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How to cool a large batch of soup?

When I make a large batch of soup I let it cool for a bit on the stove and then in the fridge it goes. Was watching Kitchen Nightmares the other day and when the cooks put a large pot of hot soup in the fridge Ramsay exclaimed, "YOUR GOING TO KILL SOMEONE!"

Apparently this is bad. I get that it will be in the "danger" zone temp wise, but I've done it this way in my home kitchen for years and haven't made anyone sick much less killed someone. What do you do?


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  1. Hi there, JuniorBalloon!

    When I was cooling massive amounts of soup I immersed the stock pot in a sink of icy water and had a frozen quart container (sealed old milk jug) I would put inside the pot. I had additional frozen quarts waiting in case they were called for.

    Hope this helps!
    miss louella

    1. Sit the pot in the sink (with the plug in) and fill the surrounding with cold water. When it gets hot, take the pot out and replace the water. It really speeds up the cooling process. But mostly I don't worry about it. My food cools on the stove for about 30 minutes and then in the fridge it goes. I only worry about cooling if it's something that I WANT to set faster so I can eat it or use it in another recipe (like custard.)

      1. I let cool for a long time room temp or and generally change containers to go to fridge.

        1. Depends on how much soup you have. Maybe 1/2 gallon or less, I don't worry about much. Just let it cool enough to put it in the fridge. For a gallon or two, putting the pot in a sink full of cold water and stirring the soup usually does the trick. As Kajikit says, you might have to replace the water once or twice once it gets warm.

          For more soup still - when I made a huge stockpot full of butternut squash soup for a wedding, I filled a bathtub full of ice water, put the stockpot in that, and then submerged into the soup about 6 pint sized plastic water bottles that I had frozen. That worked, though it was a bit messy getting the water bottles out.

          Professional kitchens use an ice wand for the task, which is essentially the same principle as the frozen water bottles.

          In any case, the goal should be to bring the temperature of the soup down to 40 deg F or below within at most 4 hours from the time the soup comes off the heat (or actually, from the time it drops below about 140 f). As you've seen, you can fail to do this and still not make anybody ill. But if you press your luck enough times, eventually a batch is gonna make someone sick. Obviously, it's a little more critical that a restaurant chill their soups correctly, just because the sheer volume of soup they sell makes contamination that much more assured in the long run with bad technique.

          1. As others have said, a sink full of ice water and stir vigorously to whip the hot air out and the cool air in. We had to do this at the CIA and brought giant vats of stock down to safe temperatures very quickly. It should only take a few minutes (maybe 15) if the pot isn't very full. If you don't have ice, you could just use cold water but it will take a lot longer.

            1. It's not just the soup pot that's the issue - the hot pot will dramatically raise the internal temp of the refrigerator for a few hours, and consequently the temp of the other chilled foods. Your dairy liquids will spoil faster, and none of your foods will last as long as they would if the soup cooled before joining them. Additionally, you'll waste power and make your refrigerator work harder, potentially shortening its life.

              1. It cools on the hob. Only then does it go in the fridge or freezer.

                1. in the winter, I cover it and set it out on the window sill -- works impressively fast!

                  1. I usually am cooking at most a gallon, but I do notice it warming some items in the fridge. While I'm not too woried about the bacteria factor I think I will try the cold water in the sink trick along with changing the container.


                    1. I make stock probably 3 times a month, year round. Here's my cooling methodology.

                      In the winter, I cover the pot and put it in the garage. It gets really cold really fast.

                      When I don't have Mother Nature's Freezer available, I put the pot into the sink (with the stopper in the sink), fill the sink with ice water 3/4 up the sides of the pot, and stick a couple of frozen water bottles into the pot. Add more ice to the sink and swap out the frozen bottles as needed.

                      Then I package the stock into quart containers and freeze.

                      1. It's all about surface area. The more soup surface area you can place into contact with a cooler surface, whether it's contact with the container's exterior or the open air, the faster it will cool. It will cool faster in a container placed within an ice water environment if the container is relatively shallow and flat vs a container that is deep and cylindrical.

                        1. While I too have used the ice water in the sink method as well as frozen water bottles in the soup, I have found that an even more effective method is to transfer the soup to a chilled kettle and place it in front of a table-top fan. Stir the soup occasionally and it's cool in a shorter amount of time than using the sink method. It works in the same way that blowing air on a spoonful of hot soup cools it enough to put into your mouth.

                          1. I use my wort chiller that I have for home brewing. Mine is just a single coil but it chills the wort down really fast.


                            1. I have several quart-and-a-half Mason jars and a lot of quarts. I put the soup into as many as I need. Vertical cools faster and stores conveniently in the refrigerator and can then be frozen in plastic containers.