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Cool soup safely

Winter is a great time to make a large kettle of soup to enjoy for lunches or quick evening meals. Preparing a large batch of soup can present a food safety challenge: cooling!

One of the leading causes of foodborne illness is the failure to properly cool foods. The food danger zone is that place between 40 and 140 °F where pathogens grow most quickly. It can take a long time to get through the danger zone when cooling a large batch of chili, soup or stew. The soup must cool from 140 to 70 °F in 2 hours and from 70 to 40 °F in no more than 4 hours.

Rapidly cool soup safely

Follow one of the following options to safely cool your soup.

Use ice water bath

An ice water bath is effective for cooling soups. This method helps decrease the food temperature quickly and safely.

  • Fill a large container or clean sink with ice and a small amount of water.
  • Place the kettle of soup into the ice bath.
  • Stir the soup to release heat and aid cooling.

Use shallow pans

The smaller the portions, the quicker the cool down.

  • Divide the large batches into small containers, no deeper than 3 inches.
  • Stir occasionally to aid cooling.

Use ice in the recipe

You can reduce cooling time by adapting your soup recipe.

  • Prepare a thicker soup, reducing the original amount of water or liquid called for in the recipe.
  • Add ice to the soup at the final preparation step.

Use cooling paddles

These are more commonly used in a commercial kitchen.

  • The paddle is filled with water and placed in the freezer.
  • Stir the soup, in the kettle with the frozen chill paddle.

Once cooled to 70°F, by using one of the above rapidly cooling options, you can place the container of soup in the refrigerator. Place on the top shelf. Leave uncovered until cooled to 40°F. Consume or freeze leftovers within 4 days of preparation.

Be proactive about cooling soup. When making a large batch of soup, plan ahead for the cooling method you plan to use. Begin your plan by having an accurate food thermometer to keep tabs on the temperature during the cooling process.

Debbie Botzek-Linn, former Extension educator and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2021

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