Improper food chilling and cold-holding is a major contributor to foodborne illness. When bringing food temperatures down it is important to know that harmful bacteria grow most readily between 40°F and 140°F. This is known throughout the industry as the danger zone. The less time food spends under these temperatures, the better. Below are some ideas for chilling foods safely:
- 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.
Once a food is chilled, cold-holding ensures that foods remain in a cold environment for an extended amount of time. This is a necessary part of food storage that simultaneously ensures food safety. Some tips to maintain safe cold-holding are as follows:
- 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 throughout.
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. Below are safe methods for freezing most foods:
- Seal foods into 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 commercial freezer.
- Store foods in a single layer while freezing and stack only after foods are frozen solid.