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Can You Put Warm Food in the Freezer?

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By Elizabeth Masterman

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One of the benefits of having a freezer is that it can be a great time-saver for busy people. Whether you want to batch-cook meals and freeze them or save leftovers for a quick and easy meal another day, you need to ensure you’re taking the proper steps to do so safely.

Can You Put Warm Food in the Freezer?

It’s ok to put small amounts of warm food in the freezer. However, larger quantities will raise the temperature, meaning it could start to defrost items nearby, and the freezer will have to work harder to maintain the optimum temperature. It is better to leave food out to cool beforehand.

What are the Dangers of Warm Food in the Freezer?

Putting larger quantities of warm food in the freezer is likely to have an impact on the foods nearby, causing them to begin to defrost.

Without checking on these items, they would then refreeze, and you would have no idea that any damage had been done to your food.

This could affect the taste and texture of the food, but more importantly, it could allow harmful bacteria to grow.

Freezing preserves food by halting the growth of bacteria, but it doesn’t actually kill them. If frozen food is allowed to thaw, these bacteria can start to multiply, increasing the risk of food poisoning.

Also, putting large quantities of warm food in the freezer will raise the overall temperature in the freezer. If you do this regularly, it will mean that the freezer has to work harder, using more energy, costing you more money and causing extra wear on the working parts of your freezer, reducing its lifespan.

Putting warm food in a cold freezer will also produce steam, and moisture trapped inside your freezer will turn to frost.

Again, doing this occasionally isn’t such a big deal. But over time, a build-up of frost in your freezer will not just take up valuable space, but is another factor that could make your freezer have to work harder, hiking up your energy bills and affecting the longevity of your appliance.

What’s the Best Way to Freeze Freshly Cooked Food?

It’s much better to allow food to cool before putting it in the freezer. You could do this by leaving food at room temperature while it cools, although make sure not to leave it out for longer than two hours, as this is when bacteria will start to multiply, and you could risk food poisoning.

Cooling Food at Room Temperature

Be aware that this recommendation depends on the temperature of the room. On a warm day, you’ve got a shorter window of time before there’s a danger of bacteria multiplying.

For example, if the room is 32oC or hotter, then you shouldn’t leave food out to cool down for any longer than an hour.

In terms of bacterial growth, there is a “danger zone” between 4oC and 60oC, and if food remains at this temperature for 2 hours or more, bacteria can multiply rapidly. 

If you leave something out to cool and forget about it, accidentally leaving it out for longer than these recommended times, I’m afraid the safest thing to do is throw it away.

To encourage your food to cool more quickly, divide it into smaller portions, where possible.

If you are freezing meals like soups or casseroles, divide them into separate containers, even if you plan to reheat them as one batch, as this will help them to cool down and freeze more quickly.

A large cut of cooked meat, fish or poultry should be divided into smaller pieces and wrapped securely before freezing.

If you can, move your food to a cooler area, such as a larder, utility or a windowsill. Containers of cooling food could be placed on a cold hob under the extractor fan to encourage them to cool more quickly.

Some ovens have a cool setting, where the fan is used to encourage cooling by increasing the air flow around the food.

Can You Cool Food Using the Freezer?

As explained above, it’s best not to put large quantities of warm food into the freezer. If you’re looking for a method to cool food more quickly, there are alternatives.

If time is of the essence, you can speed up the process by placing food containers in a shallow basin of cold water, with ice if available. Take care not to allow the cold water to come into direct food with the food inside the containers.

You can also encourage the process along by stirring the food, if possible, as this moves the hotter food from the middle of the container to the outside, where it will be in contact with the cold surfaces.

Remember to dry containers thoroughly before putting them in the freezer.

Can You Put Warm Food in the Fridge?

Another option is to put food in the fridge to cool, although some manufacturers don’t recommend it.

As with a freezer, a large quantity of warm food will cause the temperature within the fridge to rise, impacting other food and causing the fridge to work harder.

However, we are dealing with a smaller difference in temperature than when placing warm food in a freezer so it won’t have as much of an impact, and there are things you can do to reduce the risks. 

Again, it is best to divide the food into smaller portions to encourage it to cool more quickly. Another option is to ensure the food is in a large shallow dish, so there is a greater surface area, allowing it to cool quickly.

If you have more questions about putting warm food in the freezer, then check these FAQs out:

What Happens When You Put Warm Food in the Freezer?

When you put warm food in the freezer, you raise the temperate inside the freezer slightly but may also accidentally defrost frozen food that is close to the warm food.

Can I Put Hot Food Directly Into the Freezer?

No, this is a bad idea. It can ruin other food that’s in your freezer, whilst raising the temperature of the freezer itself causing it to work harder.

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