If there’s one thing any food service company understands about its business it’s that the most important concern is how to maintain the freshness and safety of all food being served. There are a wide range of safety regulations out there designed to keep food safe for consumers, but any business will be able to succeed at most of these regulations by simply following a few common sense practices. When it comes to food safety, the most crucial thing to do is keep and cook the food at the correct temperature. If you’ve been wondering how important temperature actually is to the safety of your commercial food products, you may want to consider some of the facts below.
Temperature Extremes Stop the Growth of Harmful Bacteria
According to food experts, the ideal temperature zone for dangerous bacteria to grow is between 40℉ and 140℉. This means that food stored or served at this temperature needs to be cooked or consumed promptly to put a stop to the development of new bacterial colonies. It’s important to remember that bacteria growth requires three conditions:
- Warm temperatures
- Nutrition source
With raw food providing ample amounts of each of these factors, it’s clear that food is one of the best environments for disease-causing bacteria to develop. As a result, you need to be sure to keep food outside this temperature ‘danger zone’ when cooking and when storing food. There are a number of useful techniques your kitchen staff can use to ensure proper food handling and preparation, and these techniques must be part of the standard training you provide. It’s also important that you’ve invested in the proper kitchen infrastructure to give your staff every opportunity to meet the health, safety, and freshness guidelines that every commercial kitchen must meet.
Keep Your Refrigerator at the Ideal Temperature
The most essential device for keeping food safe and fresh is the refrigerator. After all, if you want to keep your food fresh while still maintaining an internal temperature below the ‘danger zone’, the refrigerator is the only tool on the market that can do this efficiently. Even if your kitchen does no cooking, you’ll still need to have a refrigerator to keep everything cool. While it’s important that your commercial kitchen has a refrigerator, it’s equally important that you have it set to the right temperature. It might seem counter-intuitive at first, but every expert will tell you that ideal temperature for storing meat in the refrigerator is 29℉. While many people assume that meat would freeze at this temperature, it turns out that the overall density of meat helps it resist freezing when the temperature is at 29℉. While the meat won’t freeze, these low temperatures will inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and allow you to safely store meat for longer periods of time. When it comes to storing vegetables, fruits, and other foods, these cold temperatures are going to cause wilting and damage to the fibers of the plant. Most commercial kitchens will therefore have separate refrigeration systems in place: one for meat, and one for all other types of foods.
It’s important to note, however, that although you’ll be slowing the growth of unwanted bacteria by storing food at the proper refrigerated temperature, you won’t be eliminating growth entirely. This means that at a certain point even refrigerated food will become unsafe to eat. For long-term storage of any food, the only safe place is a good freezer. Although most food (excluding meat) will freeze below 32℉, bacteria growth will only be halted when your freezer is set to 0℉. This is the point at which any bacteria already present in your food will enter a dormant state and be unable to reproduce. Regardless of whether you’re storing meat, vegetables, or prepared dishes, the freezer is the only surefire way to keep foods safe to serve and consume for long periods of time.
Cooking at the Right Temperatures
Of course, food preservation isn’t the only area where you need to think about the temperature in relation to food safety. Any time you’re cooking meat, dairy, or eggs, you will need to check to ensure the food reaches an internal temperature of at least 165℉. At this temperature, you’ll not only be stopping the growth of any new bacteria, but you’ll also be killing off all of the pathogens that are already in the food. By heating food to these temperatures, you can guarantee that the food you serve will be safe to eat. Any health inspection of your premises is going to include a test to see that your standard cooking processes achieve the appropriate internal temperature of the food. You’ll have to prove that your cooks have been fully trained to keep food at the ideal temperature from the moment it leaves your freezer or refrigerator until the moment it is served to the customer.
Using an Accurate Kitchen Thermometer
Once you’ve looked at all of the available information, you will start to recognize exactly why temperature is such an important metric when it comes to food safety. While you can generally trust your refrigerator and freezer to keep accurate track of the temperature, a commercial environment will require a little extra precision. One critical tool for maintaining proper food temperatures during storage, cooking, and serving is an accurate food thermometer. With this thermometer you’ll be able to test any food to be sure that everything has either been cooked above the ‘danger zone’ or has been cooled to below the limit. When you want to be absolutely sure that every part of your kitchen is up to code, testing the temperature of your refrigerated, cooked, and frozen food is a good habit to start.
Food Safety Means Temperature Control
If your commercial kitchen does one thing to ensure food safety for customer consumption, it should be to guarantee that proper temperature is reached during every single stage of the food preparation process. When you take care to outfit your commercial kitchen with the right refrigerators, freezers, and temperature control devices, maintaining the safest food temperature doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Once you’ve mastered the art of safe food preparation, you can be sure that your commercial kitchen will serve fresh and delicious food to every customer who walks through your doors.