Avoiding the Danger Zone – How to Make a Food Ice Bath

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021
Ice Bath - image by Vanora Davila

By: Vanora Davila

So, you want to talk about the danger zone? The temperature danger zone, that is. When talking about food, the danger zone refers to the temperature range in which bacteria growth occurs most rapidly -- 41˚F (5˚C) to 140˚F (60˚C). In this range, food-poisoning bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels that can cause foodborne illness. Many times, this danger zone can be a result of improper cooling techniques that can be easily avoided. 

After cooking, hot foods, such as soups, stocks, cooked meats, pasta, rice, and foods containing dairy, and eggs should be kept hot or be cooled quickly if not immediately served. If you are trying to keep the food hot, you can place the food hot on the stove top or the oven, ensuring the unit is set high enough to keep food hotter than 140˚F.

If the food is to be put away, it should cool down from 140˚F to 70˚F within two hours and to 41˚F or lower within four hours. However, hot food needs some help to go through this process. While we may think that a refrigerator should be up for this task, the truth is that refrigerators are not capable of quickly and safely cooling hot foods. Putting hot foods directly into the fridge or freezer can actually raise the overall temperature of the unit, allowing other foods in your fridge or freezer to enter the danger zone and become hazardous.

Instead, a food ice bath is a great and effective way to cool food quickly and evenly while preventing bacteria from growing and multiplying.

How to make a food ice bath:

  1. Fill your sink or a large container with ice and cold water
  2. Place your smaller container of food into the ice bath (container should be level with the ice). Tip: stainless steel containers are great for heat transfer!
  3. Occasionally stir the food to release heat and ensure the food cools down evenly
  4. Verify your food’s temperature using a food thermometer. Once the food reaches 40˚F, it is ready to be safely put away in the refrigerator

As you can see, making a food ice bath is simple. The next time you have hot foods that need to be put away, remember that ice baths help you avoid the danger zone with great ease.



1. Cool soup safely. Available from: https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/cool-soup-safely

2. Keeping Your Customers Safe by Cooling Food Properly. Available from: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/inspect/inspect-foodmatter...

Vanora DavilaVanora Davila

Graduate Intern





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