How Hot Is Too Hot?

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Starting in mid-May, my email box began filling up with questions about storing food in hot weather. The current heat wave covering most of the nation hasn’t helped matters and food is particularly susceptible to the effects of high temperatures.

I wanted to share with you the answer I give to this question and some of the tips we use in our own home.

First, as you may know, I live in Phoenix and know all about summer heat! We have to be careful of indoor temps beginning around early to mid-May all the way through October! (Kids don’t exactly wear jackets over their Halloween costumes around here!)

It’s a smart thing to be worried about the effects of heat on the food you’re storing, but also guard against light, oxygen, pests, and humidity. In our home we have a spare bedroom that has become our food storage pantry. We haven’t come up with a perfect solution for dealing with the heat, but here’s what we’ve done.

First, my husband covered the window with an opaque film to help keep out the heat. A big percentage of heat is transmitted indoors via windows, plus light damages food over time. Keep your windows covered, even in the winter and if you can do something to insulate them, that would be even better. Home improvement stores sell large sheets of styrofoam, which can be cut to measure any window. This styrofoam is used to insulate stucco homes, and while not attractive at all, it can be effective in keeping heat out of individual rooms.

During the summer, I generally keep the air conditioning set to 80 degrees during the day. Our home is very well insulated, and this temp works for us. Your situation may be different and you might need to lower the A/C in order to maintain an ambient temperature of less than 80 degrees. Test the temperature of your main food storage area occasionally. Install a ceiling fan to circulate the cooler air entering the room or consider buying a small A/C unit to keep in the room and use only on the hottest days. We haven’t done that but I would if our house wasn’t so well insulated.

Under no circumstances should you store food outside in the heat and keep in mind that a consistent temperature is better for your food than fluctuating temperatures.

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