Cooling Chili and Other Foods Safely

Keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold is important when serving food. But what about after the crowd is gone or how about those times when you cook the chili ahead of time to prepare for the big game later the next day? Cooling food properly before storing it is also an important step for food safety. Keep these tips in mind when preparing chili and other cooked food in large quantities.

Hot foods must be cooled to 41˚ F (5˚ C) or lower within six hours.

When cooking chili it should reach a temperature of 165° F (74˚ C) and be kept warm during serving. A large amount of chili or other food can be challenging to cool. Use a 9” x 11” glass casserole dish or similar shallow container (one to three inches deep) to pour the chili into while it is still hot. This shallow pan allows the chili to cool and eliminates hot spots (areas above 42˚ F / 6˚ C) where bacteria can grow.

The first step of proper cooling is to get the chili from heated temperature to below 70° F (21° C) within two hours. Use an NSF International certified thermometer to test the temperature of the chili after cooling for two hours. You may do this step in the refrigerator or freezer and sometimes even at room temperature. The container should be covered but vented to allow steam to escape.

Second, the chili must be cooled from 70° F (21° C) to 41° F (5° C) within the next four hours. If the chili or hot food did not cool down to 70° F (21° C) within the first two hours, you need to reheat it to 165° F and begin cooling it again in a larger shallow dish. Once the chili is cooled to 41° F (5° C), you can transfer it to other NSF International certified food-safe storage containers with sealed lids to keep it fresh in the refrigerator.

Later, when removing the chili from the refrigerator, reheat it to 165° F (74˚ C) and keep it warm while serving.