At Curtis Restaurant Supply, we hear a lot about cooling food quickly, cooling food thoroughly, and the “danger zone” of temperatures. We have seen restaurants and corporations suffer long-term damages, both monetarily as well as reputationally, caused by lack of proper procedure in the kitchen.
We have all seen the headlines. Are food contamination woes the result of improper cooling techniques? Maybe, maybe not. But they were certainly a direct result of a lack of following proper procedures. I would argue that 100% of all foodborne illness is the result of a lack of procedures, which makes every case 100% preventable.
There are several different ways to cool down large batches of food quickly. The most important thing is to pick the way that works well for your establishment and follow the procedure closely every time.
Divide large batches of food. For soups and sauces, divide a large batch of food into small, shallow containers. For large cuts of meat or poultry, wrap smaller portions individually. Smaller portions and shallow containers can be placed directly in a refrigerator.
Use an ice bath. This technique is primarily for soups and sauces. Set the pot into a clean sink with clean ice and water, but do not fill full enough that the ice bath could mix with the food. Stir as it cools for the best results.
Use a 2-stage cooling process. Use an ice bath to cool from 140 to 70 degrees within two hours, then cool to below 41 degrees within four hours by dividing into smaller batches and putting it in the refrigerator. Just because it can take six hours to cool doesn’t mean it needs to take that long. The more focus you place on cooling things quickly, the safer your food will be.
Use a cooling paddle. San Jamar makes a great quality cooling paddle. Fill the paddle with water, cover, and freeze. When you are ready to cool your soup/stew/sauce, use the frozen paddle to stir. There are different sizes and variations to fit your cooking needs – and we stock the two most common.
The best thing you can do for your customers is to pick the way that works for your kitchen and teach your staff to be experts at it.