Cooling Foods

Cooling is a process of removing heat from food quickly enough to prevent the growth of pathogens (disease-causing organisms).

Time/temperature control for safety (TCS) food (aka potentially hazardous food or PHF) must be cooled from 135°F to 70°F within 2 hours, and from 70°F to 41°F or below within 4 hours, for a maximum total of 6 hours cooling time. When time/temperature control for safety (TCS) food is cooled for an extended period, the food is subject to the growth of a variety of pathogenic micro-organisms that grow ideally between 41 and 135°F, which is called the temperature danger zone. The longer the time the food is allowed to be held in this range, the greater the risk of pathogenic growth. Excessive time for cooling time/temperature control for safety (TCS) foods has consistently been identified as one of the leading contributing factors to foodborne illness.

Best practices for cooling:

  • Food cooled in the refrigerator must be placed to allow proper airflow and prevent contamination (see Refrigeration)
  • Place foods in shallow containers no deeper than 2 inches and leave them uncovered in the refrigerator until cold, 41°F or below
  • Large cuts of meat such as beef or pork roasts should be cut into sections no more than 4 inches thick, arranged in a single layer so that the pieces are not touching, and left uncovered in the refrigerator until cold, 41°F or below
  • Ice bath: Place foods into a deep pot or Cambro, then place the container in a food prep sink or a large tub filled with ice. Stir food and monitor temperature regularly, moving the food to a refrigerator once it reaches 41°F or below
  • Specialized tools and equipment such as an ice wand or blast chiller can also be used for cooling foods