How Hot Must Food Be Kept At On The Steam Table To Keep Food Safe?

By admin | Food

Sep 29

The steam stable is a must-have in most workplaces’ grab-and-go areas. In essence, steam tables are moist cookers, utilizing hot water underneath trays so that foods remain safe and heated.

As handy as steam tables are, using them isn’t straightforward. They might make foods mushy, which ruins your otherwise pleasant eating time. Worse still, they can make your foods inedible. 


Therefore, you need to know how to use them properly and answer “How hot must food be kept at on the steam table to keep food safe?”. Continue reading as this article provides the lowdown on this matter.

How Hot Must Food Be Kept At On The Steam Table To Keep Food Safe?

It depends on the type of food. In general, prepared or reheated items must be kept at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Meanwhile, cold foods should be held at a maximum of 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you struggle to commit these numbers to memory, it is acceptable to round them up. Indeed, most published guidelines on food safety recommend that temperatures be set at below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

The temperature danger zone

Any temperature between these thresholds falls into the “danger zone” (as defined by the American Food and Drug Administration). This temperature danger zone is where the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria is left unchecked, which, without a doubt, has severe ramifications for your physical health.

You may argue that almost all types of food fall into this danger zone when cooked or frozen. While this is true, it is crucial to move them out of this harmful zone within a limited time frame, which is 2 hours. 


If foods are kept at too low or too high a temperature for over 2 hours, they are officially regarded as inedible and should be tossed away. This is because bacteria and toxins start to spread in a few as 3 minutes, resulting in detrimental foodborne illness. For this reason, the fewer foods stay in the danger zone, the better.

Different temperatures for different dishes

While holding foods at a much lower or higher temperature is fine in terms of safety, such a temperature might drastically alter food’s texture. For instance, main courses featuring eggs should be kept close to the minimum temperature, while broth-based soups’ quality rarely suffers regardless of the temperatures.

More specifically, the optimal temperatures for hot dishes vary quite a bit. For instance, 145 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for beefsteak and pork chops, whereas 160 degrees Fahrenheit is excellent for dishes with egg, poultry (like chicken or duck), or ground meat. Meanwhile, dishes containing a wide variety of ingredients ought to be kept at precisely 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to prevent foods from falling into the temperature danger zone

To ensure your food is exposed to an appropriate heat level, it is advisable for you to use a decent thermometer. This helpful tool allows you to monitor as well as modify the temperature when needed. A rule of thumb is that temperatures should be measured every 30 minutes to lessen the risk of food spoilage.

Unfortunately, if you have ever worked in a hectic and overcrowded self-serve area, you know how easy it is to lose track of time, causing food to be in the temperature danger zone much longer than it should. Therefore, staying vigilant at all times is of the utmost importance.

Most novice food service workers make a grave mistake: using the outward appearance of food, such as its color, as a convenient substitute for documenting its internal temperature. Remember that visual cues are not a reliable indicator of food’s actual temperature, and food that has started to go off can still look aesthetically attractive on the outside.

What’s more, when using a thermometer, take readings at the top instead of the bottom part of your food. The temperature recorded will be more accurate since the top edges are the farthest from the heat source.

In addition, it’s a good idea to stir foods so that heat is evenly distributed. Also, if your foods’ quality is not negatively affected by moisture, consider partially covering the steam table to maintain the desired temperatures.

Watch this video to learn more about how to use steam tables:


  1. How do you keep food warm on a steam table?

First, undercook your veggies, especially tender ones, which can turn limp relatively fast. To do this, blanch leafy greens in hot, salted water for a few seconds and quickly take them out. After that, steam tables can continue to heat and soften your greens.

Second, prepare small, rather than substantial, batches of food. If you stir-fry a huge pan of sliced potatoes or broccoli, the part at the bottom will be exposed to a high temperature that falls into the danger zone. This method is effortful and time-consuming, but given its effectiveness at keeping food safe, it’s totally worth it. 

For best results, opt for 2-inch pans because such shallow pans make sure the batch is small.

Finally, before putting veggies into steam tables, cover the pan with a thin layer of oil. Not only can this practice prevent vegetables from sticking into the skillet, but it also serves as a barrier against excessive heat.

  1. What types of foods support rapid bacterial growth?

Foods that are conducive to the uncontrollable spread of bacteria are referred to as Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHFs). Foods classified as PHFs include all cooked and raw meat, poultry, milk and dairy products, fish, shellfish, tofu, cooked rice, pasta, beans, potatoes, and eggs.


Steam tables are a superb piece of equipment because they display a wide assortment of veggies. This allows people to select their favorite leafy greens and meet the daily intake of fiber.

Therefore, it is essential to know the answer to “how hot must food be kept at on the steam table to keep food safe” to make the most use of this handy equipment.