How Safe Is Your Kitchen?
Reality: Ideally, when you refrigerate food, it should be cool enough to prevent it from fostering the growth of bacteria and from warming up the food around it to an unsafe temperature (above 40° F). But leaving food out to cool at room temperature also makes it a potential breeding ground for bacteria. Rich Vergili, a food-safety instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York, recommends putting containers of hot food into cold water or ice baths to drop their temperature. Or break it up into smaller portions so it cools to a safe level quickly.
Bottom line: The faster food cools down, the safer it is. Lower the temperature of containers of hot food by placing them in cold water.