Keep Food Out of the Danger Zone

Danger Zone (40 °F – 140 °F)

Leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria (such as Staphylococcus aureusSalmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter) to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the “Danger Zone.”

Keep Food Out of the Danger Zone

Never leave food out of refrigeration over 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 °F, food should not be left out more than 1 hour.

  • Keep hot food hot—at or above 140 °F. Place cooked food in chafing dishes, preheated steam tables, warming trays, and/or slow cookers.
  • Keep cold food cold—at or below 40 °F. Place food in containers on ice.


Raw meat and poultry should always be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature (see graphic). When roasting meat and poultry, use an oven temperature no lower than 325 °F.

If you aren’t going to serve hot food right away, it’s important to keep it at 140 °F or above.

Storing Leftovers

One of the most common causes of foodborne illness is improper cooling of cooked foods. Bacteria can be reintroduced to food after it is safely cooked. For this reason, leftovers must be put in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerated at 40 °F or below within two hours.


Foods should be reheated thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 °F or until hot and steaming. In the microwave oven, cover food and rotate so it heats evenly.

Danger Zone graphic

2 Comments on "Keep Food Out of the Danger Zone"

  1. I don’t always take the time to check the temperatures on my food but always make sure to refrigerate promptly anything brought home from the store. I’ve always wondered about food that was say brought to an outdoor event. It’s cooked but then left out either outside on a table for a few hours or even left inside on a table for a few hours. When do you know if it’s safe to refrigerate again and eat later?

    • Thanks for stopping by my site.

      It can be tricky to know if something has been in the danger zone and if it should be thrown out or ate when attending an event of some sorts.  Just have to use common sense and let good judgement guide you.

      I own a BBQ food truck and it is sometimes difficult to keep on top of all the foods we serve.  We use the philosophy of “when in doubt, throw it out”.  The last thing I need is to have someone get sick eating my food, a lawsuit would surely follow.

      Sorry can’t give much more advice than to use your own common sense and gut feeling.  Be careful, last thing any of us need is to get sick due to some bacteria in the food.

      Thanks agian.

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