My wife and I are having an "ongoing household discussion". She claims that it is bad to place hot food in the fridge, because it causes the fridge to work harder. I claim the impact is negligible. Neither of us have data to back up our claims.

To her point, yes the fridge must "work harder" since it is a closed-loop system trying to maintain a temperature set point, and the introduction of a hot body with decent thermal inertia must cause it to spend longer on whatever it does to whisk away heat.

However, the difference of "Hot" food and "Warm" food is probably 30 degrees (F), from 90 to 60F, and the fridge probably has a set point of roughly 40F. I assumed those first 20-30 deg cooling happen rapidly, and the last 20-30 happens much slower, due to the exponential solution to the heat equation.

Finally, neither of us know whether the primary source of fridge failure is wear from cooling or other factors, so we don't even know if the "cooling activation" properties are relevant.

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    Sure, the fridge compressor has to work for a negligibly longer period of time to get things down to temp. If you want to avoid burning out your fridge motor then don't stuff it full of all hot foods. – MonkeyZeus Dec 20 '19 at 18:19
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    I'd be more worried about letting food sit in the danger zone. See cooking.stackexchange.com/a/29857/41669 and skeptics.stackexchange.com/q/8797/25317 – MonkeyZeus Dec 20 '19 at 18:21
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    I guess if you're cooking soup which requires a rolling boil then don't put that in the fridge right away as I would be worried about shattering my glass shelving with the heat fluctuation; let that cool to about 150 F and then put it in. – MonkeyZeus Dec 20 '19 at 18:27
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    Just a minor point, but either way, the fridge probably wouldn't work any "harder", just longer. – PhilippNagel Dec 20 '19 at 18:30

The answer, as mentioned by +MonkeyZeus, is here: https://cooking.stackexchange.com/a/29857

It can be summarized as:

This is a myth left over from the days of iceboxes. Go to any official food safety resource online (including USDA, FDA, etc.), and you will find they are all in agreement: it's perfectly safe to put hot food in your refrigerator. In fact, unless you are using some more direct cooling method (like putting your food in an ice bath), waiting to refrigerate your food is often a health hazard.

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  • Hopefully this will help to end your "ongoing household discussion" :-) – MonkeyZeus Dec 20 '19 at 18:26
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    I've been told to get back to holiday prep. Someone is a sore learner :) – Josh Vander Hook Dec 20 '19 at 18:30
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    Hah! Well that just made my afternoon, cheers and try to dodge any silverware which may get thrown in your general direction! – MonkeyZeus Dec 20 '19 at 18:31

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