When it comes to storing food safely, the refrigerator is one of the most important pieces of equipment in kitchens. It’s easy to take the appliance for granted, but we’re reminded of the importance of refrigerating perishable food if the power goes out. Refrigeration is imperative because it slows bacterial growth and keeps the levels of bacteria at a safe level where they won’t cause us illness.
Commercially, there are several rules of thumb for the safety of food that’s stored in fridges. Whether you own a restaurant or are preparing food for other people, there are some things you should follow to ensure that the food you are serving meets standards and is perfectly safe to eat.
Safe Refrigerator Temperatures
Bacteria grows rapidly within the range of 40 and 140°F, which is also known as “The Danger Zone” for food. A refrigerator should always be set at 40 or below, to protect most foods from rapid bacterial growth. You can ensure this by keeping an appliance thermometer in the fridge, and many refrigerators come with them already built in. This will be critical in the case of a power outage. If foods have been at temperatures above 40 degrees for more than two hours, they should not be consumed.
There are two different types of bacteria that impact refrigerated foods. Pathogenic bacteria is the kind that causes foodborne illness, and unfortunately it does not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food, which makes it difficult for someone to tell that it is present. Spoilage bacteria can grow at low temperatures, and it eventually causes food to develop an off smell or bad taste. Many people know not to eat spoiled food.
Safe Handling of Foods for Refrigerating
Hot food can be placed directly in the fridge, or it can be rapidly chilled in ice or cold water before refrigerating. Always cover foods to retain moisture, and to prevent them from picking up odors or bacteria from other food. A large pot of food should be divided into small portions and put in containers before being refrigerated, and a large cut of meat or poultry should also be divided into smaller pieces.
Storage of Foods
You should also accommodate the exact placing and storage of food within the refrigerator, depending on the type of food. For example, raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be in a sealed container or wrapped securely so that any raw juices don’t contaminate other foods.
Some fridges also have special features or compartments that are designed to help you keep your food separated and fresh. Features include adjustable shelves, door bins, crispers, and cheese drawers. Sealed crisper drawers provide optimal storage for fruits and vegetables as well; vegetables require higher humidity conditions, while fruits require lower conditions. Some crispers are equipped with controls so you can customize this.
Whether your fridge stores food for just yourself and your family, or you provide food commercially, by following the rules above, you can ensure that the food you serve will always be safe to eat and free of bacteria. Keep this in mind when you are searching a selection of commercial refrigeration units for your next purchase.