What Happens When You Put Hot Food in the Fridge?

You may have heard that it’s unsafe to put hot food in the fridge, but is that really true? Most people just accept this as an actual fact without questioning whether it’s actually true. Have you ever wondered why it’s said that you should never put hot food in the refrigerator? Let’s try to settle this hot debate once and for all. Before we get into the details, let’s summarize the facts first. 

How a Refrigerator Works

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about how a refrigerator actually works. We all have a basic understanding of how it maintains a temperature that’s cool enough to keep food safe for a few days, but we don’t really think about the science and engineering that goes into this.

Conceptually, a refrigerator doesn’t actually get cold. It only gets less hot, and that’s thanks to the physics of heat exchange.

Colder air is denser and heavier than hotter air. So the cold air that gets pumped through the coils in the back of the refrigerator is heavier than the warm air in the interior. Because of gravity, the heavier air sinks down and is pushed out of the way by the incoming cold air. This exchange of air happens over and over again until the refrigerator’s interior is cold.

Since the warm air is being pushed out, there’s no place for it to go. So it’s expelled out the back of the appliance through the vents on the top, bottom, and sides.

Why Hot Foods Are Bad for Your Refrigerator

It’s not about the hot food you’re trying to cool but the rest of the items in your fridge. When you introduce something with a higher temperature to your controlled fridge environment, you’ll raise the temperature of everything else inside. No matter how smart your appliance, it would need to work much harder to maintain a low temperature with a steaming-hot meal heating things up.

The main reason we put food in the fridge is to keep it cold and keep the bacteria from growing. Food only needs to be kept cold for a short period of time, so it doesn’t matter if your fridge runs for a couple of extra minutes.

However, if you put in hot food, you’re going to need to run the compressor longer than you normally would. As a result, you’ll need to set your fridge to a slightly higher temperature. And if you’re opening your fridge a lot, as you would with hot food, your fridge is working even harder to keep the temperature down.

The problem isn’t just the hot food. It’s everything else in the fridge that is raised to a higher temperature because of the excess heat. The longer your refrigerator has to work to reduce the temperature, the less time your food is in the safe temperature zone. 

In fact, Michigan State University recommends that you need to follow proper cooling and storage of food if you want to retain the freshness of all food items in a refrigerator.

What Happens to Other Items in Your Fridge when You Put Hot Foods in There?

A lot of people wonder if their fridge will explode if they put hot items inside. While the refrigerator’s compressor is designed to handle the higher temperatures, it’s not designed to work at full capacity for prolonged periods.

So if you have a lot of hot food in your fridge, you’ll be putting stress on the compressor (and the rest of the fridge’s components). When the temperature of your refrigerator is higher, it does a worse job at keeping your food at a safe temperature, and it will take more energy to cool it back down.

As a result, your food loses more of its “cold edge,” and more heat will be transferred to the rest of your items in the fridge.

This is why people are afraid to leave a lot of hot food in the fridge for extended periods of time. If a lot of the food in your refrigerator is already warm, you could be putting everything in the vicinity at risk of spoiling.


That settles it! Putting hot food in the fridge isn’t a bad thing if you’re careful. However, if you’re putting in a lot of very hot food all at once, you could be compromising the safety of the food that’s already in there. With the increase in the temperature of the food and the items around it, there’s a higher risk that your food will spoil more quickly, which can lead to foodborne illness.

If you want to learn more about refrigerators and how they work, Pixel Fridge is your go-to resource. We give you tips, reviews, analysis, and recommendations on refrigerators from every top brand on the market. If you’re wondering how much is a French door refrigerator nowadays or if mini-fridges use a lot of electricity, Pixel Fridge is here to answer all of that. Check out our blog for all the information and reviews you need to make the right decision on the perfect fridge for your home.

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