Chilling Food Correctly in Your Business

How to chill, freeze and defrost food safely in your business.


Chilling food properly helps to stop harmful bacteria from growing. Some foods need to be kept chilled to keep them safe, for example:

  • food with a use-by date
  • cooked dishes
  • other ready-to-eat food such as prepared salads and desserts

It is very important not to leave these types of food standing around at room temperature. Make sure that you:

  • follow storage instructions
  • put food that needs to be chilled in the fridge straight away
  • cool cooked food as quickly as possible and then put it in the fridge
  • keep chilled food out of the fridge for the shortest time possible during preparation
  • check regularly that your fridge and display units are cold enough

When you are serving or displaying cold foods, they can be kept outside the fridge for up to four hours. If any food is left after this time, you should either:

  • throw it away
  • put it back into the fridge

Your fridge temperature

Cold food must be kept at 8˚C or below. This is a legal requirement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In practice, it is recommended to set your fridge at 5˚C to make sure that food is kept cold enough. Check regularly that your fridge and any display units are cold enough.

Food safety coaching video – Chilled storage and display

How to keep foods cold in a fridge or display unit to keep food safe.

Food safety coaching video – Chilling foods

Ways of chilling foods down as quickly as possible.


It is important to take care when freezing food and to handle frozen food safely:

  • put frozen food in the freezer as soon as it is delivered
  • if you are freezing fresh food, freeze it as soon as it has been delivered or prepared
  • divide food into smaller portions and put it in containers or freezer bags before freezing
  • if you freeze food that has a ‘use-by’ date to use later, make sure you freeze it before the use-by date is past - clearly note the date you are freezing it. You will also need to change the ‘use-by’ date to a ‘best before’ date

Certain fishery products intended to be eaten or lightly cooked raw need to be frozen before use.


Ideally, you should defrost food in the fridge. Putting food in the fridge will keep it at a safe temperature while it is defrosting.

If you cannot defrost food in the fridge, you could put it in a container and then place it under cold running water. Raw meat and poultry, including large joints and whole birds, should not be defrosted under cold running water unless they are in a sealed container.

You could also defrost food in the microwave on the ‘defrost’ setting.

Food should be thoroughly defrosted before cooking unless the manufacturer’s instructions tell you to cook from frozen.

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Reference: Food Standards Agency - Last updated


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