Cook Chill – Do you understand the dangers?
Did you know that if you cook food and then cool it down to use later on, that the cooling process is FOUR TIMES more likely to be the cause of a food poisoning outbreak, than the cooking process?
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it…it just means that you need to be careful! Food Standards Australia New Zealand have a rule called the 2 Hour – 4 Hour Rule where you need to monitor the time and temperature during the cooling process for all Potentially Hazardous Foods. The times needed are:
- Step 1: 60º C to 21º C in under 2 hours;
- Step 2: 21º C to 5º C in under 4 hours.
- That is a TOTAL cooling time of < 6 hours.
The challenge for most businesses is Step 1…in that you need to take the food from “too hot to touch” down to a low room temperature in only 2 hours.
If you only have a couple of small items to cool down, then there isn’t too much to worry about, but if you are like a lot of cafes and restaurants, and you have started to make, package and sell take home meals, then you really need to be careful with the cooling step.
Most people have heard of a blast chiller, but have been put off by either the purchase cost, or have a lack of understanding of the benefits of using a blast chiller. In simple terms, a blast chiller operates like a fan forced oven…but in reverse. It is cold, it removes all excess hot air, and then forces with high pressure fans, the cold air into the food. It works the same way as the “Wind chill factor” (on a cold windy day, it feels colder than it actually is).
What this means for your food products, is that they pass through the Temperature Danger Zone really quickly, reducing the time in which the bacteria that is present can grow.
“So what” I hear you say, but did you know that the quick cooling process will approximately double the shelf life of your prepared products? This means, that you can reduce your operational costs, by increasing production sizes, or it might enable you to prepare the meals during quiet/ non operational times, rather than during a busy service days reducing the need to pay additional weekend or public holiday wages.
Over the coming months, I will share with you some of the secrets to preparing safer food that lasts longer, without compromising the quality. I will also explain some of the technologies that are readily available to assist you in ensuring your food items are all safe.
Eat well. Eat safe!
P.S. If you are considering preparing foods in bulk for future use, or pre-packaged sale, I recommend that you purchase the “AIFST Blue Book” that describes the processes and microorganisms that you need to be aware of when preparing cook chill foods... you can buy the book HERE.