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The Chill Factor


The Chill Factor


Check out these tried-and-true methods for bringing hot foods through the temperature danger zone quickly and safely.

The picture shows two of our five recommended ways to chill foods quickly and safely: at top, the ice paddle filled with water and frozen; below, a simple ice bath using a hotel pan.

Cooling cooked food down quickly is one of the most crucial steps in keeping food safe. Within the danger zone (140F to 41F) is the super danger zone of 120F and 70F where microorganisms multiply really fast. To reach the correct temperature of 41F quickly to minimize growth, you need to use one of several cooling methods proven to get temperature down within recommended time limits.

The FDA Model Food Code states that foods must be cooled in a two-stage method from 140F to 70F within 2 hours and then to 41F or below in an additional 4 hours.

Monitor both processes to be sure the food reaches 70F within 2 hours. Time the cooling process so someone can stick a thermocouple into the food in 2 hours to insure a temperature read of 70F or below.

Before you begin cooling, divide hot food into smaller quantities in shallow pans, then refrigerate. Keep in mind, stainless steel pans transfer heat faster than plastic. Pre-chilled pans will cool off foods even more quickly, so you should have a few ready in the freezer.

Put shallow pans on top of shelves in cooler. Leave them uncovered if protected from contaminants; otherwise, loosely cover with foil or plastic wrap. Position pans so walk-in air circulates around them. Here are four other methods for cooling food safely or for cooling foods prior to storing them in the walk-in.

Ice Water Baths: Fill a larger pot or large hotel pan with ice and water to cool down smaller pots of hot foods. This requires plenty of ice. Stir or rotate food so that hot food in the center moves to the sides.

Steam-Jacked Kettles: Put kettles to work when they’re off cooking duty by filling them with icy cold water. This is a great method for really large volumes. Again, stir it up.

Cold Paddles: Stir things up with plastic paddles. Just fill with water and freeze. Prepare several paddles and store in freezer, but be sure they’re washed and sanitized before and after each use.

Blast Chillers: These range in size from undercounters to large walk-ins and are the best choice for quick chilling. They will bring your food down to 38F or below in 2 hours max total, blowing away all time and temperature worries.

Finally, a note of caution. If for some reason your food is not cooled to 70F within 2 hours, you must reheat it to 165F for 15 seconds within 2 hours an then attempt to cool it properly.


From Food Safety Illustrated






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