According to experts and food safety guidance, it’s advisable you check the temperature of your cold food every four hours. However, you should consider checking every 2 hours instead, this allows enough time to take corrective action in the event that the food has fallen into the danger zone.
Chefs or cooks are not expected to depend on their instincts, cooking time, oven temperature or product appearance when determining when a product is done: thermometers are important tools for protecting foods.
Note that several types of thermometers are available for use with foods. You are expected to use thermometers approved by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). These thermometers are usually available in restaurant supply businesses and some kitchen specialty stores.
Ensure that the thermometer can be calibrated for accuracy; check the package label for calibration directions. An inaccurate thermometer could be worse than no thermometer.
Also note that glass mercury-filled thermometers should never be used for taking food temperatures because they could break. These thermometers should only be used for taking temperatures of people. It’s advisable you use an electronic probe thermometer. These are battery powered, and have a metal probe. They show the temperature as numbers in a digital display.
To use a probe thermometer properly and efficiently, you have to ensure that the probe won’t contaminate the food you are checking. The normal way to do this is to use Probe Wipes. These are special alcohol soaked wipes which are safe to use with food.
6 Tips or Guideline to Keep Food Cold
Bacterial growth are known to slow down when the temperature falls below 5°C so refrigerators are expected to operate between 1 and 5°C, and definitely at no more than 8°C.
Nonetheless, the rules around keeping food cold are similar to those for keeping food hot. The food needs to be stored securely and monitored for temperature fluctuations. Below are few guidelines to note and put into consideration when cold-holding food.
Store Them Well
Note that food in cold-holding requires a temperature of 5°C or below. Properly storing cold food is very important because it can help prevent temperature fluctuations. However, if you’re cooking outside during the summer, it can be difficult to keep your cold foods within the best temperature range.
Properly storing food in the deepest, coldest part of your container can ensure cold-holding requirements are met. With cold food, it is also advisable to have your cold-holding storage as full as possible. With cold food, touching containers and added components help in keeping the container’s inside temperature cool.
Always Monitor Holding Process
Note that the use of a digital thermometer to measure cold-holding temperatures is a very crucial part of cold food storage. If the cold-holding temperature of any food rises above 5°C, germs can begin to grow. As with monitoring any food, record both the temperature and time the measurement was taken.
Calibrate Thermometers Regularly
Thermometers can get out of adjustment if they are jarred. Any time thermometers are dropped or exposed to extremes in temperatures, they should be calibrated. All thermometers—regardless of use—should be calibrated at least once a month to maintain their accuracy.
Two acceptable methods for calibration are the Ice Point Method, which is recommended for high altitudes, and the Boiling Point Method.
Different Foods have Different Holding Times
Cold-holding times vary based on the type of food preserved. You can judge the holding times of foods as you would if they were fresh. For example, the holding time for lettuce in cold-holding will be significantly be less than that of celery.
Also note that prepared foods most often have shorter holding times than unprepared. This is because the cutting and cooking process changes the chemical composition of the food. The process of cooking also introduces new bacteria and mould spores not previously present. When cold-holding prepared foods, it’s necessary you take corrective action if you notice anything awry.
Take Necessary Actions
You are expected to take necessary action if your cold-holding food temperature rises above the threshold. Consider the steps below to get your stock of food back on track:
- Check other containers (in same holding chamber) for holding temperature adherence.
- If necessary, adjust cooling settings.
- Remove all food above the threshold from cold-holding.
- Discard food that falls into the danger zone.
Keep Written Temperature Records
Owing to food safety and temperature control measures, you are expected to always keep written records of the temperature checks you make. You can record the checks in any manner as long as it represents accurate results from your constant checking.
You are also expected to keep the records at the premises at all times so authorized personnel from the Food Safety team can check them when they visit your premises. Although there is no particular time frame for keeping these records, but many businesses keep them for as long as one year.
Food poisoning bacteria generally become inactive in the cold and controlling the temperature of food is a very effective way of controlling the growth of bacteria, and so reducing the risk of food poisoning. Unfortunately, it is not advised to flash-chill foods and places them back in cold-holding.
Because cold foods are subject to a multitude of issues once the temperature rises above the threshold, they are not safe to eat once they enter the danger zone. Ensure proper monitoring procedure is followed. If you are certain of your cold-holding temperatures, then you know your food is safe to eat.