The 2 Hour Rule
It is essential to refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly. Use the 2 Hour Rule both at home and while shopping. The 2 Hour Rule states that all perishable foods must be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours of purchase or preparation. If the weather is hot, more than 27°C (80°F), reduce that time to 1 hour and use a cooler for perishable foods while shopping. Any perishable foods that have been left at room temperature for longer than these times should be discarded.
Tips for Cooling Prepared Food Quickly
Before refrigerating or freezing prepared food, it is important to cool it quickly first. This is especially important for a large quantity of food. Foods that are not cooled quickly have the potential to cause foodborne illness. Here are some tips on how to cool prepared foods quickly:
- An item prepared in a Dutch oven or stockpot can be cooled quickly by placing the Dutch oven or stockpot in a sink of ice water. Stir the item frequently to allow steam to escape, but do not allow the ice water to enter the pot.
- After an item is prepared, it can be cooled quickly by transferring it to several shallow containers. Place the containers on cooling racks to allow for air circulation while they cool and, if possible, stir the item frequently.
- If an item, such as a soup or stew, can be diluted slightly, adding some ice cubes and stirring while they are melting will speed the cooling.
- If an item, such as a casserole, has been prepared with the intent to reheat and serve it later, cut vents in the top of it to allow steam to escape and transfer the pan or dish to a cooling rack. Once the item has cooled for about 30 minutes on the rack, it can be placed in a rimmed baking sheet filled with ice to allow it to cool more quickly. Waiting about 30 minutes before putting the item on ice is important if the item was baked in a glass or ceramic baking dish as the sudden change in temperature could cause the dish to crack.
- For a whole roasted turkey, chicken or duck, the meat should be removed from the carcass as soon as possible after serving. Roasts should also be fully carved after serving. This will help the meat cool.
- Once an item has been cooled enough to be transferred to the fridge, it can be left loosely covered in the fridge to allow the cooling to continue. If possible, place the item on the top shelf in the fridge so that nothing falls into it. If the item can be stirred, periodically stirring the item in the fridge before covering it will help ensure it cools.