Cooling, Reheating, & Thawing Foods Safely
The Culinary Institute of America
Cooling Foods Safely
One of the leading causes of food-borne illness is improperly cooled food. Cooked foods that are to be stored need to be cooled to below 41°F/5°C as quickly as possible. This should be completed within four hours, unless you use the two-stage cooling method. In the first stage of this method, foods must be cooled to 70°F/21°C within two hours. In the second stage, foods must reach 41°F/5°C or below within an additional four hours, for a total cooling time of six hours.
The proper way to cool hot liquids is to place them in a metal container in an ice water bath that reaches the same level as the liquid inside the container. Stir the liquid in the container frequently so that the warmer liquid at the center mixes with the cooler liquid at the outside edges of the container, bringing the overall temperature down more rapidly.
Semisolid and solid foods should be refrigerated in single layers in shallow containers to allow greater surface exposure to the cold air. For the same reason, large cuts of meat or other foods should be cut into smaller portions, cooled to room temperature, and wrapped before refrigerating.
Reheating Foods Safely
When foods are prepared ahead and then reheated, they should move through the danger zone as rapidly as possible and be reheated to at least 165°F/74°C for a minimum of fifteen seconds. As long as all proper cooling and reheating procedures are followed each time, foods may be cooled and reheated more than once.
Food should be brought to the proper temperature over direct heat (burner, flattop, grill, or conventional oven) or in a microwave oven. A steam table will adequately hold reheated foods above 135°F/57°C, but it will not bring foods out of the danger zone quickly enough. Instant-read thermometer should always be used to check temperatures.
Today’s consumer is well aware of the potential for food-borne illness through eggs. Therefore, we will look first at basic rules for safe handling of eggs and foods containing eggs.
• All eggs in the shell should be free from cracks, leaking, and obvious holes.
• Raw egg yolks are a potentially hazardous food, due to the possible presence of Salmonella enteritidis bacteria. Salmonella bacteria are killed when the eggs are held at a temperature of at least 140°F/60°C for a minimum of 3 1/2 minutes. The bacteria are also killed instantly at 160°F/71°C. Fried eggs or poached eggs with runny yolks should be prepared only at customer request.
• Any foods containing eggs must be kept at safe temperatures throughout handling, cooking, and storage. Cooling and reheating must be done quickly.
Thawing Frozen Foods Safely
Frozen foods may be safely thawed in several ways. The best—though slowest—method is to allow the food to thaw under refrigeration. The food should still be wrapped and should be placed in a shallow container on a bottom shelf to prevent possible contamination.
If there is not time to thaw foods in the refrigerator, covered or wrapped food may be placed in a container under running water of approximately 70°F/21°C or below. Use a stream of water strong enough to wash loose particles off the food.
Individual portions that are to be cooked immediately may be thawed in a microwave oven. Liquids, small items, or individual portions may also be cooked without thawing, but larger pieces that are cooked while still frozen become overcooked on the outside before they are thoroughly done throughout. Never thaw food at room temperature.
Reprinted by permission from The Culinary Institute of America, The Professional Chef, 8th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2006).