How soon should food be refrigerated?

Question

Hi Rick, I just read the article about food borne illnesses. I understand leftovers should be refrigerated but I was unclear about two things: How soon should food be refrigerated? Is it safe to put warm or even hot foods in the cold?

Answer

The sooner the foods are cooled, the less opportunity for bacterial growth. Most recommendations state that all leftovers should be cooled before two hours. It is better to take hot foods and cool them before putting them in the fridge for a number of reasons... including energy conservation and the fact that warm food (like say a pot of beans) can stay warm in the middle despite that fact that they are in the fridge. To do this, you can transfer foods to shallow pans for cooling quickly.