03 Food Temperature Control
Temperature control violations are among the most common critical item violation marked on restaurant inspections. This happens because so many foods are subject to temperature control and there are a lot of place along the way for things to go wrong. Careful management of temperatures in the kitchen, both in the restaurant and at home, can go a long way in helping to prevent food borne illness.
03a- Rapidly Cool Foods to 41 Degrees or Less
Foods that are cooked and then cooled must get from 135 degrees down to 41 degrees quickly to prevent bacterial growth. The temperature range from 41-135 degrees is known as the danger zone since it is the range of temperature that bacteria can grow in. Temps below 41 degrees are too cold for bacteria to reproduce and temps above 135 are too hot. When cooling foods back down after cooking, there is a time frame of 2 hours for food to go from 135 down to 70 degrees and an additional 4 hours to get from 70 down to 41 degrees. This may seem pretty simple but remember the food has to get down to 41 degrees all the way through, not just on the surface. Kitchen workers help to speed up this process by breaking food into smaller or thinner portions, putting it in an ice bath, leaving lids off during cooling and a host of other methods. You should use these methods at home as well. A prime time for temperature abuse in the home is during Thanksgiving. The turkey (large and thick) is often left sitting out for extended periods of time at room temperature and then put in one big container to cool down in the cooler, maybe even with a lid on. Several hours later when you go for that turkey sandwich you may be feasting on bacteria as well. In this type of situation it may take all night or even longer for the portions in the middle to get down to 41 degrees, even in a cold refrigerator. Instead, it is much better and safer to spread the Turkey thin on a sheet pan for a couple hours in the refrigerator to help it cool quickly before putting it in a closed storage container. Always use a food thermometer to check cooling temperatures. Even the last 10 degrees can take a really long time to cool if foods are in a deep sealed container. 51 degrees feels cold to the touch but bacteria can thrive until the food is all the way down to 41 degrees.
03b- Rapidly Reheat to 165 Degrees or Greater
For the same reasons listed in 03a, we want to limit the amount of time food spends in the danger zone (41-135 degrees) during the reheating process. The final temperature of 165 degrees is reached to make sure any bacteria that may have grown during the cooling or reheating process are killed as 165 is hot enough to kill even the most stubborn bacteria. With liquids (gravy, soup sauces) it is often best to bring them to a boil to ensure the proper reheating temperature has been reached. When reheating, the quickest methods are usually the microwave, an oven at higher temp, the stove or the grill. Methods that can be problematic are slow cookers, steam tables or warming ovens. Try to get foods heated to 165 in a maximum of 2 hours but the faster the better.
03c- Hot Hold at 135 Degrees or Greater
Once a food has reached its proper cook temperature, such as 165 for reheated foods, it needs to be hot held at a temperature of 135 degrees or greater. The proper cook temperature will kill any bacteria that may have been present on the food and the hot holding at or above 135 will prevent any new bacteria from growing on the food. The food is safe to be out of temperature for the short time while it is being eaten as the time frame is too short to allow for significant bacterial growth. On the other hand, food left for several hours in a hot holding case that isn’t holding foods above the danger zone temperature can turn into a big problem.
03d- Required Cooking Temperatures
Certain foods have different required cook temperatures to ensure that they are safe to eat. These temperatures are based on the bacteria that are associated with each food. For example, E-coli that is found in ground beef is killed at 155 degrees while the Salmonella or Campylobacter found on Chicken needs to be cooked to 165 degrees to be destroyed. 165 degrees internal temperature will kill all food borne bacteria but it is good to know the proper cook temps for each food so they don’t wind up being overcooked. See below:
PROPER COOKING TEMPERATURES
Rare Roast Beef
03e- Cold Hold at 41 Degrees or Less
Foods that are held under refrigeration need to be maintained at 41 degrees or less to prevent bacterial growth. Refrigeration temperatures are a main focus during restaurant inspections and you should pay close attention to them at home too. Leave a thermometer in the refrigerator and make sure your home unit is holding 41 degrees or less. In addition to safer food, colder temperatures also help to prolong shelf life.
03f- Food Thermometer (probe type)
A food thermometer is the ONLY sure way to check food temperatures and is the only way to know if a restaurant or your home kitchen is in compliance with proper cooking, cooling, cold holding, and hot holding temperatures discussed above. It is required that restaurants have these thermometers to check food temperatures and that they be properly calibrated.
Calibration is simple, just put the probe in a glass with lots of ice and a little water (slushy) and the temperature should read 32 degrees. If it doesn’t, the thermometers are easy to adjust to the proper setting. A thermometer that is off by 10 degrees isn’t a very useful tool. You can find these thermometers at the grocery store or stop by our office for a free one, and some tips on how to use it.
03g- Adequate Equipment to Maintain Food Temperatures
A violation of this section means a facility does not have enough refrigeration or hot holding equipment for the foods that they are serving. This can be the result of equipment that has broken and not been fixed or an expansion of the menu (more foods or perhaps an additional meal, adding breakfast service). This determination is made if foods are sitting out at room temperature because there is not room for them in the coolers or hot holding devices. Inadequate refrigeration also comes into play when there is not enough cold space to cool foods quickly through the danger zone.
Opening a restaurant or running a business in the City of Aspen? Aspen businesses are recommended to visit the
City of Aspen Business Navigator
for a complete directory and overview of the approvals, applications and other things your business needs to know.
at 970-920-5075 with any food safety or restaurant related questions.