Large Batches Can Lead to Large Problems by Mark Barnes



As professional food handlers working in commercial kitchens, we tend to cook in large batches. A recipe for soup can result in a five, ten or even twenty gallon batch. A roast top round or rib roast easily tops twenty pounds. Preparing lasagna results in several 4-inch deep hotel pans.
 
While these large quantities of food may make your mouth water, they also pose a very serious food safety concern - that is, how to safely cool these foods if they are not going to be served immediately. Large, dense, voluminous quantities of food do not just cool themselves down safely and improperly cooled foods can be downright dangerous. In fact, large volumes of improperly cooled foods can result in the growth of dangerous and even deadly microorganisms.
 
This is where we come into play. It’s our job to ensure that foods are effectively and safely cooled. The FDA Food Code has several recommendations of how we might get involved to more aggressively cool foods.
 
Some suggestions include:
  • Pour foods into shallow pans
    • The soup, for example, would do much better in a two-inch hotel pan rather than a 22 qt bucket.
  • Cut foods into smaller pieces
    • The top round of beef could be quartered instead of left whole.
  • Use ice as an ingredient
  • Place food into a container and then into an ice water bath
  • Stir the food
  • Use an ice paddle
  • Use rapid cool equipment such as a blast chiller
  • Come up with your own method! 
    • Anything that cools food rapidly and safely is an effective approach. 
While these are great suggestions, none of these cooling methods will definitively work, every time. The cooling methods need to meet the Two-Stage Cooling Time Requirements:
 
Cooling TCS foods safely requires a two-stage approach with a maximum time of six hours to cool food from 135ºF to 41ºF (57.2ºC to 5ºC) or lower.
  • Stage 1: 135ºF to 70ºF (57.2ºC to 21.1ºC) within two hours
  • Stage 2: 70ºF to 41ºF (21.1ºC to 5ºC) or lower within four hours
When developing a new cooling method or applying an existing method to a new food, it is imperative to actually verify that the cooling method is meeting the Two-Stage Cooling Time Requirements. In other words, you need to actually use a timer and verify that the cooling method is meeting the requirements. While the total allowed cooling time is always 6 hours, Stage 1 is non-negotiable. If the two-hour timer goes off on stage one and the food is above 70ºF then the food may either be discarded or reheated (to 165ºF) and the cooling process can begin again.
 
As a best practice, you should document and log new cooling methods and keep those successful results on file for future reference.
 
This blog is not intended to be a substitute for the user's judgement and common sense. Any errors are unintentional. 


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