The z-value of an organism is the temperature required for the thermal destruction curve to move one log cycle. It is the reciprocal of the slope resulting from the plot of the logarithm of the D-value versus the temperature at which the D-value was obtained. While the D-value gives the time needed at a certain temperature to kill an organism, the z-value relates the resistance of an organism to differing temperatures. The z-value calculates a thermal process of equivalency, if given one D-value and the z-value.
Example: if it takes an increase of 10°F to move the curve one log, then our z-value is 10. Given a D-value of 4.5 minutes at 150°F, the D-value can be calculated for 160°F by reducing the time by 1 log. The new D-value for 160°F given the z-value is 0.45 minutes. This means that each 10°F increase in temperature will reduce our D-value by 1 log. Conversely, a 10°F decrease in temperature will increase our D-value by 1 log. So, the D-value for a temperature of 140°F would be 45 minutes.