question about food temps

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Joined Aug 27, 2018
hi all,
i'm not a professional, and i apologize if this is not the correct place for my question. but i've scoured the internet and can't find the answer to my question....so i'm hoping for your professional expertise. i know that chefs are the most experienced in food safety in the real world!
so, how long do you have for cold raw meat/milk to go from danger zone to below 40 in the fridge? for example, i brought home raw chicken tenderloins from the grocery, put into fridge. after 2 hours, they were at 42. after 3 hours they were at 40. so, technically they sat in the danger zone(above 40) for more than 2 hours. everything i read says that food cannot sit in that zone for 2 hours.

mind you, i have my fridge set to 34. my milk sits on the middle shelf, 3/4 of the way back. sometimes it's frozen on top, sometime it is 40 degrees.

i'm wondering if i need a new fridge. shouldn't a fridge set to 34 get raw chicken to below 40 within 2 hours? also, i don't want my meat at exactly 40 do i? isn't that a little close to the danger zone? i mean what if it hits 42 in the fridge?

i'm having trust issues with my fridge.
:)
thanks for any help....this is driving me crazy.
reece
 
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Joined May 25, 2015
Your fridge should be able to maintain an even 34 deg temperature but keep in mind that with frequent opening of the door all bets are off. Most home refrigerators do not have the capacity to cool very quickly like commercial ones do that are designed to maintain their temperature even when the door is opened and closed all day.

From what you are saying though I think your fridge may have some problems.

The rule is: cool hot foods from 140°F to 70°F within two hours and to 41°F within four hours of reaching 70°F.
 
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Do you happen to know the temperature of the chicken when you got it home? Unless it sat in the hot car quite a while, it should have been pretty close to 40 to begin with, or lower.
 
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Do you happen to know the temperature of the chicken when you got it home? Unless it sat in the hot car quite a while, it should have been pretty close to 40 to begin with, or lower.

i don't. but i'm assuming that my grocer keeps it cold enough. it is hot here and my car is black, so it gets hot in there. however, it's only a 15 minute ride from the grocer to my fridge. i don't want to start testing the grocer's temps, because then i'll freak myself out and not be able to buy food and i gotta EAT! :) lol

so, the food needs to come down to below 40 within 2 hours? is that the rule with raw meat? i know the rule with cooked foods, 2 hours, then 4 hours - but i don't know if that applies here, to raw meat.
 
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These are guidelines, and in a commercial environment, they are laws.
But in the end just remember, food is far, far, from an exact science.
There are many variables which affect how it will behave, starting with
where it came from and how it was handled along the way. Much of which
you proably dont know.
So to say...oops it took 2.5 hours to cool to 41, I guess its bad and i need
to throw it out, well im afraid it just doesnt work that way. I personally never
"time" how long it takes to cool something in my fridge. I inspect it when its
time to use it, and make a judgement from there.
I rarely have to dump meat and poultry, and to my knowledge I havent
poisoned anyone yet.
 
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Most supermarkets maintain their refrigerated cases for chicken at 32 degrees. How are you measuring the temperature of your chicken?

i measured the chicken with a calibrated dial probe type.

i'm learning a lot about food safety... :) i have come across articles about if something is at 42 for only a day, then it's probably fine, yet, i still go back to the "Danger Zone" rule, which says, above 40 for only 2 hours. it's contradictory.
i just don't want to invest in a new fridge if i don't need to. my fridge is only 5 years old.
it had some ice build up in the freezer and the appliance guys don't know why. they say it's working fine.

but it just doesn't seem right. i just measured some sour cream and some milk that had been in there for a week. they were at 40. different shelves. not in the door. just doesn't seem like it should just sit right at 40 if i have it set to 34.
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
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Don't put hot things in your fridge. It will freeze other things as your fridge works to make it all cold again.

Ice it first outside the fridge. Then into the fridge once it's down to room temp or so.
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
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Joined Mar 29, 2002
i measured the chicken with a calibrated dial probe type.

i'm learning a lot about food safety... :) i have come across articles about if something is at 42 for only a day, then it's probably fine, yet, i still go back to the "Danger Zone" rule, which says, above 40 for only 2 hours. it's contradictory.
i just don't want to invest in a new fridge if i don't need to. my fridge is only 5 years old.
it had some ice build up in the freezer and the appliance guys don't know why. they say it's working fine.

but it just doesn't seem right. i just measured some sour cream and some milk that had been in there for a week. they were at 40. different shelves. not in the door. just doesn't seem like it should just sit right at 40 if i have it set to 34.
You have discovered the temperature gradient. Your fridge probably only measures the temperature in one spot. the fridge will be cooler lower down because cold sinks and hot air rises.

Further your refrigerator probably doesn't have active cooling. the cold is circulated usually in the freezer section and allowed to go through vents into the refrigerator side aftera bsorbing some heat from the freezer.

Also the refrigerator will cycle on and off rather than struggle to keep constant exact temperature it will fluctuate up and down across a certain range.

these are generalizations and you could probably find a fridge that works differently.
 
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Generally if youre setting the fridge to its coldest, and its barely maintaining
41, its time to have it serviced. Also regarding settings, with many home fridges,
the freezer is doing all the actual cooling, while the frige is just a big box
with a control to allow the cold air to be deflected into it.
Thats why the cold and warm spots, frozen milk on the top shelf,
things in the crisper drawer barely cool to the touch, etc.
Bad enuf on midline fridges, but on lower end fridges it can be maddening.
 
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yeah, i had it serviced and they cannot find anything "wrong" to fix. i'd say it's maintaining 40. somethings are colder, for sure, at 36, or 38, and a few things at 34, but my milk is never under 38. it's usually right at 40. except the one day it had a layer of ice on top. :(

i don't think the freezer is what cools my fridge, i think the appliance guy said that it has dual, somethings. -- the freezer temp flucuates alot too. i basically keep only ice cream in there, but sometimes it's at 10 when i open it, and it's set to -3. it goes back down and everything stays frozen, but the ice cream gets a tad soft sometimes. if it's cycling, that's fine, but dang, how many times can i open it when it just so happens to be cycling, ya know?
 
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Invest a couple of dollars in some dial thermometers like this-
https://www.webstaurantstore.com/ta...erator-freezer-dial-thermometer/913RFT2K.html
Keep them in your fridge and freezer and you can see at a glance what's going on.

i do have thermometers in my fridge and freezer. that's what prompted my testing some chicken. i had been to the grocery, came home, put groceries away, and then kept out some chicken and a flank steak. i transfered these to tupperware and prepared them with my dry rub. then i put them in the fridge, in the back, middle shelf. we then fixed lunch, etc. so the fridge was open and closed alot but not anything out of the usual living.... well, i noticed the temp for the fridge went up to like 50 during that time. that seemed ok, since the door had been open and closed and the thermometer is very sensitive to the blast of air. but an hour later, it had only come down to like 45, then 2 hours later it was finally back down to 40. well, i decided to measure that flank steak...it was at 45. it had been in there 2 hours and wasn't below 40..... that's what prompted my worrying about my fridge not working well enough to cool something down within 2 hours. i don't know what the steak was when i put it in there, but that doesn't really matter, even if it was at 60, it still needs to get to below 40 within 2 hours, right?
 
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Joined May 25, 2015
... well, i noticed the temp for the fridge went up to like 50 during that time. that seemed ok, since the door had been open and closed and the thermometer is very sensitive to the blast of air. but an hour later, it had only come down to like 45, then 2 hours later it was finally back down to 40. well, i decided to measure that flank steak...it was at 45. it had been in there 2 hours and wasn't below 40.....

After an hour, if it still hasn't cooled down to the set point I would say that there is a problem. I find that most consumer appliance repair people don't want to bother getting into problems that involve electronics (unless it's a simple part replacement) or especially refrigerant and compressors. Really, those things aren't made to be repaired at that level anyway. Even if you found somebody to diagnose and repair, the cost probably would be more than half what a new fridge would cost.

A 5 year old fridge doesn't sound old to you or I but the way they make things today nothing surprises me. Probably if it were me I would be out looking for a new one.
 
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so, i was hoping that the 2/4 rule applied to raw foods too, like meat or chicken. i guess it doesn't. although an FDA consumer line lady told me that as long as it is in the process of cooling down that it would be safe for it to take up to 4 hours.... i just don't believe her, because everything i read says....food cannot stay in the danger zone (above 41)for more than 2 hours...so, i'm not sure who to believe! ugh.
 
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As I said above, chicken is usually sold at around 32 deg (I think they call it ice glazed) so if you get it home within a reasonable amount of time it should certainly be 40 or below. (If you are really worried get an insulated bag and some frozen cold packs to take it home in.) BUT let's say that for whatever reason your chicken is more than 40 deg when you get it home. You could pop it in the freezer for a few minutes but I see no reason why a properly operating refrigerator set at 34 deg couldn't get it down to 34 within 4 hours.

The 2/4 rule is for hot foods. You have 2 hours to get it down to 70 deg then another 4 to get it down to 40. With your chicken from the supermarket you are already within a few degrees of where you want to be at 40 deg. I think the FDA lady is correct as long as your refrigerator is working.
 
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thanks....i don't think chicken down here in georgia is sold at 32, but i will now look for the packages that look a little frozen, i just always think they came out of the freezer recently when i see those!

so, why do you think the FDA lady is correct? is it 2 hours or 4 hours. it's contradictory....who is right?
i did take a bag with me last time. ----
so, as i work this out with y'all on here, it sounds like my fridge is good at keeping things cold enough, 40 or below, but not good at getting things cold quickly. right? and it sounds like my fridge should be better at keeping things colder than 40, since it's set to 34.
agree?
 
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The fact is, the FDA guidelines are notorious for being unscientific BS. Pro cooks have to abide by them anyway, but you're finding things incoherent because the rules are incoherent.

To my mind, the issue is simple. Buy your chicken at ordinary grocery store temp and bring it home in good time. Check the temp and pop it in the meat drawer or bottom area of the fridge. Check temp in 2 hours. If the chicken is above 40, and (as I suspect) it was close to 40 when you got it home, then your fridge is not working. Otherwise, it's fine and you can stop worrying about it.
 
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... so, why do you think the FDA lady is correct? is it 2 hours or 4 hours. it's contradictory

You have 2 hours to go from cooked temperature (hopefully above 140) down to 70. Then you have another 4 hours to go from that 70 down to 40. How is that contradictory? You are starting out with what, 45? No reason on earth for any refrigerator not being able to get a piece of chicken from 45 to 40 in 4 hours.

Unless maybe you bought a 40 pound case.
 
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thank you all so much. i'm terrified we are going to get botulism. - seriously.

i did do the chicken test the other day, except i don't know what temp it started at. but i just tested it like it was a regular run to the grocery and home. i'm assuming they keep their chicken at the right temp. it was at 42 at 2 hours. then it did get colder, but it was still only 40 if i remember correctly.

i'm worried about all the stuff in my fridge...not just meat. it seems to all be at or below 40. unless it's newly introduced...
 
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