food-safety | 6 mins read

Reheating Food Temperatures- Tips to Maintain Food Safety

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Archita Wagle

By Archita Wagle

Why Do Cooking and Reheating Food Temperatures Matter?

Controlling the temperature of food while it is being cooked or stored is important. This not only preserves the quality of the food, but also ensures it is safe to consume, as it controls the growth of harmful bacteria. Ensuring food safety protects consumers from the risk of food-borne illnesses and helps prevent related conditions like food poisoning and allergies.

Hence it is important to make sure that the food is cooked and stored at the optimum temperature recommended by the U.S. government food safety guidelines. As per the guidelines, products like meat, poultry and eggs should be cooked till they reach the minimum internal temperature in order to kill harmful pathogens. Minimum internal temperature for meat and eggs is 140 F, and for poultry, 165 F.

It is also important to reheat food to a certain minimum internal temperature. This destroys any bacteria that may have developed while the food was stored. Food held over or stored is at an increased risk of contamination due to improper handling. If food is reheated in a microwave, all parts of the item must touch 165 F for 15 seconds.

The best way to ensure that food has reached its optimum internal temperature is to use a meat or grill thermometer.

Why is it Important to Reheat Leftovers?

After food is cooked to its optimum internal temperature, it is important to make sure that leftovers are stored and reheated properly when used again. This destroys pathogens that cause food-borne illnesses and ensures Food Safety.

When cooked food is left on a steam table or a cooling rack, there is a possibility of contamination due to poor handling or dirty containers used. This too can compromise its food safety. It's important to remember that bacteria grows rapidly between 40-140 F.

Food should be cooled within two hours to reach 40 F. This is a safe refrigerator storage temperature. Leftovers should be wrapped in airtight packaging or sealed in containers to keep bacteria out and prevent odours from setting in.

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8 Tips to Reheat Leftovers the Right Way

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If you have to reheat leftovers, make sure to follow these tips so that you don't end up with a limp, soggy dish, or worse, a case of food poisoning-

1. Cool food within two hours of cooking and seal it in airtight containers before you reheat leftovers.
Food should be covered well in foil or placed in a container with vents to let out steam while reheating it in a microwave. While reheating food, make sure that all parts of the food reach an internal temperature of 165 F. Let the food stay at this temperature for at least two minutes to ensure that all bacteria is killed.

2. Reheat leftovers only once. Reheating food again and again increases chances of food poisoning and reduces its flavour and nutritional value.

3. Reheat food till it steaming hot throughout and serve it immediately, as delay increases the risk of food poisoning, giving harmful bacteria time to grow.

4. Use meat or Grill Thermometers to check if the food has reached its optimum internal temperature while being reheated.

5. If you have frozen leftovers, don't defrost food at room temperature. Leave frozen foods to thaw in the refrigerator overnight as bacteria start growing when temperatures are above 46 F.

6. You can defrost raw meat or poultry and freeze the dish made from the raw food. But reheat leftovers only once.

7. Use the same method used for cooking a dish to reheat food. Reheat gravies or stews in a microwave or on a stove while dry. Crisp food should be reheated in the oven.

8. It is safe to reheat leftovers for soup or stew in a saucepan or microwave. Solid foods can be reheated in a microwave too.

Reheating Food Temperatures for Different Foods

As discussed earlier, there are different internal temperatures different types of food should be reheated to, to ensure Food Safety. The safe internal temperature for whole meats is around 145 F, and 165 F for ground meats. Internal cooking temperature for poultry is 165 F. But if you are cooking the whole bird, it is 180 F. The safe internal cooking temperature for whole eggs is around 150 F.

When you are reheating food, the basic rule to follow is cover the food well and leave an opening for the steam to release. Most food should be reheated within two hours and served immediately to avoid bacterial growth.

Food cooked in a restaurant and reheated for hot holding must reach an internal temperature of at least 165 F for 15 seconds. Food made in a food processing plant and reheated for hot holding must reach a temperature of 135 F.

What is the Danger Zone for Food Safety?

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In order to achieve food safety, it's important to bear in mind the danger zone for food. Danger zone is the temperature range where the food is most at risk of developing harmful bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses, like food poisoning.

As per U.S. FDA guidelines, the danger zone for food products is between 40 F and 140 F as the bacteria in food tend to grow quickly in this temperature range. Hence hot or cooked food should be kept at above 140 F and cold food should be kept at or below 40 F. Make sure to reheat food for consumption to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F. Any perishable food kept for more than two hours at room temperature should be thrown away.

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Tips for Food Safety and Protection From the Danger Zone

In order to prevent food wastage and maintain food safety, it is necessary to keep the internal temperatures of food out of the danger zone. Here are a few tips to follow-

  • Cook food at the right internal temperature as per the guidelines issued by the government.
  • Monitor stored food or food in holding trays at regular intervals to ensure that its internal temperature is maintained.
  • If you plan to reheat food, chill it within two hours.
  • Reheat leftovers at the recommended internal temperature to destroy bacterial growth.
  • Consume reheated food immediately to prevent chances of food poisoning.

Food Safety FAQs

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What are food safety guidelines?
Food Safety guidelines have been put in place to safeguard the health of customers, maximize the longevity of food, and develop proper hazard management protocols. These include-
1. Wash hands often
2. Sanitize and clean food preparation surfaces
3. Wash food products like fruits and vegetables
4. Avoid cross contamination by using separate equipment for separate foods
5. Prepare and store raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood at safe temperatures

How Can You Tell if Food is Done Cooking?
Once food reaches its optimum cooking temperatureat which harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning are killedit is done cooking. Use a wireless meat or grill thermometer to read internal temperatures accurately, in order to reduce the risk of food poisoning or prevent food from being overcooked or undercooked. A food temperature monitoring system like Zip HACCP from Hubworks helps you make sure your food is always cooked and stored at a safe temperature.

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"Our customer's trust is what keeps us in business. They expect fresh tasting food with no threat of ill-born diseases. Zip HACCP keeps us compliant with HACCP and FDA regulations through its integrated temperature solutions, food safety assurance, and end-to-end task reporting. We also use Zip Inventory to save time on inventory counts and have much-needed predictability to our ordering process. The Hubworks business management apps are perfect for our restaurants."


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