Foods should be reheated thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F or more within two hours before serving. Potentially hazardous foods must be held at temperatures above 140°F in a hot food storage facility. Holding time should be kept to a minimum and foods should be replaced on steam tables every 15 to 30 minutes.
Remember, the steam table should never be used to heat up cold food for service. It is also very important to reheat only the amount of food that is needed; foods that have been reheated shouldn't be cooled again but should be thrown out. Other tips are:
- Never mix reheated foods with freshly cooked foods.
- Remember, once reheated, left over foods will have passed through the temperature danger zone three times.
- Use sanitized, calibrated thermometers to verify temperature.
- Make certain that hot-holding devices maintain food temperatures at 140°F or above.
- Use extreme care in handling food reheated in advance of service.
- Avoid carrying contamination from raw to cooked and ready-to-serve foods via hands, equipment and utensils.
A sanitary environment is a basic prerequisite for preparing safe food. Under Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems, an operation analyzes its process to determine at what points hazards might exist. These points are called critical control points, examples of which are the chilling, time/temperature and cooking processes. Implementation of HACCP rules requires a significant change in the roles and attitudes of both the sanitarian and the industry. In the past, the industry has relied on inspectors to identify deficiencies; however, today restaurants and hotels are taking on the responsibility themselves.
Contributed by Chef Jean-Jacques Dietrich, College of Culinary Arts, Johnson & Wales University.