Refrigerating hot food

dedtiredMarch 12, 2013

Okay, Here it is, 9:30 EDT and I just took a big casserole out of the oven. It is rip-roaring hot. I plan to be under the covers by 10:30 and that casserole is still going to be hot. So, what to do? Leave it out all night? Refrigerate it anyway?

And what about baked goods? What if you get the urge to bake a cake at 10 pm, then want to go to bed right after it comes out of the oven? I realize you don't refrigerate cake, but if it was cool I would cover it, but I can't if it is still warm. I have a feeling the solution is plan ahead, but that doesn't always happen in my world.

Sooo -- wdyd?

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Bake a cake at 10 pm? Not me that's for sure.

As for the casserole, I would cover it well and put it in the fridge. Actually, I have a very cool back porch that leads to the basement and I would put it there.

Sleep well!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 9:48PM
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Yeah, I'd do similar but I'd put it in the garage well covered. The cake is easy also. I'd have a snack before bedtime. :)


    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 10:01PM
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Yeah, I'd probably be eating the cake, too.

I thought about putting the casserole on the screened porch but there is a hole in the screen and some animal may follow its nose in there. The garage is also partially open, so that may not work. Guess I'll just shove it in the fridge.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 10:13PM
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If you have a covered grill, gas or charcoal, outdoors, just sit it on the grill. Or put it in the garage & set an upside down bucket over it.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 10:40PM
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Ha, I just logged on while the cupcakes cool. Late evening is my FAVORITE time to relax in the kitchen and bake.

I leave everything out till the next morning, when I wrap and pack it away.

For casseroles, I'd put it in the bottom of the basement fridge, even quite warm. You can cool it faster one of two ways: put in a shallower pan or put in a pan that's thermally safe and use an ice bath to cool it.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 12:14AM
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I often nest hot items in a bed of ice in a larger container, before putting them in the fridge. Just have to plan carefully so that the resulting melted ice doesn't a) swamp your food, or b) swamp your fridge.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 12:47AM
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Surely if you put a hot pan in a fridge you're just going to raise the temperature and spoil everything else? Dcarch , someone?

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 3:44AM
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I assumed that's why she asked the question. She had an hour to spare before going to bed, so with an accelerated cooling such as in a bed of ice, and then placed in the fridge in a fresh bed of ice she should be fine. Unless perhaps she keeps her fridge right at 40.

I keep my fridge at just over freezing to help offset any warm or hot food I add, but this has the downside that I can't ever get anything to defrost in there. And it's also probably part of my high electric bill.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 7:12AM
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The hot cake would be fine left out on the counter on a rack, not wrapped.
The casserole I might leave out, depending on what is in it. and how early I'm willing to get up. Even if it needs to go in the fridge -- say if it's chicken, or I'm planning to sleep late -- it should not be covered. Let the heat rise out of it. I might also divide it into two containers so there is more surface area, to cool faster.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 8:52AM
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Too late for OP, but here is info from USDA:

"Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator or it can be rapidly chilled in an ice or cold water bath before refrigerating. Cover foods to retain moisture and prevent them from picking up odors from other foods.

A large pot of food like soup or stew should be divided into small portions and put in shallow containers before being refrigerated. A large cut of meat or whole poultry should be divided into smaller pieces or placed in shallow containers before refrigerating."

I would have divided the casserole (assuming large glass or ceramic pan) into smaller portions/containers and perhaps chilled them in ice bath if really hot. I usually don't put things in ice bath, but then I don't put food right out of the oven into the fridge either. If something is still pretty hot and would get soggy, I cover it loosely and sometimes put a paper towel under the lid/foil to absorb condensation, then in the AM I remove the paper towel and cover tightly.

I leave baked good out on the cooling rack overnight, most don't need to be refrigerated at all though muffins, quick breads and things that would get dried out/stale quickly or have a lot of moisture and would mold do go in ziplock bag in fridge or freezer the next AM, other items (like frosted cake/cupcakes/bread just go in containers/cake carrier and left out at room temp.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 9:19AM
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I made some stew last week which didn't get done until after 10 pm. I transferred it to a big bowl, left it uncovered on the counter for 30 minutes, then I covered it & put 2 hot pads under it in the fridge. I worried about the glass cracking from the temp change, I'm sure it's tempered but that bowl was still quite warm when it went in the fridge. Worked just fine, except the hot pads were a little smushed from sitting under the heavy bowl all night.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 1:15PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I let hot things cool for awhile, 20 minutes? then put them covered in the refrigerator. I might transfer the item to a different pan if it's possible. Casseroles are generally shallow panned and not a safety issue.
I bake late at night all the time and leave the stuff on a cooling rack covered with several dishtowels all around- to absorb moisture and prevent drying out before morning.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 2:10PM
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I know it's too late now, but for me, outside would depend on the temp. Assuming it's cold enough I'd put it outside. If critters are a concern, I'd put it in the car and maybe crack the windows so it would stay cool enough.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 2:33PM
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I put chili, baked beans hot in the fridge all the time - but not hot right out of the oven as OP described. I turn the slow cooker off while we eat, leave the lid off, it cools down just enough that I don't worry about it (modern fridge shouldn't heat up that much, maybe the shelf above where I keep my milk would get steamy if not covered). Then I put potholders on the bottom (glass) shelf and stick the pot in, covered. Same with big DO of soup. Those sorts of things I don't worry about condensation.

If I've got the big crockpot (6-7qt) then I take the food out and put in smaller container(s) or put the liner (if using) in a bowl, tie closed, mainly b/c I don't like putting the huge crock in there - with the handle on the lid it doesn't slide in under the milk ;-)

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 2:39PM
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Lots of good advice. As it turned out, I didn't get to bed until 11:30 and by that time I was too tired to care, so I put a lid on it and stuck it in the fridge. It was still pretty hot, but all seems well. Yes, I always think that it will make the fridge too hot. The cool water idea is a good one. Not so sure about putting it in the car, since knowing me, I would drive around with it all day.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 5:43PM
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Best as I can recall, if the temp in the fridge rises, the motor comes on and cools it down. At least both my fridges do that.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 10:44PM
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The problem placing a large quantity of hot food (casserole, soup, stew) in the refrigerator.... As it brings the ambient temperature of the refrigerator below 40-degrees F, which is where bacteria begin to grow, that warmer refrigerator temperature can affect other food - milk could sour for instance.

Yes, the refrigerator will eventually do it's work, but the real danger is while that large container of soup/stew sits there in the refrigerator. It takes a long time for the internal temperature of a large quantity of food to get to a food safe 40-degrees F. So IF there is a potential for bacteria to grow, it's all those hours it was cooling in the refrigerator (or out on the cold porch) while between the temperatures of 40 - 140-degrees F.

I use the ice bath method to quickly cool large quantities of food, as ajasmama posted above. Be sure to stir the soup several times so the warmer inside portion has a chance to cool while in the ice bath. If you can't spare your sink for the process, use an ice chest.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 6:22AM
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Exactly. There's a reason they sell things like cooling paddles, and a reason new fridges require 24 hour to come to a stable temperature, and why non-digital fridges say to wait 24 hours between changing temp settings. They just don't work that fast. Ever notice how quickly ice cream gets soft and the ice gets wet when you load up the freezer after a shopping trip? And the difference between freezer temp and 32 is usually much greater than the difference between fridge temp and 40 Some newer fridges come with "turbo cool" features to compensate for frequent opening of the door or putting larger quantities of warm stuff in. Of course there are many variables such as size and efficiency of the fridge, how full the fridge is, etc. My fridge is rarely very full, so I take precaution before putting something hot in.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 8:42AM
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I keep several of those ice packs that you put in coolers, in my basement freezer. When I make a big pot of soup or chili and need to cool it down quickly, I set it in my sink and fill the sink to about halfway up the stockpot, then add those ice packs to the water.Let it sit for a few minutes, then stir the contents from the bottom up and release the heat. Depending on the quantity and size of the stockpot, I might need to drain the sink and re-fill it and change the ice packs a couple of times, but I can cool a 16 Q stock pot down from boiling to lukewarm and ready to refridgerate in about an hour.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 11:09AM
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dedtired, just put it on the driver seat and you won't forget. Well, maybe, but you'll figure it out when you're sitting a little higher than usual! :)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 4:22PM
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Afraid it might melt the leather seats, although the next day I could turn the seat warmer on High and rewarm it. Now there's a thought.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 6:51PM
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One lb of water to change one degree F = one BTU

Suppose you have 5 lbs of soup at 200F. For the soup to go down to 40 F will require 800 BTUs

And you have 50 lbs of food in the fridge at 35F, for 50 lbs of food at 35 F to rise to 40 F all you need is 250 BTUs.

The mitigating factors are the compressor motor will immediately start to work and the thermal mass and all the plastic and metal which are also at 35F will help out, and it takes hours for the soup to give up the BTUs.

Unfortunately refrigerators do not normally provide information on how many BTUs they can remove in an hour. Air conditioners, OTOH, which are basically the same as refrigerators in mechanics, are BTU rated, from 5,000 to 15,000 BTUs.

FOAS, refrigerator needs a long time to stabilize temperature, yes, but that does not mean the time it needs to cool things down. It only means the single compressor need the time to figure out how to re-balance the cooling loads between the freezer and the refrigerator compartment.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:42PM
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You could put it in the car trunk or back and if you feel it necessary put a trivet or pot holders under it. When I need to refrigerate something while it is hot, I place it in the fridge with pot holders under it and try to organize the other food to leave some space around it. I've never run into any problem with it lowering the temperature of the fridge too low.

For baked goods like cake, if I have too go to bed too soon to allow covering it air tight, I'll throw a clean light towel over it which lets some moisture escape but slows down evaporation so it doesn't dry out too much.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:48PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

All of you who are setting it outside or in the car, exactly what are your nighttime temps? While it's not warm here at night now, I wouldn't want to set food outside, even if I could find a protected place.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 10:14PM
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Well, I would not really be so dumb as to out it on the seats. I think I would put it on the floor and hope to remember it.

Right now it's 11:30 pm and 36 degrees here, so that would work. It definitely will not work once the weather warms!

Dcarch, all that math gives me a headache. I don't think my fridge is that smart.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 11:26PM
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My garage temp is currently 30ð. (I have a remote read thermometer sensor in the garage to monitor it.) It's my walk-in cooler and occasionally a supplemental freezer. Keeps the beer and wine nicely chilled, cools food and more.

The other option, put it in the back yard with a sign to the raccoons "Essen Gut".

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 2:56PM
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