The Safest Way To Cool Hot Food For Meal Prep

A quick, easy, and effective way to get healthy portion sizes of great food while trying to stick to a budget is to meal prep. Preparing a large amount of food can save you a lot of time and trouble and can help to eliminate some of the hassle of life so you can focus on other more important things. 

But meal prepping can come with challenges of its own. Usually meal prepping involves cooking a big batch of food and then storing it in your refrigerator to warm up and eat later, but this can actually introduce some risks. Cooking a large amount of food in bulk and then cooling down in bulk can result in uneven cooling. For instance, if you cook a heaping of pasta in one large container, the food closer to the outside of the container will cool far faster than the food near the center. 

This uneven cooling can induce environments where bacteria thrive and food can spoil faster, per Eat This, Not That.

The safe way is the best way

The solution is actually quite simple. According to research done by Michigan State University, the best way to avoid this kind of mishap is to simply separate the food you cooked in bulk into smaller containers before cooling down. The smaller portions will not only cool more evenly than one huge portion, but will also allow you the convenience of warming up one portion at a time (heat and reheating food over and over can destroy the flavors and can spoil food faster).

If you really want to be efficient, MSU suggests not only making separate containers, but also cooling those smaller containers in an ice bath or in cold water to speed up the cooling process and make it as even as possible. Food should be put away in the fridge or freezer a maximum of 2 hours after cooking, any more and the dangers of spoilage can rear their ugly head.