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How long to wait before refrigerating home made chicken soup?

  • j

I know chicken soup must be room temp before refrigerating. If I cook it tonight can I leave it out 7 hours or so to cool down and refrigerate it in the morning? Would it spoil?

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  1. When I think hot/warm food will warm my fridge, I pre cool it. During the winter, I will put food either outside or in the garage. A metal pot of soup on a cold cement floor cools in a couple of hours.

    If the ambient temperature is too warm, I will put ice and water in a rubbermaid container and put the pot of food in the ice bath.

    I have read that some will put ice in a ziplock bag and put that in the soup.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Alan408

      I was going to suggest freezing water inside the zip lock bags. But dont fill them any more than about 2/3 full.

      However, if the soup is going to be made tonight, there probably won't be enough time to freeze the water. But putting ice cubes in the bags and closing them will work.

    2. No, don't do that. I think in 7 hours, you might have bacteria growing like crazy for a couple of hours. Let it cool for an hour or so, if you have that much time, or less if you don't. Before it gets down to about 180 degrees, you need to get it to room temp and in the fridge as rapidly as possible. I set the pot in the sink and fill the sink with cold water and ice. Someone mentioned immersing a freezer bag filled with ice, which you might also do. If it's a really large quantity, divide it in a few smaller, narrow, tall containers (so later you can skim the fat and goop out easily), so you have more surface area for the heat to escape. Probably with a combo of techniques, you can get it cooled in another 30 or 45 minutes.

      1. Why do you believe the soup should be at room temperature before refrigeration?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Karl

          Agreed...The only problem you can have, is if the pot of stock is really big and the fridge is really small, you can raise the temperature enough in the fridge long enough to spoil the other food that is in there. However, this really isn't the case for nearly all stock endeavours...stick it in the fridge.

          1. re: Aaron

            Room temperture for seven hours? Are you making soup or bacteria? Once that soup gets down to 145 F, you need to get it below 40 F as quickly as possible. Unless you're refrigerator is more than 30 years old, there is no reason that you can't refrigerate hot soup. I wouldn't eat anything from the individual who told you to let it sit at room temperture for seven hours.

          2. re: Karl

            Soup must be at room temperature before refrigeration.

            The warm soup in a cooling environment is the perfect environment for creating bacteria. The differences in temperature in different parts of the pot further encourage bacteria to form. The liquid which is room temp chills all at once.

            There is no harm leaving soup out overnight to cool. After all, refrigeration is a very modern concept and people were making soups long before ice boxes.

            1. re: Fleur

              I am extremely confused by your statement. Hot soup on the counter is also in a "cooling environment". If you wish to minimize the amount of time food spends between 40 and 140 degrees, you should place it in as cold an environment as possible, since the rate of temperature change directly depends on the temperature difference between the soup and the environment. You should also maximize surface area exposed to the cool surroundings, and stir, if possible, since heat transfer by convection works more quickly than conduction. Putting a glass or metal bowl in ice water is better since water is a much better conductor of heat than air.

              Room temperature soup does not "chill all at once". If it is not stirred, it will also chill from the outside in. And why do different temperatures in different parts of the pot help bacterial growth?

              1. re: Jess

                I went to cooking school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. They advise cooling at room temperature - the slow cooling does not leave warm pockets as harbors for bacteria. It should be refrigerated when completely cooled.

          3. Do NOT leave it out 7 hours unless you have a close relative with a large insurance policy of which you are the beneficiary. You don't want to place a really hot pot on a glass fridge shelf - it might crack the glass. But otherwise, place the pot, uncovered so the steam can escape and it will cool faster, on the back of the bottom shelf, where it's coolest, and all will be well. Cover it in the morning.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Niki Rothman

              I cool my soup 1-2 hours, uncovered, on the counter before refrigerating, and I haven't had any problems. I also put a cork trivet or flat hot pad/oven glove on the glass fridge shelf before putting the pot on it.

              1. re: Niki Rothman

                Not to be a contrarian, but have any of you ever left a pot of soup/beans/stew on the stove all day, or over night, and then heated it and served it to people who got sick? I haven't, meaning I've never made anyone sick, ever, from anything I've cooked at home. Is this a regional concern with the bacteria, et. al.?

                I've definitely forgotten soup/stew/beans on the stove overnight and refrigerated them in the morning, then reheated to boiling, and they've been fine. Any experiences you all have otherwise, I'd be open to learning from.

                1. re: DanaB
                  Anon for this one.

                  Purchased a pizza, ate some night 1, left on the counter, ate balance night 2. Two people ate the balance and got sick, we suspected the pizza.

                  Made a pot of Congress's Navy Beans, left on the counter to cool over night, three people ate beans for dinner the next night, we all got sick, we suspected the beans.

                  Made a filling for pot stickers/spring rolls, pre cooked the filling let cool, maybe 6 hours. I got sick, I suspected the filling.

                  A roommate left frozen ground beef on the counter to defrost, he and his girlfriend got sick. We used to tease him, he "made her" become a vegetarian.

                  Some dishes are more prone to bacteria growth, those without salt/sugar/acid for example.

                  I practice; when in doubt, throw it out.

                  1. re: DanaB

                    YES! It happened to me. That's why I was so emphatic about the need to refrigerate chicken soup. Because I was cooking for a hospice, of all places, and made the mistake of leaving at the end of the day and asking someone who should have been very responsible, considering their managerial position, to please, please, please be sure to put the soup in the fridge asap after it cooled to room temp. I later found out that soup sat out for some hours before being refrigerated, perhaps overnight - but certainly no longer than that. When I returned to work 2 days later, when one would naturally expect refrigerated soup to still be quite fresh and good, and that soup tasted like the worst case of, all I can think of is dirty laundry, it was rank! From this horrible experience comes my advice to just let that soup go from hot-hot to warm, and refrigerate. Room temp chicken soup is a perfect bacterial medium - isn't a broth of sorts what they use to culture microbes in petri dishes?

                    1. re: DanaB

                      DanaB, I feel like you and I are alone in this boat.

                      All through my childhood, I would watch my mom bring soup to a boil, set the lid off of the pot a bit to let steam escape, and go to sleep. We re-heated the soup the next day and no one ever got sick the entire time we were growing up. Maybe we built up strong immune systems. She only did this with fresh soup, and always put it away the next day. She also did this in Los Angeles, so it wasn't like it was freezing cold (though she didn't do it during summers).

                      I do the same thing now from time to time, and have never gotten sick. I just made turkey stock in a crock pot the other day, let it sit over night, then refrigerated it. I'm still fine.

                      I'm not advocating that anyone change his/her habits, since obviously chilling quickly is the safest thing to do. I'm just saying there are those of us out here who don't and are still alive.

                      1. re: nooodles

                        Same thing with my mom, except she had a pantry that wasn't heated and left the screened windows open.

                        My family has a lot of pot lucks, I usually take a plate home with me. But, the foods contain: salt, sugar, shoyu, lemon, vinegar. I haven't heard of anyone getting sick from the traditional Japanese foods served but no one takes home the leftover potato salad.

                        I think hygiene, chemistry (biology), and temperature are involved in food poisoning. Keep the food free from bacteria, keep pots covered to prevent airborne bacteria, create an environment that doesn't promote bacteria growth (salt/sugar/acid), and keep the food out of the 40/140 zone as much as possible.

                        1. re: nooodles

                          Different people have different immune systems and digestive systems.
                          Neither I nor my family has ever gotten sick from food either home made or restaurant,in any country.
                          If you know you or your family has a problem, take extra care.
                          If you actually knew what went on in most commercial kitchens, you would never eat out again.

                      2. re: Niki Rothman

                        You should absolutely NOT put hot food into the fridge because it lowers the temp inside the fridge, causing other food to go bad. Try the sink trick.

                      3. know i'm late here, but in case anyone's listening, a good trick is to fill the sink with cold water, then plunge your stock pot into it. you may need two or three changes of water, but it works. i think i actually got this from someone on this board!

                        1. At cooking school, we were taught to immediately plunge the stockpot into an ice bath to cool it down quickly, then place it in the refrigerator. Doing anything else, we were told, would create harmful bacteria.

                          1. Yeah, like they said-
                            Get it cold FAST

                            My cruddy apartment fridge probably couldn't handle the 2 gallons of stock I make at a time- so I break it down.

                            I decant the stock (cooling it) into smaller containers (usually 1 or 2 qt containers) then spread these smaller containers out in both my fridge and freezer, then shuffle them every couple of hours.

                            The bacteria "danger zone" is really between 40 and 140- food is best kept above or below this level- it's not just killing the bacteria already there, but also reducing the amount of time they are alive to breed or secrete. Stocks are one of the best living conditions for bateria- high in protein, wet, just slightly acidic- even if you will be heating or chilling it later, the bacteria in there NOW are secreting all manner of toxins that may exist even after cooking. By limiting the window of opportunity, you reduce the possibility of contamination.

                            When it comes to a previous poster's stove top beans, I just congratulate you on your luck.

                            Don't get me wrong, I like a little risk- a little dirt- now and then- I'll let my kids eat mudpies (whenever I manage to get around to having any)- Hell I was in a sanitation course on my birthday and had a rare burger for lunch and went out for sushi that night! But Stock is something that finds its way into many other dishes that will be shared- reduce the risks.

                            1. My favorite and absolute easiest way to cool soup is to put the entire pot into a stopped sink and then fill the sink with water. If needed, change the water after a while.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: zfalcon

                                What a great idea! This never occurred to me. Of course, this would work with anything else - especially if, like me, you are often waiting around for something like a big pot of spaghetti sauce to cool so you can divide it up into containers for freezing. You are a genius!

                              2. To the people whose mommy's left the soup out overnight with no ill effects: it simply means the bacteria were killed upon reheating. Since I've yet to see a recipe that says to add half a cup of deadly pathogens, I will continue to ensure my leftovers stay out of the 40-145 F range as much as possible. You're entitled to your opinions, you're not entitled to your own set of FACTS. This is the factual range where pathogens reproduce best. What you do from here is up to you.

                                1. Hi jm,
                                  Whenever I make soup, I make a huge pot of it. I let it cool on the counter and stir it every twenty minutes or so eliminate the hot core. Once the outside of the pot is cool enough that you could carry it around the block with bare hands, it is cool enough to put in the fridge on a trivet. I continue to sit it every hour until it is as cool in the center as it is on the top. I have a sensitive stomach and have never had a problem with this method. It is all about cooling uniformly. You don't want a hot core. Good luck!

                                  1. For all y'all, cordon bleu students also. To avoid bacteria growth cooling food needs to spend a minimum amount of time in the "danger zone", or 40-140 degrees. The FDA states less than two hours.
                                    Physics is a wonderful thing. There is not such a thing as "quality of cooling"; there is only a rate at which it cools. If you insist on cooling it on a counter to room temperature before putting in into the fridge, you delay the cooling. There are valid reasons for not wanting to put piping hot food into the fridge, like warming up the other contents of the fridge or melting a shelf, but if you want to practice best food safety, actively cool your food, don't let it linger on the counter. No matter where it cools, there are going to be "pockets" that don't cool as fast. This is because the center of the substance will always be last to reach the desired cool temp. Ways to expedite the cooling include leaving the lid off the container in the fridge, stirring occasionally as it cools, using frozen gel packs or Ziploc's of ice, or separating the dish into smaller portions for quicker cooling. More time spent between 40-140 degrees equals more bacteria growth. No matter what your fancy chef instructor says.

                                    1. I cool chicken stock on the counter overnight regularly in winter (not in the middle of summer, though). I put the lid on as soon as it's finished cooking, and leave it without touching until the following morning.

                                      If I put a full batch of stock in the fridge when it's still hot, it totally throws off the temperature of everything else in my not too large refrigerator, and I'll end up ruining other food, usually via freezing it, as the fridge struggles to keep up.

                                      If I remember correctly, this was standard historically for the stock pot, before refrigeration. Stock-pot went in a cool spot, and was reboiled every couple fo days.

                                      1. Since the OP asked it has become more common to find cooling apparatuses to speed cooling that vary on fancy versions of encapsulated ice. I find ziploc bags and recycled plastic bottles awkward and leaky. An old Nalgene kept frozen is easy.

                                        1. I've been eating, cooking and cooling chicken soup by my mothers direction for over 40 years. Her advice...( and I have never melted a shelf, become ill, or spoiled other foods) is put the damn pot in the fridge quickly.