As you know (I hope!), some foods need Time and/or Temperature Control for Safety. We call those foods TCS Foods (formerly Potentially Hazardous Foods, PHF), and they’re the ones that support bacterial growth. The temperature danger zone for these foods is 41° – 135°. When TCS food is in that range bacteria grow rapidly. Foods should never be kept within that temperature range for an extended amount of time because it allows for the growth of bacteria and/or toxin (poison). If foods have been in the danger zone for more than 4 hours, bacteria has had a chance to grow to a dangerous level. It is best to immediately throw the product away to avoid the potential for foodborne illness.
To help keep foods out of the danger zone, always practice what I call Diligent Preparation. Because it is natural for the temperature of the foods to rise into the danger zone during preparation, put the food back into a walk-in or upright cooler when done prepping in order to drop the temperature back down to the safe zone. I tell people to take out from the cooler only as much food as you can finish working on in about 20 minutes, then get it back into the cooler. And don’t place the recently prepared food into a line drawer or a cold top because these units are not designed to cool foods down, they can only maintain foods at 41°F or below. Your customers don’t want their meals served spoiled so keep food out of the danger zone!
There are some interesting exceptions to that four hour rule. To learn those and lots of other important facts about temperatures, sign up for one of our ServSafe Classes, or call about having a Food Safety Audit done in your kitchen. E-mail tfrigge@TOBECoFoodSafety.com, or call 235-0797.