It’s a dangerous game to leave leftovers out on the counter.
After a meal, you want to refrigerate cooked foods as soon as possible, but not until they’ve cooled down a bit. (Placing too-hot foods in the fridge can warm up the surrounding items and cause them to go bad quicker.) But there’s a definite window of time to keep in mind – after two hours of being left out, food reaches dangerous levels of bacteria and should be discarded. (Remember this at your next picnic or potluck!)
Here are some things you can do to speed up that cooling process before placing food into the fridge:
- Remove food from the pan it was cooked in
- Put it into smaller portions
- Stir often while cooling
- Leave it uncovered
And be sure that your fridge temperature is set to 40º F or lower in order to maximize food safety.
Remember: When in doubt … throw it out!