperature, because it is after this time that bacteria multiply. Better to trust your fridge!

Conclusions

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

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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.

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