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Safe Hot and Cold Holding

As part of our series dedicated to National Food Safety Month, we’d like to discuss correct food handling as it relates to food time/temperature management.

Time/temperature management is a critical part of any foodservice operation. If food is allowed to reach unsafe temperatures for too much time, pathogens can grow in the food and cause a variety of foodborne illnesses.

After food is cooked, one of three things should happen. Either it should be held at a proper hot temperature to be served. It can be properly cooled and held at a cool temperature so it can be served at a later date. Or it can be served immediately. No matter what, the food is to be kept out of the temperature danger zone which is 41°F to 135°F.

If food is to be held at a hot temperature, it needs to be held at 135°F or higher. It should also be checked every four hours to make sure it does not dip below the hot food threshold.

The necessary equipment for hot holding ranges from heated or insulated holding cabinets, heat tables or hot wells. Several Suppliers manufacture these products. The table below indicates which Supplier makes what piece of equipment.

To hold food at a cold temperature, it needs to be held under 41°F or lower. It should also be checked every four hours to make sure it doesn’t go over the cold food threshold. Once food reaches the cold threshold it can be held in either a walk-in or reach-in refrigerator or freezer, or a cold well.

There is one more wrinkle in cold-holding food. The process of cooling the food needs to be monitored closely. Food that is cooked to over 135°F and then cooled to below 41°F needs to follow a specific process. It needs to be cooled from 135°F+ to 70°F in two hours or less. Once it reaches 70°F it needs to be cooled to 41°F over the next four hours or less.  One of the most efficient ways to cool food is by using a blast chiller.

Again, it’s vitally important to monitor the temperature of food, whether it is hot or cold, between the time it has finished cooking and the time it’s being served.

The table below illustrates which Suppliers manufacture what equipment.

 SupplierReach-InsWalk-insHot/Cold WellsBlast ChillersCabinets
 American Panel X X
 Cadco XX
 Carter-Hoffmann X
 Delfield X X
 Duke X X
 Hatco X X
 ICS/Thermalrite X X
 Kolpak X X
 Master-Bilt X X X
 Metro X
 Nor-Lake X X
 Piper X X
 Randell X
 Star X
 Traulsen X X X
 True X X
 Victory X X X
 Vollrath XX