Don't Believe This Myth About Refrigerating Hot Food

Have you ever popped some still-warm leftovers into a Tupperware container and made your way to the refrigerator, only to pause, remembering a piece of advice echoing somewhere in the back of your mind not to put hot food into the refrigerator?

As we know, leaving unconsumed and cooked food out at room temperature creates an opportunity for bacteria, which can then lead to food-borne illnesses. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that foods should not be left out at room temperature (in the range of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) for long periods of time (and specifically, beyond two hours for anything perishable), because that "danger zone" can facilitate the rapid growth of bacteria.

However, there is also a long-standing myth that you shouldn't put hot food immediately into a refrigerator; the myth being that doing so will cause the fridge to warm up on the inside as well, thus creating an environment for all the other foods in the fridge that approaches the "danger zone" of above 40 F.

This said, it's called a myth for a reason.

Go ahead and pop what's hot into the fridge

According to the Washington State Department of Health, shirking putting hot food into the fridge is a food safety myth one can safely disregard. However, the refrigerator should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and it's advised that larger amounts of food should be divided into different containers. This divide-and-conquer method ensures that the hot food can cool more quickly, keeping any possibility of the ambient temperature going above the fridge's perfectly set temperature at bay. If you do choose to let your food cool off before refrigerating, make sure to do so within two hours to avoid a bacterial invasion, and if you live in a really hot climate of 90 F or warmer, you must refrigerate your food within the hour, the state agency says.

To sum up, if you have a massive casserole of steaming lasagna, you may want to slice it up into pieces before storing it in your fridge. But generally, the no-hot-food-in-fridge rule is more of a myth. Be assured that it's OK to store hot food in your fridge and a definite-must before you let your food sit out at bacteria-friendly room temperatures for too long.