Improper food chilling and cold-holding is a major contributor to foodborne illness. Harmful bacteria grow most readily between 41°F and 140°F, which everyone in the foodservice industry refers to as the “danger zone”. The less time food spends in the danger zone, the less chance your food will have of being contaminated. Whether you’re new to the industry or you’ve been in business for 100 years, an efficient cooling is system is one of the most important aspects you can have in a commercial kitchen.
Safe Cooling Methods
There are several ways to cool food down for safe cold storage in a commercial kitchen. Depending on the size of your kitchen, you should be able to use a combination of these cooling methods.
- Utilize a blast chiller to lower food temperatures faster and more efficiently, minimizing the time that foods spend in the danger zone.
- Place food in a container and set in an ice-bath, keeping the container submerged evenly to ensure consistent cooling throughout.
- Immediately place the food in a commercial refrigerator, whose primary function is to store food at or below 40 °F.
- Use a probe-type to accurately track temperatures as a food cools. This should be checked no matter which cooling method you use.
Once a food product is chilled, it should be placed in a cold-holding environment until it is needed again. This is a necessary part of food storage that simultaneously ensures food safety. Hooray! Follow these tips for safe cold-holding.
- Maintain commercial refrigeration units at 40°F or cooler.
- Use food storage containers to keep foods fresh in extreme temperatures.
- Use shallow containers to allow foods to cool more evenly.
Freezing foods ensures safe preservation for extended periods of time at much lower temperatures. Just about any food can be frozen, so long as commercial freezers are maintained at or below 0°F. Safely store frozen foods with these methods.
- Seal foods in heavy duty foil or plastic bags, freezer paper, or commercial freezer-safe containers.
- Be aware that food thickness affects freezing time. For example, a 2 inch steak usually takes about 2 hours to freeze in a commercial freezer.
- Consider a commercial shock freezer to lower temperatures at a much faster rate than a regular commercial freezer.
- Store foods in a single layer while freezing and stack only after foods are frozen solid.