Loved your piping hot bowl of stew and now going towards the fridge to refrigerate the left over? Stop! You may want to wait for it to cool down to room temperature before putting it in the fridge. In our bid to wrap up all the kitchen work in a jiffy, we often end up keeping foods that are still hot in the fridge. Did you know this can actually be dangerous for you and your family? The purpose of freezing is essentially to prevent the food from losing its nutritive content and to keep it fresh and uncontaminated for a longer period of time. Whether it is freezing, reheating or refrigerating, its best to exercise caution.
Bangalore based nutritionist Dr. Anju Sood says, “If you immediately put hot food or hot liquids in refrigerator you may lose its nutritive values and might just make your Refrigerator work extra hard. It is okay to put mildly hot food in the refrigerator though. You should at least wait for it to come down to room temperature before refrigerating.
Meher Rajput, Nutritionist at FITPASS explains, “Hot food should be brought down to room temperature-because if placed in the fridge(boiling hot) the salmonella bacteria can spoil the food very easily in the fridge.Also, by placing hot food in the fridge you are risking other perishable foods(eggs, vegetables and meat)- the chances of them getting contaminated increases.”
However you should not wait more than a certain amount of time. Shalini Manglani, Nutrition expert from Bangalore says that “hot food should not be kept out for longer than two hours as bacteria starts to multiply post this. Refrigerate within two hours if you want to wait.”
Consultant Nutritionist Dr. Rupali Dutta explains that it is always ideal to store all perishable food milk, vegetables, meat and cooked food to avoid spoilage.”If you are storing cooked food do so within 2 hours of cooking. Cooling it faster also helps, divide the food into smaller portions so that it cools fast and can be frozen sooner to avoid contamination. Maintain the moisture content of food by wrapping them in air tight containers or foils. This also prevents the odour of different foods from mixing while keeping the bacteria out. Frozen food can be kept for up to almost 2-3 months, but check the colour, odour and taste of the food to see if it is edible,” says Dr. Dutta.
Another common belief that is often attached to putting hot food in the fridge is that it would harm your appliance or affect the temperature of the foods around it. Well, with newer appliances you don’t have to worry much, the thermostat of the refrigerator will ensure that there is no harm to your appliance by regulating temperature and moisture. However if you have an old model you can choose to take some precautions like storing the hot food in air tight containers, this helps you avoid condensation and icing.
Tips To Ensure Before Refrigerating Your Hot Food
1. If you must put hot food in the refrigerator, try not to put hot food in deep containers. They take longer to cool, put them in shallow containers so that the can chill easier. You can then place these very shallow containers in the refrigerator, this will also ensure faster cooling.
2. Divide you food in smaller portions. Place them in smaller containers
3. You can also quick-chill the food in an ice water bath before refrigerating it.
4. You can also cool it on the counter until the steam stops.
5. Cover the hot liquids that you are intending refrigerate. If left uncovered, they can release moisture which can make the compressor work harder than it should.
As a general rule of thumb, it is always advisable to place the containers (be it hot of mild) wisely, mind the spaces in between them, to ensure better air circulation and optimal cooling. Make sure you don’t keep the food out for more than two hours, the bacteria can begin to grow soon after.