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Holding Temperatures For Safe Food Handling
A Food Center Resource Page

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The failure to adequately control food temperatures is one of the factors most commonly involved in outbreaks of food borne illness. Since disease-causing bacteria are able to multiply rapidly at temperatures between 41 degrees F and 140 degrees F, this is known as the Temperature Danger Zone.

Correct Holding Temperature

Control bacteria growth by keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

  • Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees F or more.
  • Cold foods should be refrigerated 41 degrees F or below.
Holding Hot Foods

Here are some ways in which hot food can be held safely:

  • Transfer hot foods directly to an oven, steam table, or other holding unit. Do not heat foods in a steam or hold unit.
  • Reheat leftover foods to 165 degrees F prior to placing in holding unit. If possible, avoid cooking foods more than one day ahead of time.
  • Stir foods at frequent intervals to evenly distribute heat.
  • Keep a cover on foods to help maintain temperatures.
  • Break the chain of possible contamination. Never combine an old batch of food with a new batch.
  • Check the temperature of the foods on a frequent and regular basis. Use a clean and sanitized thermometer. Do not rely solely on the thermostat gauges of the holding equipment. They may not accurately indicate the internal temperature of the food.
Holding Cold Foods

Here are some ways in which cold foods can be held safely:

  • Keep foods in cold-holding tables, commercial refrigerated display cases, and refrigerators.
  • For salad bars and display units, set the food containers in ice to keep them cold.
  • Keep a cover on foods held in cold holding units to help maintain temperatures.
  • Check the temperature of the foods on a frequent and regular basis. Use a clean, sanitized thermometer.

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