What Is ServSafe Food Temperature?
It is essential to keep food temperatures at a safe level. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends storing food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. ServSafe food temperatures are used to maintain the proper temperature in case of power outages. In addition, they can also help prevent cross-contamination if your fridge's ice maker freezes up or if you forget to close the refrigerator door completely. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to keep the refrigerator at a safe level for your food, such as using a food thermometer.
What is Food Temperature Danger Zone?
In the foodservice industry, the knowledge of Food Safety temperatures is essential to safeguard your customers from foodborne illnesses. It is the responsibility of all food handlers and food managers to understand the food temperature danger zone. Food handlers and managers must know how to perform several Food Safety procedures.
Here we will discuss the food temperature danger zone, the food-safe temperature range for hot and cold foods, and the time foods can safely stay in the danger zone.
So what is the food temperature danger zone? The danger zone is the temperature range in which bacteria grows most quickly on food. ServSafe recommends that food temperature between 41- and 135-degrees Fahrenheit is the danger zone for bacteria to develop rapidly on food items. Although, bacteria can grow at any temperature in the danger zone, the temperature range between 70- and 125-degrees Fahrenheit is the most hospitable for bacteria to develop. The risk of bacteria growing to unhealthy levels increases if the food is allowed to sit in the temperature danger zone.
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What Is the Importance of a Food Temperature Danger Zone?
In the food temperature danger zone, bacteria on food may grow to dangerous levels and the food may get unhealthy to eat. Bacteria growth to dangerous levels may occur on food without visible signs or smell. The food may appear normal but could contain harmful levels of bacteria that may cause foodborne illnesses. This makes maintaining the right temperature for food items important. In the restaurant industry, food handlers and managers are responsible for keeping food in the Food Safety zone by chilling, heating, and storing food properly.
Time Temperature Abuse
The act of allowing food items to stay in the food temperature danger zone, i.e., between 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 135 degrees Fahrenheit is called Time Temperature Abuse. Cross-contamination and time-temperature abuse is a common reason for foodborne illnesses. There are three ways of foods becoming time-temperature abused-
- When foods are not stored at Food Safety temperatures
- When food is not cooked properly at the temperature needed to eliminate possible bacteria
- When food is not cooled properly before being placed in cold food storage
Do You Know-:
Cross-contamination and time-temperature abuse is a common reason for foodborne illnesses.
Time/temperature control safety foods are the food items that need strict time and temperature control. These are high-risk foods that need to be monitored closely.
Here are some examples of TCS foods-
- Milk and dairy products
- Meat and poultry
- Seafood, fish, shellfish, and crustaceans
- Shell eggs
- Baked potatoes
- Cooked rice, beans, and vegetables
- Tofu, soy protein, or other plant-based meat alternatives
- Sprouts and sprout seeds
- Cut tomatoes, melons, and leafy greens
- Untreated garlic and oil mixtures
Bacteria and pathogens grow quickly on TCS foods as they provide the right environment for germs to grow and spread. Food handlers and food managers should follow critical Food Safety
practices to avoid TCS foods from entering the food temperature danger zone.
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Safe Period for Food to Stay in the Danger Zone
According to ServSafe, ready-to-eat foods can stay a maximum of four hours in the food temperature danger zone. You can consume, reheat or chill TCS food items within four hours to bring them back to food-safe temperatures. After four hours, TCS foods must be discarded. Food handlers can check food temperatures every two hours to make sure that food is safe for consumption and in case any correction actions are required.
Bacteria and pathogens grow quickly on TCS foods as they provide the right environment for germs to grow and spread.
How Can You Keep Food Safe from Danger Zone?
One of the main ways of keeping foods out of the food temperature danger zone is food thermometers. Food handlers can monitor and record food temperatures regularly to prevent food items from becoming time-temperature abused.
It is essential during prepping, cooking, and holding food in your restaurant.
Here are some important tips for food handlers to make the best use of your kitchen thermometers to keep food safe from contamination-
- Use the correct type of thermometers according to the requirement
- Do not rely only on the temperature display of your equipment
- Install a thermometer inside your freezer or refrigerator for additional Food Safety
- Maintain a written record of all temperature checks along with time and the name of the operator
- Keep the thermometers clean and calibrated
What are Hot Holding and Cold Holding Temperatures?
Before serving food, food handlers need to maintain food-safe temperatures after it is cooked to proper internal temperature or chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or blow. Sometimes, food service staff needs to hold food for a long time in several instances, such as holding food in salad bars and buffet lines or transporting food to off-site locations and catering events. Food handlers can use a food pan carrier or insulated catering bag while transporting food to make sure that cold foods stay safe for consumption.
Let us discuss now what is cold holding temperature and hot food holding temperature.
Cold Holding Temperature
The optimum cold holding temperature for TCS foods is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Here are some tips to keep cold foods safe from contamination-
- Make sure that your cold food holding equipment keeps food at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cold foods stored without refrigeration at room temperature are safe for up to six hours after being removed from the freezer at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Food handlers should check the temperature of cold food every two hours and dispose of any food that reaches a temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot Holding Temperature
The right temperature for hot foods is 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
Below are some tips for keeping hot foods safe from spoiling-
- Do not use hot holding equipment for reheating food. Food handlers should heat foods to safe temperatures before holding them. Hot holding equipment is used to maintain current food temperatures.
- Keep food covered to maintain food temperatures and keep it safe from bacteria and pathogens.
- Stir the food frequently to distribute the heat throughout the food uniformly.
- Use the appropriate thermometers to monitor food temperatures.
- Dispose of food that has been sitting below 135 degrees Fahrenheit for more than four hours.
- Do not mix freshly prepared food with foods hot held already to prevent foodborne illnesses.
- Food prepared in-house and reheated for hot holding must reach a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.
When Should You Check Hot Cold Holding Food Holding Temperature?
ServSafe managers are recommended to check the temperatures of food every four hours.
But checking food temperatures every two hours provides sufficient time to take corrective action if hot or cold food has fallen into the danger zone.
By checking internal temperatures regularly, food handlers can prevent the spread of pathogens. Plus, you can avoid food waste by heating or chilling the affected foods again before bacteria has time to spread.
What are Safe Cooking Temperatures?
It is essential to monitor the minimum internal temperature of foods you serve to maintain the safety of food and prevent cross-contamination.
Here are some temperature recommendations to cook food safely-
The following foods must be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds-
- Poultry, whole or ground
- Stuffing made with poultry, meat, or fish
- Ground chicken, turkey, or duck
- Stuffed pasta, meat, poultry, or seafood
- Any dish that contains a cooked TCS food
The following foods must be cooked to 155 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds-
- Ground meat pork, or beef
- Flavor-injected meats
- Tenderized meats
- Ground, chopped, or minced seafood
- Eggs from the shell, held for service
The following food must be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds-
- Steaks and chops (pork, beef, veal, lamb)
- Commercially raised game
- Eggs from the shell served immediately
- Roasts of beef, pork, veal, lamb
The following foods must be cooked to 135 degrees Fahrenheit (no minimum time)-
- Rice, pasta, and other grains
Tips for Cooling Hot Foods to Food Safe Temperatures
Never place hot foods directly into the refrigerator or freezer as it jeopardizes the food around it by raising the temperature in your freezer. When hot food is placed in a freezer it creates a possibility for other foods in your freezer to enter the food temperature danger zone and develop bacteria.
Here are some tips to quickly cool your hot foods-
- Utilize a commercial blast chiller to cool foods quickly and cut down the food time in the danger zone.
- Use a commercial blast chiller to cool foods quickly and minimize the possibility of food entering the danger zone.
- Allow food temperatures to distribute evenly by storing food in shallow containers.
- Use a cooling paddle to reduce the temperature of hot liquids.