September is National Food Safety Month, so, in honor of good food practices, here are some best practices to follow when thawing frozen foods, holding them at the desired temperatures, and prepping produce.
Best practices for thawing food, by method
- Refrigeration: Thaw TCS food at 41 ̊Fahrenheit (5 ̊Celsius) or lower to limit pathogen growth. Plan ahead when thawing large items, such as turkeys. They can take several days to defrost.
- Microwave oven: You can safely thaw food in a microwave, but only if the food is going to be cooked immediately. Be warned: large items, such as roasts or turkeys, might not thaw well with this method.
- Cooking: Thaw food as part of the cooking process.
- Running water: Submerge food under running, drinkable water at 70°Fahrenheit (21°Celsius) or lower. Never let the temperature of the food go above 41°Fahrenheit (5°Celsius) for longer than four hours.
Tips on holding food at desired temperatures
- Hold foods at their correct temperatures. TCS foods should be held at the correct internal temperatures. Cold food should be held at 41°Fahrenheit (5°Celsius) or lower, and hot food should be 135°Fahrenheit (57°Celsius) or higher.
- Check temperatures regularly. Timing is essential. Make sure you check food temperatures at least every four hours. Toss food that’s not 41°Fahrenheit (5°Celsius) or lower, or 135°Fahrenheit (57°Celsius) or higher.
- Use food covers and sneeze guards. Keep food covered to help maintain temperatures. Covers and sneeze guards also help protect the food from contaminants.
- Use hot-holding equipment properly. Don’t reheat food in them unless they are built to do so.
Five rules to follow when prepping produce
- Avoid cross-contamination by preventing fruit and vegetables from touching surfaces exposed to raw meat, seafood or poultry.
- Wash produce thoroughly under running water before cutting, cooking, or combining it with other ingredients. Don’t forget to make sure the water is a little warmer than the produce, remove the outer leaves of leafy greens, and pull lettuce or spinach completely apart, and rinse thoroughly.
- Don’t mix different items or multiple batches of the same item together if you’resoaking or storing produce in standing water or an ice-water slurry.
- Store items, such as sliced melons, cut tomatoes and cut leafy greens, at41°Fahrenheit (5°Celsius) or lower.
- Don’t serve raw seed sprouts if you primarily serve high-risk populations.
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Happy safe cooking!