How can reheating temperatures differ by situation? by Melissa Vaccaro

Did you know that most ready-to-eat (RTE) time/temperature controlled for safety (TCS) foods that are going to be hot held should be reheated to 165°F for 15 seconds in 2 hours or less?
Do you know why the reheat temperature is sometimes higher than the original cooking temperature of the food?
Did you know that commercially processed (made in a manufacturing facility) foods reheated for hot holding only need reheated to 135°F?
The FDA Food Code sets the requirements for reheating for hot holding in section 3-403.11.
Let’s review!
RTE TCS Foods Reheated for Hot Holding (originally cooked in the facility) - 165°F for 15 seconds in 2 hours or less
When food is cooked, cooled, and reheated in a food establishment there is an increased risk from contamination caused by employees, equipment, procedures, or other factors. If these steps are not carried out correctly and food is allowed to be held at improper temperatures for enough time or is contaminated, pathogens can grow to dangerous levels and some can produce spores and/or toxins. Reheating quickly and to a high enough temperature gives us another level of safety. However, you cannot turn your back on other proper food safety strategies such as cleaning, sanitizing, cold holding, and cooling just because you are reheating a food. If spores or toxins are formed prior to reheating, the reheating process will not “kill” them. Reheating only kills the vegetative cells (the cells that grow and multiply).
Commercially Processed RTE TCS Foods Reheated for Hot Holding - 135°F in 2 hours or less
Why can commercially processed RTE TCS foods only be reheated to 135°F? It is because these types of products will have received a controlled thermal process (retort) that destroys both vegetative cells and spores, to provide a commercially sterile product. Similarly, refrigerated, commercially processed, RTE TCS foods will have received controlled thermal processing that destroys vegetative bacterial cells and a controlled cooling process that prevents the development of any spores. Subsequent packaging prevents re-contamination and refrigeration prevents spore germination. Because there is limited risk of contamination in these types of products, reheating such foods to the minimum hot holding temperature of 135°F is considered acceptable when reheating for hot holding. But again, you cannot turn your back on other food safety strategies such as proper cleaning, sanitizing, cold holding, and cooling just because you are reheating a commercially processed RTE TCS food.
Microwave Reheating of RTE TCS Foods for Hot Holding
RTE TCS foods (not commercial processed) that will be reheated in a microwave for hot holding must be reheated so that all parts of the food reach a temperature of at least 165°F and the food is rotated, stirred, covered, and allowed to stand covered for 2 minutes after reheating to ensure all parts of the food have reached 165°F before being placed in a hot holding unit.
Immediate Service - No Hot Holding
What if you don’t plan to hot hold the RTE TCS food you are serving or eating? Good news is, you do not have to reheat to any specific temperature. If you take a leftover RTE TCS food out of the refrigerator (commercially processed or made in the facility), you could eat it cold or you could warm it up a slight bit and it would be safe to eat. It is the excessive time spent in a hot holding unit that could allow for growth of pathogens or the formation of spores or toxins.
This blog is not intended to be a substitute for the user's judgement and common sense. Any errors are unintentional. 

View All Recent Posts