Food Temperature Danger Zone | 5 mins read

Which Hot Foods Are In The Food Temperature Danger Zone?

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Hanh Truong

By Hanh Truong

Introduction to Food Temperature Danger Zone

When cooking and serving dishes to customers, restaurant employees need to make sure the food is within the right temperature. Not only is having food that is too cold unsatisfying, but it can be hazardous as well. This is because when the internal temperature of food continues to fall, it can easily be exposed to bacteria. To ensure that the eatery serves customers high-quality and safe foods, staff needs to be aware of temperature danger zones.

The Facts on the Food Temperature Danger Zone

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The temperature danger zone refers to a temperature range in which bacteria grows and spreads rapidly on food. Experts have indicated that the danger zone is between 40F to 140F. When cooked or raw foods enter the danger zone, bacteria are likely to double in amount. Restaurants can prevent their goods from being exposed to the danger zone by carefully tracking temperatures.

It is also important to not leave chilled or hot foods out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If the room temperature is higher than 90F, then the foods should not be left out for over 1 hour. In the case that food has already entered the danger zone, it is best to discard the items. This way, staff and customers can avoid consuming pathogens, which would have resulted in illnesses, like food poisoning.

Eateries and foodservice businesses will oftentimes prepare large volumes of food prior to serving guests. To effectively do this, staff should regularly monitor their hot foods and make sure their temperature is 140F or above. It is recommended to use a warming vessel, steam table, or similar warming appliance to maintain hot food temperatures. If the restaurant is serving chilled food, then its temperature should be at 40F or below. These items can be maintained using ice, a refrigerator, or a refrigerated box.

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Which Hot Foods Are in the Danger Zone?

Generally, different food items will have specific temperature requirements for guaranteed freshness. Therefore, one method for an ingredient may not be as effective for another. The following are common hot and cold foods that restaurant owners and employees should carefully monitor.

Poultry and Meat

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When restaurants are not immediately serving poultry or meat dishes after cooking, they need to be maintained at 140F or above. Meat, especially, is susceptible to bacteria growth if left at room temperature. For example, pathogens, such as salmonella and E. Coli, can quickly populate and spread on meat products. This will subsequently lead to food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses if those germs are consumed.

To prevent this, restaurants should use a heating vessel to ensure that the holding temperature is properly sustained. Staff should also check the meats periodically with a food thermometer. These measures will help the eatery make sure the foods are not within the danger zone.

Leftover Hot Foods

If there are hot foods that are leftover after serving, they need to be properly cooled and refrigerated. It is important that the minimum internal temperatures of the leftovers reach 40F or below. However, if the temperature is not correctly reduced, bacteria can contaminate the food while it is in the danger zone.

For effective storage of leftover foods, staff should put the items into a shallow container. The limited spacing will allow the food to cool faster and get to 40F within 2 hours. This is in contrast to larger containers because when more food is packed, the center will take longer to cool. Therefore, bacteria will have an opportunity to grow in the warmer sections and spread nearby.

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Cooking Meats

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Cooking meats at a high temperature will eliminate any bacteria on the products. To avoid the danger zone when cooking, restaurant cooks should follow a temperature guide. For example, poultry, like chicken and duck, must be cooked at 165F. Beef, pork, and fish should be cooked at 145F. Temperature requirements may vary, as well, depending on the preparation method. For instance, when hot smoking meats, the temperatures should range from 190F to 300F.

Dairy Products

Dairy products must be cautiously monitored because they can easily become hazardous due to bacterial growth. For example, milk will be fresh if it is held at 40F or below in a refrigerator. Additionally, it should not be outside of its cooling system for more than 2 hours.

Potato Salad

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Although potato salad is prepared hot, it is generally always eaten when cold. Eateries need to make sure they implement proper cooling and temperature control practices for their potato salads to prevent bacterial contamination. One way to effectively and quickly cool cooked vegetables is to lay the ingredients onto a platter and allow air to circulate them.

Conclusion to Food Temperature Danger Zone

  • The temperature danger zone refers to a temperature range in which bacteria grows and spreads rapidly on food. The danger zone is said to be between 40F to 140F.


  • It is important to ensure the hot foods are kept at 140F or above and chilled foods at 40F or below. This will prevent harmful bacteria from contaminating food, which would have resulted in illnesses, like food poisoning.


  • Foodservice businesses should invest in heating appliances to ensure cooked food is maintained at the proper hot holding temperature.


  • Various foods can be in the danger zone. This includes meat, poultry, leftovers, and dairy products.

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