Who's right here? Is one method 'safer' then the other or does it even matter?
Sent by Nina
Editor: Nina, in our understanding, there are two different things going on here. First of all, there is a food safety question. If you put huge pots of very hot food (think soup or hot jam) then yes, this isn't great for your refrigerator and the other food stored there, as it can bring the temperature of the fridge up to dangerously warm levels. So technically speaking, yes, at times it is not a good idea to put very hot food away; it's best to use a water bath to bring the food to lukewarm temperatures and then put it away.
However, we assume that we are hardly talking about huge vats of soup. If you are just talking about small bits of leftovers, then there is a minor quality issue. If you cover and put away food while it is super-hot, all that trapped steam makes certain things less nice — it can soften fried coatings, for instance. But this also isn't a big deal, since you are going to refrigerate the food anyway.
Ultimately, we probably will have to side with you on this one. In our opinion, it's best to put away leftovers while they are still fresh. Letting them sit at room temperature to cool completely could cause even more bacteria opportunity to grow.
Readers, anyone have a good perspective on this? What do you do?
(Image: Kathryn Hill)