Good Food Storage Practices

store-meat-properly

Food storage can be very complicated in a busy and most likely small kitchen. Chefs and managers often have a daily struggle in trying to properly store food. The ultimate goal is to protect the food from contamination that may come in many forms. Sometimes, a restaurant becoming busier, increasing its volume, and exceeding its storage capacity can put safe food storage at risk. In this post, the challenges and hazards associated with different food storage areas are outlined.

Restaurant Food Storage Areas

  • Food in a restaurant is typically stored in the following areas:
  • Walk-in coolers
  • Make table coolers
  • Dry storage
  • Freezers

The Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Walk-In Coolers

The walk-in cooler is the most important equipment for storing potentially hazardous foods. It has the greatest capacity and ability to cool hot food and keep it at 41 degrees Fahrenheit. The increased space makes it easier to store raw animal products properly (see Respro’s earlier post: Prevent-Cross-Contamination-in-Food). Also, if there are problems with other cold-holding units, the walk-in cooler can be the answer for keeping that food cold until the broken unit gets fixed. For more information on storing food in a walk-in cooler, check out this link:

Kansas Department of Agriculture Food Safety Fact Sheet

Make Table Coolers

The biggest challenge with make table coolers in a restaurant kitchen is temperature. Often, these coolers are stored near or right next to ovens and open flames that are used for cooking. This makes it difficult to keep food in a make table cooler cold. To help keep temperatures cold, make sure to keep the doors and top covers closed when possible. Obviously, this won’t be possible during rush times, but when it slows down, keep everything closed.

Pans used to store food make a big difference. Many chefs want to use the plastic containers that often come with a make table cooler to store food. However, plastic acts as an insulator and is therefore not the best choice because cold air can’t get to the food easily. Plastic containers will eventually break anyway. Stainless steel is the best choice and it will last longer. It’s also very important to understand not to cool hot foods in make table coolers. They aren’t designed to cool; they are only designed to keep cold food cold.

Dry Storage

Dry storage is for food items that don’t require refrigeration. This applies to dry pasta, rice, canned goods, bread, etc. The biggest challenge here is keeping pests and rodents from contaminating the food. Keeping floors and walls clean and in good repair as well as having a good pest prevention program should solve this problem.

Freezers

A freezer is probably the easiest food storage area to maintain. As long as the food items inside are kept frozen, there shouldn’t be any problems. But over time, door gaskets break, shelves wear down, and doors don’t close properly. If a freezer door is located within a walk-in cooler, ice has a tendency to build up at the opening. This indicates that the door is not making a clean seal. The freezer air is mixing with the warmer cooler air, and ice is forming at the point where they meet—the door. Using a larger door gasket can help in this case.

Protect Food in Storage Areas

In all these areas, it’s important to make sure the food is protected. Cover the food with plastic wrap or lids. Make sure food stored on higher shelves won’t fall and contaminate food on lower shelves. Also, it’s important to never store food on the floor. Having good food storage practices can help any kitchen run smoothly and properly.

For more information on food storage, visit these websites:

City of Canterbury Food Storage

Colorado State University Food Storage for Safety and Quality

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