When it comes to bacteria growth and food, there are two factors that weigh heavily: Time and Temperature. This virtual “thermometer” shows exactly what the danger zone is: As you can see, the temperature danger zone is from 41°F to 135°F with optimal bacteria growth around the 100°F temperature. (Since the average room temperature is included in this “danger zone” bracket, operators should give serious consideration to food’s time exposure to air when out.) As a rule of thumb, food should not be left out and exposed to oxygen for more than 3-4 hours maximum throughout the preparation and service time. For leftover foods that need to be chilled, the same rule of thumb applies and is known as a 2 stage cooling process. What’s The 2 Stage Cooling Process? The first stage: Chill food from 135°F to 70°F within 2 hours The second stage: Chill food from 70°F down to 41°F in four hours or less For Food That’s Ready To Be Served: Be sure to keep ready-to-serve foods hot (at or above 135°F) or cold (at or below 41°F) to avoid exposure to the temperature danger zone. For Food That Needs To Be Reheated: Make sure that when reheating, the temperature gets to at least 165°F to ensure that the most harmful bacteria is killed in the cooking process. Understanding what “The Danger Zone” is and remembering these few important temperatures will help you ensure the best food safety in your home or business!