Article contributed by Rada Tarnovsky, Letter Grade Consulting
Temperature is a critical violation that is taken seriously by inspectors. Proper temperature is a big deal for good reason. Food that is out of temperature can result in a “B” grade, render food unsafe to eat and lead to closure.
Food must NEVER be out unless in active use or being cooked. “In use” means it is being prepped or cooked, and that is the reason it is out. Otherwise, food must be held at correct temperatures. That is the rule. It doesn’t matter if the food is on shelves, near the grill, on racks or on prep stations. Unless it’s “in use”, DOH inspectors will cite it as “out of temp “and ”unattended”, a very common violation and a critical one. A violation that could potentially cost a lot in fines, and bring you over the 13 points to a B grade.
What about food that’s used often for service? In a fast paced restaurant, it is time consuming and inefficient to constantly retrieve the same food from lowboy refrigerators.
Timing is everything, in life and in the kitchen…
Using “time as a control” permits operators to hold food out of temperature while in use, during service. It is the optimal solution for just about all food*.
Hot food can be held out of temperature for 4 hours.
Cold food can be held for 6 hours with the condition that the food doesn’t reach 70°F within the first 4 hours, allowing for the additional 2 hours.
All food must be labeled accordingly and discarded at the elapsed time.
Educating the Staff…
A properly trained staff is a key component to a violation free kitchen. Try to hold seminars monthly, but communicate with them daily. Make sure they know the rules, if using “time as a control”, teach them how to label. Make sure they know what’s going on in the kitchen/prep stations, so that they can properly explain to the DOH Inspector what is happening with the food. Guessing or improvising can lead to violations, fines and unsafe foods.
Using Time as control has its benefits if used properly. Labeling something with a time, means you have to be diligent about discarding it, remember there is no putting it back into the refrigerator. Which is why “time as a control” should not be used for everything. Operators need to decide which foods this would work for. Excercising proper portion control is a must.
*view the complete rule with exceptions and pre-made labels
Rada Tarnovsky is a practicing Attorney, who co-founded Letter Grade Consulting to help food service operators comply with regulations set forth by the NYC Department of Health. Servicing restaurants, hotels, theatres, corporate cafeterias and schools, Letter Grade Consulting provides operators with preemptive solutions, education and training to sustain the highest level of food safety, remain inspection ready and maintain the “A” in the window. Rada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org