Cooling and Reheating of Potentially Hazardous Foods

Cooling and Reheating Potentially Hazardous foods is also available a PDF in English and Spanish.

Improper cooling and reheating are major causes of foodborne illness. State Sanitary Code changes, which became effective August 19, 1992, were made after informational sessions and meetings with food service establishment operators and regulators and other food industry representatives. The new requirements call for changes in cooling and reheating potentially hazardous foods.

Potentially hazardous foods requiring refrigeration must be cooled by an adequate method so that every part of the product is reduced from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit within two hours, and from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below within four additional hours. Bacteria that cause food poisoning grow at temperatures between 45 degrees Fahrenheit and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooling requirement limits the length of time that potentially hazardous food is in the temperature range at which harmful bacteria can grow. Foods particularly important to meet the cooling requirement include soups, sauces, gravies, stews, rice, chili, whole turkeys, turkey breasts and whole roast beef. Food temperatures should be measured with a stem thermometer.

During restaurant inspections, local health department sanitarians will be asking questions to determine if the cooling requirement was met.


There are several ways to rapidly cool potentially hazardous food. The manager of the establishment should determine which method or combination of methods is most effective for a particular food. The methods of cooling are:

  • Stir soups, sauces, gravies and chilies while the container is in an ice water bath. The ice water depth should be equal to or greater than the food depth.
  • Transfer hot foods to shallow pans with a product depth of four inches or less and refrigerate. Pans may be uncovered until the food temperature reaches 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cut solid foods, such as roasts of meat, into portions of six pounds or less after cooking and prior to cooling.
  • Using special refrigerators known as "rapid chill units," specifically designed to cool foods much faster than standard refrigerators. These units are especially useful when large quantities of foods are prepared in advance.
During restaurant inspections, local health department sanitarians will be identifying potentially hazardous cooked foods to determine how they have been cooled.


The State Sanitary Code now requires that the entire mass of all cooked and refrigerated potentially hazardous food which is to be reheated must be reheated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or above within two hours, and held above 140 degrees Fahrenheit until served. This procedure destroys the bacteria that can cause food poisoning and prevents the bacteria from growing in the food.

Foods may be prepared as close to the serving time as possible, and in quantities that will minimize leftovers, thus eliminating any need for cooling and reheating.

During restaurant inspections, local health department sanitarians will monitor foods which have been reheated, or are in the process of being reheated, and measure their temperatures with a stem thermometer.


During inspections, foods that are cooled or reheated improperly will require immediate corrective actions and violations will be recorded on the inspection report form. Violations can result in enforcement action. Potentially hazardous food that is improperly cooled must be destroyed and discarded or the health department sanitarian will be required to embargo it. Foods under embargo may not be served to customers or otherwise removed from the premises until a hearing has been held to determine the disposition of the food.

If you have any questions about how this information affects your establishment, contact your local health department.

Rare roast beef and beef steak 130 degrees Fahrenheit
Precooked commercially prepared potentially hazardous foods and potentially hazardous foods not on this list 140 degrees Fahrenheit
Shell eggs and egg containing foods 145 degrees Fahrenheit
Pork 150 degrees Fahrenheit
Ground Meat 158 degrees Fahrenheit
Poultry, poultry stuffing, stuffed meats and stuffing containing meat 165 degrees Fahrenheit
For all of the above foods 120 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit within 2 hours and 70 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit in 4 additional hours
For all of the above foods 165 degrees Fahrenheit