Keep Food at Safe Temperatures

Properly cooking food to a safe temperature destroys the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses.


Safe temperatures vary from food to food. Follow doneness tests given with the recipes. Leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees F, and reheated sauces, soups, and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil.

It's essential to use a clean food thermometer to ensure that meat, poultry, casseroles, and other foods are properly cooked all the way through.

Chill It!

Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying. Follow these steps to keep foods cold.

When shopping, buy perishable foods, including meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and shellfish, last. Take them straight home and refrigerate them promptly.

Refrigerate leftover foods from a meal immediately after you have finished eating. Leftovers should not stay out of the refrigerator longer than two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 80 degrees F).

Use appliance thermometers to ensure that your refrigerator and freezer are maintaining proper temperatures for food safety. Refrigerate at or below 40 degrees F; freeze at or below 0 degrees F. Because cold air needs to circulate the unit to keep foods safe, avoid packing the refrigerator too full.

Thaw Safely

Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator -- never at room temperature. A few exceptions include breads and sweets that specifically call for thawing at room temperature. Make sure that thawing foods do not drip onto other foods. Some foods may be successfully thawed in the microwave; follow your microwave manufacturer's directions and cook the food immediately after thawing. You can also thaw foods by placing the item in a leakproof plastic bag and immersing it in cold tap water in the sink. Every half hour, change the water to keep it cold and turn the food over if it's not fully submerged; cook food immediately after thawing.

Toting and Serving Hot Foods

Bacteria thrive at temperatures between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F, so keeping hot foods hot is just as important as keeping cold foods cold.

  • When serving hot foods on a buffet, keep them at 140 degrees F or higher. Use chafing dishes, crockery cookers, and warming trays to keep foods hot.
  • When toting hot foods to a party, keep the food at or above 140 degrees F. Use heavy-duty foil, several layers of newspaper, or a heavy towel to wrap the containers well. Then, place in an insulated container.

Keep meat safe with a thermometer
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