One of your best investments in the food service and food service catering industry can be the purchase of several professional quality food thermometers. Temperature control is the most successful as well as best way to manage food borne illness and the spread of “food poisoning”. Who needs to take such a chance of your catering business and its reputation in the food industry, unnecessarily and needlessly?
It can be said that the rule of thumb is that any food needing refrigeration should never be at room temperature for more than one hour, or at the most a maximum of two hours duration, before serving that food or meal.
Make it a solid rule and principle to keep frozen food below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, cold food under 40 degrees F.; and hot food between 32 and 40 degrees. Poultry, fish and meats – including cold cuts and smoked meats should be stored at less than 37 degrees F. Milk, eggs, butter, cheeses and eggs not over 40 degrees F. (Before serving butter, the butter can be held for several hours at 50 degrees F). Most fruit, salad, vegetables and desserts can do well at temperatures of up to 45 degrees F. It is always best to cover and label everything you are involved with in your catering food operations – you do not want to contaminate cooked food with uncooked raw foodstuffs and ingredients which may be loaded with dangerous bacteria ready to infect your prepared food.
As for freezer temperatures this has to be between 0 degrees F and – 15 degrees F. for frozen poultry, meats and fish, frozen fruits and vegetables, ice cream and other frozen desserts. It is always best and wise to make sure that you have one thermometer in the refrigerator and another thermometer for testing purposes. Always, always avoid the danger zones of between 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F.
When storing food, use shallow storage containers to present a large surface area.
Place these storage containers in the freezer or refrigerator as soon as possible. Make it a priority. Earlier is always better and safer than later. The idea of cooling hot foods first is a dangerous idea left over from the era of iceboxes, when hot food would melt the ice, actually increasing the efficiencies of the icebox. Large quantity food tasks have to be performed with an awareness of food safety. It can be said that the danger zone can be said to be between the temperatures of 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F. Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator, or in a microwave oven – following the microwave oven manufacturer’s directions which can usually be found in the microwave oven manual or online on the manufactures product support website. Frozen food can routinely be defrosted under running cold water, or cold water that is changed every thirty minutes. The basic standby rule is that frozen food that is defrosted should be cooked within a two hour maximum timeframe.
For hot foods, the minimum guidelines are to hold them safely at an internal temperature of 165 degrees F until they are served. Of course most have to be cooked at higher temperatures. By and large, cooking temperature always mean internal temps from 160 degrees F to 180 degrees F for poultry, but they must be regulated on item -by- item basis. During broiling, baking and roasting, bacteria and parasites, including the ubiquitous salmonella are killed. A probe thermometer is your best tool. Usually food is served well under the hour or two standard holding time periods. Maintaining the temperatures for occasions like buffet service is to make the sure that the water in steam table dishes is 180 degrees F, and that food placed in it is at 165 degrees F. If neither method is available refrigerate or freeze immediately for future service. Mishandled food has to be discarded, so it is most important that all people you work with, and that work for your catering service understand the rules simply and fully.
It can be said that there are many thousands of foodservice establishments run all throughout the world that are doing a wonderful job , maintaining wonderful business and reputations while providing safe meals. It all comes down to a few rules and procedures that are consistently followed. One of the simplest and most effective tools to have is to purchase a number of professional quality food thermometers.