Critical Temperatures for Safe Food Service

food-safety-temperature-dangerous-zoneThe following temperature guidelines, based on the federal Food and Drug Administration’s 2009 Food Code, apply at various stages of food preparation and serving.

Strictly maintaining these temperatures is particularly important when dealing with potentially hazardous foods. These foods, which favor bacterial growth, include meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, dairy products, cut melon, raw seed sprouts, garlic-in-oil mixtures, cooked rice or potatoes and others.

Remember the danger zone: 41º F – 135º F. Potentially hazardous foods exposed to this temperature range for a cumulative total of more than 4 hours are not safe to eat.


Refrigerated potentially
hazardous foods
41º F or below
Frozen foods0º F or below
  • Check temperatures of food upon receipt and reject any potentially hazardous foods that fall outside of accepted ranges.
  • Put perishable foods away promptly.


Refrigeration (air) temperature38º F or below
Refrigeration (food) temperature41º F or below
Seafood30º F – 34º F
Fresh produce41º F – 45º F
Deep chill26º F – 32º F
Freezer (food) temperature0º F or below
Dry storage50º F – 70º F
  • Use open shelving and do not cover food with foil.
  • Checks foods in multiple locations throughout a cold storage area; temperature may not be uniform.
  • For ready-to-eat foods prepared on-site, label and comply with storage time standards (seven days maximum for food held at 41º F or below).


In the refrigerator41º F or below
Under running water70º F or below (water temperature)
  • Do not thaw at room temperature.
  • If a microwave is used to thaw food, the food must be cooked immediately after thawing.


Beef roast145º F for minimum of 3 minutes or
140º F for 12 minutes or
130º F for 121 minutes
Beef, steaks, pork, ham,
fish, seafood (filets, chops or
intact pieces), bacon
145º F for minimum of
15 seconds
Ground beef or pork,
chopped/flaked meat
155º F for minimum of
15 seconds
Poultry, stuffed foods165º F for minimum of
15 seconds
   Cooked to hold155º F for minimum of
15 seconds
   Cooked to order145º F for minimum of
15 seconds
Foods cooked in microwave165º F, hold for minimum
of 2 minutes
Fruits, vegetables135º F (no minimum time)
  • For combination dishes, choose the ingredient with the most stringent standard and follow it.
  • Measure temperature in the thickest part of the food.

Cooling Potentially Hazardous Food

From hot temperatureCool to 70º F within two 2 hours; cool to 41º F or below within 4 more hours (6 hours total)
From room temperatureCool to 41º F within 4 hours
  • Do not cool at room temperature.
  • Use a blast chiller or ice bath to hasten cooling.
  • Divide food into small units or use a shallow pan.


Hot food135º F or above
Cold food41º F or below
  • Keep food covered.
  • Stir hot food frequently.
  • Store utensil in food.
  • Take actual food temperature; do not rely on a thermostat setting.
  • Check temperature frequently (at least every 2 hours).
  • Do not use hot holding equipment to heat or reheat food.


Leftovers165º F minimum
Cold food41º F or below
  • Food must reach temperature within 2 hours.

More Useful Temperatures

Handwashing water110º F
Sanitizing solutions (heat)170º F for minimum of
30 seconds
Sanitizing solutions (chemical)75º F – 120º F

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