National Food Safety Month – Cooling Food Correctly

September may be National Food Safety Month. But Food Safety is always a focal point for the food industry and is synonymous with an operation’s reputation year round. Check out these guidelines to cool food correctly and get them out of the “temperature danger zone” quickly.

Cooling food correctly

When you cook food that will not be served immediately – for example,  partially prepped dishes save time when they’re ordered – it’s important to get the food out of the “temperature danger zone” quickly.

The temperature danger zone is the range between 41˚F and 135˚F (5˚C and 57˚C). Harmful bacteria grow well in that zone. And within that zone, bacteria grow even faster between 125˚F and 70˚F (52˚C and 21˚C). Food must pass through this temperature range quickly to reduce this growth. When cooling, blast chilling food to temperatures below 41 degrees is the best way to ensure that food does not sit in the “danger zone” for long. For hot entrees, operators must make sure that food temperatures stay above 141 degrees.

The general rule: Foods that need time and temperature control for safety (TCS food, for short) must be cooled from 135˚F (57˚C) to 41˚F (5˚C) or lower within six hours.

Follow these guidelines:

First, cool food from 135˚F to 70˚F (57˚C to 21˚C) within two hours.

Then cool it from 70˚F to 41˚F (21˚C to 5˚C) or lower in the next four hours.

If the food hasn’t reached 70˚F (21˚C) within two hours, it must be reheated and then cooled again. If you can cool the food from 135˚F (57˚C) to 70˚F (21˚C) in less than two hours, you can use the remaining time to cool it to 41˚F (5˚C) or lower. However, the total cooling time cannot be longer than six hours.

Tips To Cool Food Quickly

  • Commercial blast chillers minimize time that food is in the temperature danger zone
  • Keep your commercial refrigerator consistently set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to monitor
  • Store food in shallow containers to more evenly distribute temperature
  • Measure food temperatures with a commercial grade probe thermometer
  • Use cooling paddles filled with water and then  frozen to reduce the temperature of hot liquids like soups, stews, and sauces, or laid on top of warm casseroles to quickly bring foods below the danger zone before freezing
  • Create a simple ice bath by filling a pot, container, or sink basin with ice. Place containers of hot food in the ice bath to get the temperature below 41 degrees prior to freezing

Why does this matter? Your reputation and peoples lives are on the line.

Information from the National Restaurant Association