Safety is a priority when handling food. Don’t see it as a chore to appease the health inspector. Food storage and safe handling can keep your customers from getting sick. Whether you’re an industry veteran or just starting out, reviewing these tips can improve your restaurant operations and keep your guests safe.
FIFO, first in, first out, should become your mantra when using inventory. This rule governs the rotation and use of inventory. When you receive a delivery, place the new stock behind the existing stock. This reduces waste because you will not have goods stored after their expiration date. Use up front stock to always use older products first.
Train your employees to follow the expiration dates of all goods in stock. A sheet listing the expiration of new and existing products easily shows this information. Emphasize the importance of using products before their expiration date for optimal safety and quality.
Keep storage dry and dark
Dark and dry storage areas maximize food storage time. Whether it’s dry produce in a pantry or cold produce in a fridge or freezer, ideal conditions are out of direct sunlight. This helps control the temperature and prevent food spoilage. Products containing vitamins A, D, K and E, which are fat soluble, can also be degraded in the sun.
Humidity levels should be kept below 15% to help preserve product quality. Moisture-proof packaging and air conditioning can maintain appropriate levels. Keep a hygrometer in your storage areas to check that humidity levels remain constant. To protect foods from contaminants and vermin, place shelves so that foods are at least six inches from the floor and walls and one foot from the ceiling.
Storage temperatures are essential
Depending on what you store, temperatures can range from freezing to 140 Â° F. Maintain dry storage temperatures between 50 Â° and 70 Â° F. Freezers should keep frozen foods solid with an internal temperature of 0 Â° F at most . Maintain temperatures between 32 Â° and 40 Â° F in refrigeration units to prevent bacterial growth. Hot storage should keep foods at a minimum of 140 Â° F.
These temperature ranges are essential for preventing food poisoning. Track temperatures and throw away any food stored at the wrong temperature. Consider installing thermometer-related alarms in your storage units to alert your employees to critical temperature changes that could affect food safety and quality.
Store according to the cooking temperature
Did you know that the temperature at which you need to cook food will determine which shelf you store it in the refrigerator? The lower the final temperature of the cooked food, the more you store it on a high shelf. Ready-to-eat and cooked foods should remain on the top shelf, well packaged to avoid cross-contamination. All ready-to-eat meats and cheeses go on the shelf below. Again, keep them tightly covered or wrapped.
Raw foods go to the bottom three shelves. The third shelf from the top should contain food cooked at 145 Â° F, including raw fish and shellfish. Below this shelf, keep the raw pork, beef and veal. These include cuts and steaks, but not ground meat. These have a cooking temperature of 155 Â° F. The lower shelf holds ground meat and whole eggs. These should cook to an internal temperature of 165 Â° F.
Foods that require full cooking should be kept in closed pots or on non-absorbent shelves. Whenever possible, use airtight containers to store food. This protects the food from drying out and preserves its quality. In addition, the food will remain free from contamination from other food in the storage unit. This is especially important for refrigerated foods, which may still contain liquids that can get into other foods.
Label and verify stored foods
Although you must label unopened foods, it is even more important to label open foods. Use all food before the type expires. For example, summer sausages only stay fresh for three weeks after opening in the refrigerator, but they stay good for up to three months unopened. When in doubt, throw out the food. Prevention is better than cure.
Prevent cross contamination during cooking
During cooking, you can prevent contamination of fresh food with raw food through regular hygiene practices. All employees should wash their hands thoroughly with 110 Â° F soap and water. Despite hand washing, gloves should be worn at all times to further protect consumers.
When cooking, never use the same cutting boards for raw meats and ready-to-eat foods. The undercooked gravy could contaminate the salad ingredients, disgusting those who eat the salad. In addition, use a cooking thermometer and always cook food to the correct internal temperature for the type of food. Reheat previously cooked meals to an internal temperature of 165 Â° F to stop the growth of bacteria.
When storing food, place it in airtight containers that you can easily identify. This prevents things like milk and cream from accidentally being replaced. It also ensures that each item is stored correctly. Correct labels on the containers also help avoid confusion.
Food security starts with you
Food safety is essential to your restaurant’s operations. Improper storage can cause your business to shut down due to a food poisoning outbreak or poor inspection by the local health inspector. Don’t let this happen to you. Follow these guidelines to make sure the foods you store and serve remain safe and of high quality.