1. Home  
  2. Health  
  3. Nutrition  
  4. Food Safety  
  5. Preparing and cooking food safely  
  6. Chilling, reheating and thawing food

Chilling, reheating and thawing food

Food that is not eaten immediately after cooking must be chilled and stored. 

Chilling procedures  

Chill your food at 4°C or lower as soon as possible after cooking. Here are two ways to chill your food: 

  • Immediately transfer the food to small containers and place the containers half-open in the refrigerator. Once the food is chilled, close the containers.
  • Put large containers of food into a cold water or ice water bath. Stir the contents to dissipate the heat, then put the containers in the refrigerator.
  • Putting hot food in the refrigerator will not cause it to spoil. In fact, spoilage occurs when food takes too long to chill.

Proper reheating

Leftovers should be prepared carefully. When you reheat leftovers, use a thermometer to make sure their internal temperature reaches 74°C. 


Check whether the manufacturer recommends microwave cooking for its products. Some foods, such as chicken nuggets, must be cooked in a conventional oven.

Regularly turn or stir the food to distribute heat evenly.  Cover it to keep moisture inside the container. Wait two minutes for the heat to dissipate. 

Use microwave-safe containers. Some plastics or wraps can melt if heated. 

Thawing procedures 

Never defrost food at room temperature. The outside of the food, which thaws first, will spend too much time at temperatures that lead to bacterial growth.

There are four safe ways to defrost food:

In the refrigerator between 0°C and 4°C: this is the safest method.

In the microwave: be sure to cook the food immediately after thawing.

In a conventional oven: the food thaws and cooks at the same time.

In a container fully immersed in cold water or ice water: the water must be changed regularly so it stays at 21°C or lower. Food can be unwrapped or left in its packaging.

Thawing vacuum-packed smoked fish

Always open or remove the packaging before putting smoked fish This hyperlink will open in a new window. (French only) in the refrigerator to thaw.


Frequently asked questions

1. Can I refreeze partially thawed food?
Yes, if it still has ice crystals on it. 

2. Are there labelling requirements for merchants who sell previously frozen products?   
Regulations state that the product’s condition must appear on the label. For example, meat, seafood and their by-products must be labelled as “previously frozen” when sold defrosted.

Last update: March 26, 2024


Was the information on this page useful to you?
General notice

You have questions or require additional information?

Please contact Services Québec