Cooking Temperatures and Food Safety

Cooking Temperatures and Food Safety

When preparing food, it’s important that you understand what temperature different food groups need to be cooked at to keep your customers safe.

You must hit these temperatures and times as a minimum. A good control measure is setting their cooking temperatures at a higher level, for a longer time. Just to be safe!

Internal Cooking Temperature

Make sure food reaches the USDA minimum internal cooking temperature in order to reduce the amount of pathogenic bacteria to a safe level before serving.

Here are the recommended minimum internal cooking temperatures based off the 2017 FDA Food Code.

165°F for <1 second

This includes poultry, stuffing (made with poultry, meat, or fish), stuffed foods (pasta, poultry, meat, seafood), and all foods that include TCS Food ingredients that have been previously cooked.

155°F for 17 seconds

Ground meat, mechanically tenderized meat, ground seafood, and shell eggs to be hot held should all reach the temperature of 155°F for 17 seconds.

145°F for 15 seconds

145°F for 15 seconds is the recommended time held at this internal temperature for roasts, such as beef, pork, veal, and lamb. Check out our pdf guide for alternative cooking temperatures and times for roasts.

135°F for no minimum time

Hot food such as vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruit should be held at 135°F or higher to ensure that pathogenic bacteria do not multiply.

Hot Holding Food

The most important rule is to keep food at a minimum of 135°F or above, as well as stir food regularly to make sure all parts of the food stays at this temperature.

Best practices for hot holding

Don’t surpass maximum hold time

4 hours should be the maximum time you hold hot food.

Never mix new food and old food

Never add new food to old food! Make sure you throw the old food away, sanitize the serving dish and cutlery, and replace with new food.

Reheating Food

Reheating food incorrectly and not reaching the minimum internal temperature required means that a large amount of pathogenic bacteria can form, leading to foodborne illness.

Food must be reheated to 165°F for 15 seconds.

Best practices for reheating food

Keep food in cooler until ready

Only remove food from the cooler just before reheating.

Only reheat once

Never use hot holding equipment to reheat food more than once. You must throw away food after it has been re-heated once.

Cooling Hot Food

Cooling hot food is the biggest cause of foodborne illness in America.

That’s because going from hot to cold puts food in the Temperature Danger Zone, between 41°F - 140°F, where bacteria can multiply at an exponential rate.  

In most situations, 2 hours is too long for food to be left in the Temperature Danger Zone. We recommend doing cooling hot food within 30 minutes.

Best practices for cooling hot food

Use right containers

Whenever possible, use large, shallow trays and pans (two to three inches deep) for cooling food. The larger surface area helps to speed up the cooling process.

Divide food up

Divide hot food into smaller or thinner portions.

Use an ice bath

Transfer the hot food to a clean, cold container and place the container in a larger one that holds ice or water. Add new ice or cold water at regular intervals to speed up the process.

Stir food

Stir or rotate food while it is cooling.

Use the right container

After removing cooked roasts and whole chickens from their juices, transfer the food to a clean, cold container with enough space for air to circulate and make sure it is covered

Cover food while cooling

Cover and protect all food from cross-contamination while it is cooling.

Check temperature

Keep regularly checking the temperature of the food to make sure you do not leave it in the Temperature Danger Zone longer than necessary

Never put hot food in cooler

Never place hot food in a cooler as this will raise the temperature of the cooler and cause condensation that could cross-contaminate other foods.

Never cool food at room temperature

Never cool food at room temperature. This will leave food in the temperature danger zone for too long.


Learn more about how to monitor food temperature and avoid spreading foodborne illness in our Food Handlers training.

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