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Back House Biz $1.01 - Proper Cooling Techniques

This month I want to discuss a subject that I have seen executed incorrectly time after time again. I’ve worked in many kitchens in my lengthily career and seen this more times than I care to admit. A soup or sauce is finished on the stove, and then placed on the back counter to cool. At the end of the night, when the cooks are starting their pre-close, it is placed into the walk-in cooler. What’s wrong with this picture? This happens in numerous kitchens everywhere.

According to our food safe training, a Potentially Hazardous Food (PHF) must be cooled to an internal temperature of 21°C (140°F) within 2 hours of coming off the stove or out of the oven. This can be done by leaving it out on the counter. Once it reaches 21°C (140°F), it then must put into the fridge or freezer to reach 4°C (40°F) within the next 4 hours. This method is to prevent the hazardous bacteria from spreading or multiplying causing food poisoning.

One of the biggest problems with the introductory scenario is that there is no monitoring of the temperature with a thermometer to assure the PHF reaches 4°C (40°F) within 6 hours. Digital stick thermometers can be purchased from your food supplier and is the best investment you can ever make in any kitchen. So here are some techniques to preventing your restaurant from ending up on

a “What Went Wrong” video we watched when taking the Food Safe program.

Method 1

When cooling small batches of PHF like Rice, Quinoa, small amounts of sauce, or cooked individual proteins, I suggest placing the product in a shallow container or baking tray and place into the freezer until the product reaches 4°C (40°F). The freezer is running at -18°C or colder and it will take a lot less time to reach 4°C (40°F) than placing it into the fridge. Be careful not to forget about it or it will freeze, which may not be your intended goal. If your freezer is working efficiently, it should reach it’s desired temperature within 30-45 minutes depending on the mass or volume of the product. The key idea is to distribute the PHF as shallow and evenly as possible to help cool faster.

Method 2

The second technique will require a little investment of 40-50 dollars in a tool called an “Ice Wand”. The wand has many different names such as cooling wand, cooling paddle, or a Rapid Kool wand. Essentially this is a thick plastic paddle shaped container that you fill with water and freeze solid. Now the proper technique for cooling, mostly liquid, is to take your finished sauce, soup, ect. and transfer it to a fresh clean container. Next fill your sink with water and ice and place container of sauce into the ice bath, being careful not to have too much water as it will tip the container. The next thing is to take the ice wand out of the freezer and place into the sauce, preferably into the center of the sauce container. Within an hour, depending on the size and volume of the sauce, it should be cool enough to place into the walk-in cooler (21°C or 140°F or less.). Test your sauce with your stick thermometer to confirm it has reached below the 21°C mark. I cannot express any clearer, to not place a lid or wrap over the sauce when placing it into the walk-in fridge. This will prevent the internal temperature to reach 4°C (40°F) in the allotted time. Only the next day will you place the lid or wrap the product.

These are a couple of techniques that many kitchens do not practice, which will help prevent claims of food poisoning from your customers. A second benefit of the ice wands are that the health inspectors love to see that you have, and are using them. This will get you well deserved “brownie points”.

There are many working parts to kitchens and restaurants, and one of the things that you don’t need to worry about is making someone sick by not properly cooling down your food. Practice these two techniques and it will be one less thing to worry about in your operation.

Til next time, catch you on the flip side.

a “What Went Wrong” video we watched when taking the Food Safe program.

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