Article by David Vagg B.Sc.(Hons.)
Director of Assured Quality Solutions Limited
We all know kitchens are hot, humid and busy places to work, and throw up many challenges for chefs, managers and staff alike.
Safety and quality however are right up there at the top of the list for focus on a daily basis. Maintaining raw and cooked ingredients in the right condition can often prove difficult. With frequent door openings, standard refrigeration kits often struggle to maintain a constant temperature.
Indeed the innate design of a door fronted refrigerator or freezer means when a door is opened the cold air falls out the bottom of the unit. On top of this, warm moist air is drawn into the unit effecting the temperature stability and humidity within the fridge or freezer.
But what does this mean in terms of food safety and quality?
Firstly, there is the legal standpoint. As a caterer, there are legal obligations on us to maintain our ingredients and finished preparations in a safe state – this means above 63°C for cooked hot food, and below 8°C for fresh chilled food. Frozen food must be stored below -18°C. Maintaining this air and product temperature can be difficult during busy periods when doors are being opened and closed.
Fluctuations in temperature and humidity also lead to quality and safety issue, as well as costing you in wastage and shorter shelf lives.
Fluctuations in temperature and humidity can lead to ice crystal formation and icing of products, this presents quality issues but more importantly, can make it harder to cook the ingredients – potentially leading to food safety issues
When assigning secondary shelf lives in the kitchen to any ingredients or finished preparations, the ability of the equipment to maintain a constant environment must be taken into account. So what does this mean?
In short, you will always work to the lowest common denominator, and ensure that there is sufficient safety margin in the shelf life you assign. If the equipment is unable to maintain a constant temperature, then a shorter shelf life will be assigned. This means that product is harder to manage, and wastage greater, either way a cost to your business.
If you can extend the shelf life there are numerous advantages to quality, safety and productivity. Therefore any environment that can give enhanced temperature stability will improve quality and safety, reduce wastage and improve your bottom line.
David Vagg B.Sc.(Hons.) - Director
Assured Quality Solutions Limited
Tel: 07540 888 976
David Vagg formerly lead the McDonald's UK Quality Assurance Team, before taking a European role within the McDonald's system.
Assured Quality Solutions Limited provides quality and safety training, consultancy and technical services to food manufacturing and the food service sector, specialising in training, development and full supply chain assessment from farm to fork.