Cooking Foods Safely

Cooling Foods Safely

Be sure that the containers you use for cooling and storing foods are properly cleaned and sanitized.


To cool liquids such as stocks, soups and sauces -

  1. Transfer to a clean container such as a stainless steel bain-marie or other container that conducts heat readily. Metals are most effective at dispersing heat, glass is next best, and plastic is least appropriate for cooling.

  2. Place the container in a cold water bath. It may be difficult to find enough space to cool things properly, but even so, it must be done. An overflow pipe is ideal, allowing a constant stream of cold water to run into the sink. Or, add more ice and/or drain out the water as it warms and replace it with cold water.

  3. Remember to stir the liquid as it cools. This prevents anaerobic bacteria from gaining a foothold, and speeds the overall cooling process by equalizing the temperature.

  4. Once the entire batch has been cooled to a temperature of 40oF (4oC), it may be covered and labeled with the name of the contents and the date. Should you prefer, the liquid can be transferred to plastic containers for storage purposes.

The larger the quantity of liquid, the more time it will take to cool completely. If you can, try to split large batches into two or more smaller batches.

To cool very small batches of items such as custard sauce, lemon curd, or leftover stew, place the container in a large bowl or tub filled with equal quantities of ice and cold water. Remember to stir the contents of the container as it cools. Stabilize the container, so that water does not splash inside and so the container will not tip over.


The greater the amount of surface exposed to the cold water bath (through the medium of a bain-marie or other container), the more quickly the liquid will cool.

To cool semi-solid or solid foods, a different approach may be required. For example, a stuffing mixture added to a chicken or used to fill a pork chop should be well chilled before it is introduced to the bird or chop. Sautéed onions, carrots, celery, and peppers should be removed from the pan, spread in a thin layer on a clean baking sheet and placed in a refrigerator to cool quickly before combining the stuffing with other ingredients.


This same principle is used to cool cooked pasta, rice, or other items that cannot easily be stirred as they cool, or would be damaged by being piled up in a large pot or bain-marie.


Large cuts of meat or other solid foods should be cut into slices or chunks, whenever possible. The idea is to reduce the diameter of the food, enabling it to cool within a safe time period (less than two hours). Place the sliced or chunked food into clean containers, and cool, uncovered, until the item is thoroughly chilled. Then cover, label and date properly.

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