Join us as we discuss the role temperature plays when cooking food, and why it is so important when it comes to keeping your food safe and guests healthy.
Welcome to National Food Safety Month! Each week this month we will be discussing a different element of food safety, sharing valuable strategies along the way and cracking the code on important food safety principles.
This week we are examining the effects of time and temperature on food, sharing safe temperatures to cook different types of food, and explaining how to build an effective food temperature policy that your staff can stick to. Understanding food safety temperatures is critical for protecting your guests from foodborne illnesses and earning their trust. All operators and food handlers are responsible for understanding the importance of the temperature danger zone, which foods are most likely to become unsafe, and how to properly check and record food times and temperatures.
The Effects of Time and Temperature on Food
When food is held at unsafe temperatures for extended periods of time, bacteria can multiply. Any type of food can become contaminated, but bacteria grow more rapidly on certain types of food. The temperature range between 41- and 135-degrees Fahrenheit is referred to as the temperature danger zone - the range in which bacteria growth occurs most rapidly in food. More specifically, bacteria multiply the fastest between 70- and 125-degrees Fahrenheit.
The longer food sits in the danger zone, the higher the risk that bacteria will grow. The process of consistently monitoring the time your food spends in the temperature danger zone is known as time and temperature control for safety.
Foods that Need Time and Temperature Control for Safety
The foods that are at the highest risk of rapid bacteria growth are called time and temperature control for safety foods, or TCS foods. The most common TCS foods are:
- Milk and dairy products
- Shell eggs
- Poultry, beef, pork and lamb
- Fish, shellfish, and crustaceans
- Baked potatoes
- Heat-treated plant food such as cooked rice, beans and vegetables
- Tofu and other soy protein
- Synthetic ingredients such as textured soy protein in meat alternatives
- Sliced melons, cut tomatoes, cut leafy greens
- Sprouts and sprout seeds
- Untreated garlic-and-oil mixtures
Learn more about TCS foods, including specific time and temperature controls and how to safely cook, cool, reheat, hot-hold, and store TCS foods, in our eBook: Cracking the Code on Food Time and Temperature.
How to Measure the Temperature of Food
From the moment food arrives at your establishment, right up until the time it is served, temperature should be consistently monitored using correctly calibrated thermometers. Food temperature logs should be kept and filled out by kitchen staff regularly. Here are some guidelines to follow when using thermometers to monitor food temperatures:
- Always wash, rinse, sanitize, and air-dry your thermometer before every use.
- Ensure your thermometer is calibrated to read temperatures correctly.
- There are different kinds of thermometers for different tasks - use the correct thermometer for the job you are doing.
- Check temperature by sticking the thermometer into the thickest section of the food.
- Wait until the thermometer reading remains steady before recording a temperature.
- Take a second reading in a different section of the food.
- Wash, rinse, sanitize, and air-dry thermometer immediately after use. Store in a clean case.
How To Build a Food Cooking Policy
A strong food cooking policy helps protect the health and safety of your guests, while ensuring your staff keeps and consistent and reliable temperature monitoring procedure. All food handlers and managers should be educated on the food establishment’s cooking policy and be held accountable to follow it diligently. Your policy document can also be prominently displayed in the kitchen. A strong food cooking policy consists of:
- Purpose – Briefly explain what this policy is setting out to accomplish.
- Scope – Explain which members of your staff this policy applies to.
- Procedure – Thoroughly lay out procedures for staff to safely prepare and cook food, with specific temperatures listed for TCS food.
- Monitoring – List the procedures for properly using a thermometer to regularly check and record food temperatures.
- Corrective Action – Explain the correct actions to take when food does not reach minimum internal temperature or stays in the temperature danger zone for too long.
- Record Keeping – List all the requirements for staff to keep records of food temperatures.
Check back next week for another essential NFSM 2023 topic that will help keep your food safe and your guests healthy—personal hygiene. Make sure you check out foodsafetyfocus.com
throughout the month, as we will be posting various checklists, eBooks, posters, and other NFSM 2023 printable content you won’t want to miss.
This month only, save 20% on all ServSafe certifications and trainings, including our industry leading ServSafe Manager, ServSafe Food Handler, and ServSafe Allergens certification courses. Crack the code to effective food safety for your staff by training with the nation’s most trusted restaurant resource.