Holding Temperatures

The DANGER ZONE is a temperature where germs (bacteria) will grow quickly.

A temperature that is higher than 41°F but lower than 135°F will allow for the rapid growth of germs. It is very important that potentially hazardous food such as beef, chicken, turkey, fish, dairy products, eggs, and gravy be kept out of the danger zone as much as possible. The majority of food-borne illnesses have been linked to foods held at danger zone temperatures too long


  • Refrigerating hazardous food above 41°F
  • Hot holding hazardous food in a steam table below 135°F
  • Cooling hazardous food at room temperature 
  • Undercooking hazardous food 
  • Improper reheating of hazardous foods

Germs grow and multiply at danger zone temperatures. They can double every 15 minutes. Ten germs could grow to several million after 4 hours at room temperature. The number of germs to cause a food-borne illness can be anywhere from 10 to 10 million. Keeping hazardous food out of the danger zone will prevent the growth of germs.

RULE OF THUMB—hazardous foods should not be allowed to remain in the danger zone for more than a total of 2 hours.

EXAMPLE: Cooked turkey out of refrigeration for 1 hour on Monday and 1 hour on a Tuesday would combine for a total of 2 hours in the danger zone.

Kern County Environmental Health Division, 2700 M Street, Suite 300, Bakersfield, CA 93301 661-862-8740