Putting Hot Food in the Fridge: What You Need to Know

Refrigerators are one of humanity’s most valuable inventions since they have essentially revolutionized the way people eat and cook their food. Still, despite its straightforward utility, many people have standard questions about it: are mini-fridges expensive to run, how much do they cost, and is it a good idea to put hot food in the fridge?

These appliances do an excellent job of preserving food at cold temperatures, prolonging ingredients’ lifespan. However, you may be wondering what happens to food when they’re piping hot yet immediately shoved into a refrigerator. Here’s what you need to know: 

The Importance of Temperature and Time

The discussion surrounding food safety and storage hinges itself mainly on the conditions that allow bacteria to grow. They’re primarily inactive in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but at the same time, they can barely withstand the heat of 140 degrees Fahrenheit and beyond. However, the temperature between these two extremes is where they will thrive and continue reproducing. The best way to prevent bacteria from growing on your food is to minimize its time in this range. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends refrigerating your food within two hours of sitting at the danger zone and within an hour if your room temperature sits at 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Room-Temperature Cooling

Many people argue against putting fresh, hot food in the refrigerator for many reasons. For instance, the hot items warm the interior of your fridge, causing it to work harder to maintain lower temperatures. Additionally, you’ll risk warming the other food around it. For example, if you prepared a large batch of broth to use at a later time and put it in the fridge right away in one giant container, you’ll be overworking your fridge while heating the neighboring items. Instead, allow hot food to cool down at room temperature before storing them in the refrigerator.

Dividing the Food

If you have large amounts of hot food that you’ll need to put in the fridge at some point, consider dividing them into multiple containers, such as flat, shallow ones. Doing this will cause the food to cool down faster as you increase the surface area while decreasing the quantity. You can also cool a large pot of hot food by putting it in a sink of ice or cold water and stirring it regularly, causing the heat to dissipate. Additionally, you can put freezer gel packs in resealable bags and put them in the pot, cooling your food faster while helping them reach a food-safe temperature.

Organizing Your Fridge

The cool environment inside a refrigerator is relatively delicate. Simply opening it to browse the contents will warm the door and the shelves, so it’s crucial to put your hot foods in the back corners, which is consistently the coldest. Avoid stacking containers with hot food in them, as you’re multiplying their thermal mass, delaying cooling further. Additionally, leave enough space between your hot foods to allow the air to circulate properly.


It’s never a good idea to put scalding food straight into the fridge, as doing so will cause your appliance to work harder while affecting the other food inside it. By following our guide, you’ll make the most out of your fridge while ensuring the food you cook and store will be safe to eat.

If you have more questions about refrigerators, Pixel Fridge has them all. Whether you’re wondering about a mini-fridge’s electricity cost or which one to choose, you’ll find a vast array of tips, reviews, analyses, and recommendations of these handy appliances on our website. Sign up for our newsletter today to get our latest tips and reviews right away!

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