How cool does the 2.5 liter (12 cup) pot of super-hot bone broth need to be before it's safe and reasonable to put in the fridge?
My 20 hour bone broth is done. I just got home from work. It's 6pm.
The slow-cooker is too hot to handle so I can't even strain it into the put yet (it's still in the slow cooker).
Probably about 9pm I'll strain it, but from past experience, it remains really hot for many hours after that.
I don't want the hot pot to crack the glass shelf in the fridge, nor do I want to really heat up the fridge and cause a lot of condensation.
(I have placed a towel on the glass shelf (folded over 3 times) to avoid the cracked shelf fear.
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
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Never put hot items like a full stock pot in the fridge. It raises the temperature of the whole fridge into the "Danger zone" long enough for it to matter.
I have two sure-fire techniques for cooling broth to acceptable levels. The first is to have it in a metal container (once you strain it, transfer it to a metal pot) and leave it to cool to about 135F. Then put some ice packs (I use the ones for my Pyrex containers since they're designed to lie flat) underneath the pot and let it cool to where it no longer feels warm.
The other is if you need to quick-cool your broth from simmering hot. Fill a gallon size ziplock bag with ice water and dunk it right in to the hot broth, agitating it every minute or so. It will come down to temperature in less than 15 minutes.
Break up the liquid into smaller portions (Pyrex containers if you have them) and then fill your sink with ice and water, add some salt to the water and then place the broth in it, it will cool down REALLY quickly. Truth.
Based on the excellent answers & points provided, here's what I did:
@ 2 hours it was still plenty hot, but able to handle the slower cooker and strain into this metal 12 cup put (immersed in ice / ice water).
The point about raising the whole fridge temp is really important, and I didn't feel good about having done that in the past.
And, cooling it down this way, I'm not anxious about breaking a glass shelf in the fridge.
I'm really glad I asked.
I've always just left the stuff out until it cooled to room temperature, then put it in wide mouth mason jars or zipper-top freezer bags, and popped it in the freezer. Never had anything spoil.
In my personal experience (as I have NO credentials to make these claims), spoilage only happens after inoculation with something, and then enough time to culture. Kept covered, something that was just boiling is very unlikely to be inoculated with something terrifying AND have enough time to culture to the point that it would matter...not during the time it takes to cool. Just don't be careless and stir it with a spoon you used earlier and set on the countertop, or stick your finger in there to test the heat. Keep the lid on, and don't mess with it until right before it goes in the fridge/freezer.
Caveat: I don't use a crock, but a metal stockpot, so the liquid cools faster. I'd suggest getting the broth out of the crock as soon as possible, but this also increases the possibility of contamination. Even so, the risk is low--particularly if you freeze it afterward.
Other caveat: I always freeze my broth/stock. I just don't trust anything that sits in the fridge for more than a few days unless it's preserved (condiments). Freezing practically ensures no spoilage AND no waste.
BTW, your fear of cracking a glass fridge shelf is valid. It happened to me, and I cannot get a replacement. Sucks.
I place a sieve plus cheese cloth on a second (cold) pot and pour the hot broth in there. Then I strain it again into pyrex bowls, again using sieve and cloth (new). By then it has already cooled down a bit. Then I put the pyrex bowls straight in the fridge on some cork thingys I got from Ikea (to keep pots warm on the table), they insulate well, or on folded kitchen towels. The next day I take off the upper layer of fat and put the pyrex in the freezer. That works best for me. I heard that the broth shouldn't cool down too long at room temperature because of heavy bacteria build up. Don't know if that's true. I use a second pot first and then pyrex because I like to strain it at least twice to get it really clean and golden.