Should You Refrigerate Hot Leftovers Immediately?

From our previous posts, we have answered some questions you have about refrigerators like “Can a mini-fridge go on a carpet?” or “Why shouldn’t I overload my fridge?”. Now, we’re going to tackle a topic that has more to do about the safety of the food you’re storing in your fridge and how you can avoid food poisoning: 

If you don’t want to get food poisoning, it’s important to store your leftovers correctly so that there isn’t excessive bacterial growth.

You might think that there’s not much to think about food storage. However, you may wonder whether it’s best to immediately place hot leftovers into the refrigerator. Will doing so keep the food’s freshness or will it ruin your food? Read on and find out.

Should You Refrigerate Hot Leftovers Immediately?

Yes, but only if you’re worried about foodborne illnesses. If so, then you should put hot leftovers into the refrigerator, which will lower the temperature to below 4 degrees C, the temperature that most bacteria can’t live in. 

If you’re just worried that the food would be spoiled, know that your food will be spoiled, and know that typically, it will be fine even if you wait around for an hour or so. That said, food that’s been cooked at really high temperatures is better refrigerated as soon as possible.

Food Safety Tips for Leftovers

Follow these tips when storing and refrigerating leftovers:

  • For cooked meat, poultry and fish, it’s best to refrigerate them as soon as possible. This can stop bacterial growth and prevent food poisoning.
  • If you will eat the leftovers within 2 days, it’s fine to store them in the refrigerator while they are still warm. But if you will be storing them longer, place them in the refrigerator while they are still cool and then heat them before eating.
  • Certain foods can be stored at room temperature for hours. According to the USDA, you can keep cooked pasta, cooked rice, cooked vegetables, and cooked beans at room temperature. But only if they are served hot. (Note: Never refrigerate cooked rice and beans unless they contain unsafe amounts of bacteria.)

Tips to Reduce the Risk of Food Poisoning

Follow these tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning:

Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

Put hot food into a container that has been preheated to warm but not hot temperatures. This helps prevent the growth of bacteria.

Keep cold food cold. Cool the food within 2 hours and store it at 4 degrees C or below. Unless it’s acidic, like tomatoes, which can be stored at room temperature.

Don’t Eat Foods That Have Been Left Out for Long

Are you eating food that has been left out for more than 2 hours? Try not to. It can be contaminated with microorganisms.

Wash Your Hands

Bacteria can easily spread from one food to another by simply touching those foods. If you handle the food with your hands, there’s a big chance that microorganisms from your hands will spread to the food. To prevent this from happening, wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after touching the food.

Practice Safe Thawing

Food poisoning can also be caused by bacteria that enter your food while they’re thawing. To avoid this, thaw your food in the refrigerator or by immersing it in cold water. Do not thaw food at room temperature.


Food storage can be confusing, and it’s easy to make mistakes. To ensure your safety and enjoy your leftovers for a long time, always follow the tips mentioned above.

Always refrigerate your leftovers immediately if you’re worried that they might get spoiled. You want to make sure that your fridge is still working well, though, otherwise, storing food in there might not be as safe as you’d expect. If your refrigerator has been breaking down, it’s a good idea to find out how much a small fridge is so you can get a replacement soon. Old refrigerators that don’t work properly consume more energy, too. 

If you want to know more information about refrigerators like “How much does it cost to run a mini-fridge?” check out other helpful posts from Pixel Fridge. We provide reviews, tips, recommendations, and all things related to refrigerators. Get your FREE guide to refrigerator hacks from Pixel Fridge today, too!

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