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Cooling Food

Posted By KRHA, Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Priority Violation: 3-501.14 - Cooling PHF/TCS
When it comes to cooling food, it is important for an operation to understand the code requirements.  Once you understand the requirements it is key to have a system or standard operating procedure in place that is easy for staff to follow.


The Kansas Food Code requires all cooked food not prepared for immediate service to be cooled as quickly as possible to keep bacteria from developing. The two-state cooling method reduces the cooked food’s internal temperature in two steps.



Step 1:

Reduce the temperature from  135° to 70° within two hours of preparation.


Step 2:

Continue to cool food from 70° to 41° in an additional 4 hours.


The total cooling time must not exceed 6 hours.  Pathogens grow the fastest between the temperature of 135° and 70°.  When foods are cooled too slowly this becomes a perfect environment for the growth of foodborne illness bacteria.  If you are not able to cool the food to 70° in two hours, then reheat food to 165° and start the process over.


When deciding how to best cool potentially hazardous foods, keep in mind that factors like portion size, type of container used, and the type of food determine how long it may take a food item to cool.


To promote rapid cooling of cooked foods, the following methods are recommended in the Kansas Food Code:

  •  Place the food to be cooled in shallow pans – Large quantities of food in containers like 5-gallon stockpots or deep pans will cool too slowly. 
  •  Reduce the size of food to smaller or thinner portions – Cut large portions of meat into smaller pieces. 
  •  Place hot food container in an ice water bath – the ice on the outside of the container should be at the same level as the food in the container.
  • Stir food to redistribute the heat - If food is being cooled using the ice bath method, it will cool from the outside in.  Stirring food will redistribute the heat and cool it more quickly.  Using an ice paddle to stir will cool the food even faster.
  • Use containers that allow heat transfer.  Metal containers transfer heat and will cool food more quickly.  However, plastic food grade containers are allowed.
  • Adding ice as an ingredient to the cooked food – 8.5 lbs of ice = 1 gallon of water
  • Combining one or more of the above methods

When cooling food it is important to use temperature logs to monitor the cooling process.  If your operation does not have a cooling temp log, ask KDA or KRHA for a free sample. 


Once the food has been cooled from 135° to 70° in 2 hours using an active cooling method, you can safely put it in your walk in cooler.  You may not want to put hot food directly in your cooler, as it will heat up your cooler and any food stored near it, unless your cooler has adequate capacity.  The monitoring does not stop at this point.  Staff still needs to monitor the temperature of the food to ensure it reaches 41° in an additional 4 hours (no more than 6 hours total from 135°F to 41°F).  It is important to loosely cover the food when placing it in the cooler to allow for a faster cooling process while still protecting the food from the surrounding environment.  Staff should ensure that when the container is lightly covered, overhead contamination does not occur.  Once the product has reached 41°, it can be tightly covered and stored for a maximum of 7 days. 


If you have specific food safety questions let us know by sending an email to  By partnering with the Kansas Department of Agriculture and industry operators, our goal is to create a safe food supply in Kansas.  


Tags:  cooling food  food code  food safety  proper cooling procedures  restaurant management 

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