Keep Cold Foods Cold

The colder food is kept the slower the germs grow. This is why frozen foods last longer. To make sure that your refrigerator and freezer are at the proper temperatures, check them with an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 40°F (5°C) or lower. The freezer should read 0°F (-18°C) or lower.

Here are some other tips to remember when keeping foods cold:

  • Shopping - When shopping make sure that you pick up perishables (fresh meats, milk, eggs) last, especially in hot weather. Try to get home quickly to refrigerate them.

  • Refrigerating - Since repeated handling of food can introduce germs to meat and poultry, it is best to leave food in the original packaging unless it is torn. Refrigerate all products marked "keep refrigerated." A good method to follow with refrigerated foods is the "first in, first out" rule for using food.

  • Freezing - "Freezer Burn," white dried out patches on the surface of foods, won't make you sick, but it does make food tough to eat and tasteless. To avoid this, wrap freezer items in heavy freezer paper, plastic or aluminum foil. Remember to label the food with the date of freezing.

  • Thawing - The safest way to thaw meat is to take it out of the freezer and leave it overnight in the refrigerator. Meat can also be thawed using the microwave. Follow the manufacturer's direction for proper thawing. Finally, do not thaw meat on the kitchen counter. Germs can thrive or grow rapidly at room temperature.

Keep Hot Foods Hot

High food temperatures (165° to 212° F) reached by boiling, baking, frying and roasting kill most harmful germs.

Here are some tips on keeping food hot:

  • Cook thoroughly - To make sure that meat and poultry are cooked all the way, use a meat thermometer. (See cooking temperatures)

  • Don't interrupt cooking - Cook meat and poultry completely at one time. Partial cooking could lead to bacterial growth before cooking is complete.

  • Cooking frozen food - Allow frozen food more time to cook, generally 1 - 1.5 times the period required for food that has been thawed.

  • Thoroughly reheat leftovers - Cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through.

  • NEVER LEAVE PERISHABLE FOOD OUT MORE THAN 2 HOURS. Refrigerate leftovers immediately in shallow containers for quick cooling.

This information is provided by Epidemiology Program within the Department of Public Health.