When looking for a chef to handle large volume cooking, either as temporary hire or permanent hire, you need to look for someone who knows their way around big batch preparation.
But more importantly, someone who knows how to do them safely.
It is a great skill to manage significant scale food preparations. It can be an overwhelming task if there is no planning done ahead of time. And professional chefs know that recipes with large yields require special handling to ensure that the food remains safe to eat.
What’s significant here is that when the kitchen team has good food safety habits, scaling up the volume of recipes becomes easier. The basics still apply such as frequent handwashing as well as using clean tools and kitchen counters; separating raw meats and poultry from other items, and storing food items in the right container and temperature.
Here are 4 quick tips to ensure food safety when cooking in large volume:
1. Avoid partial cooking
This practice is a potential trouble maker. There is a thinking that it is efficient to cook food halfway through and then finish later.
But this practice of partial cooking is dangerous. When food temperature is between 5°C to 60°C, otherwise known as the Danger Zone, foodborne pathogens proliferate rapidly. Food is safe when they fall below 5°C usually when in a frozen state or above 60°C when the ideal cooking temperature has been met.
A better procedure is by breaking down the recipe into steps where some ingredients can be assembled. Such as mixing together the dry ingredients and storing them for later or such as the process of marination where the food item is refrigerated to maintain a safe temperature until the actual cooking time.
Another way to break down the recipe is through Parboiling. It is a method of precooking food items by putting them into boiling water until they reach the right internal temperature. Technically, food is already cooked in this phase and is in a safe zone. This can be considered as step 1 and the final cooking technique that is required by the recipe can be called as step 2.
2. Safely cool down food temperature.
If the food needs to be cooled down for storage, remember that a large batch of a recipe will take longer to cool down.
A good practice is to divide them and store them in several shallow or wide containers ( with a depth of 2 inches or less) as opposed to large deep bowls. Even if the large bowls are inside the refrigerator, the food in the middle will take longer to cool.
Another way to cool food temperature down safely is to put the container of food (no large bowls) on a cooling rack. The movement of air circulates around and under the pan, cooling the food within evenly.
If food has to be cooled down quickly or if there are no available containers other than large deep bowls, here’s a safe way to do so: put the container down in iced water making sure that the water doesn’t come up to the lid. Slowly stir the food and when the temperature has cooled down, immediately move it to the refrigerator.
3. Make your two Ts work for you: Thermometer and Timer.
Because we are dealing with temperatures, it is logical to have a working and accurate thermometer and timers on hand.
Currently, there are different types of meat thermometer out there: bimetallic, bulb and digital. Among the three, digital gives the fastest and more accurate readings. But whatever type is on hand, much of the reading accuracy depends on how the thermometer is used.
A more accurate reading results when the thermometer is stuck into the thickest portion of the meat, away from bone and fat. Get the lowest internal temperature, as this is the baseline to use when rechecking if the right internal temperature has been reached.
When checking the internal temperature of a large roast, it should be done around 30 minutes before the roast is expected to be done. This is due to “carryover cooking” where meat continues to cook after it is removed from the heat source. The large roast should be removed when it reaches 5 degrees less than its desired doneness temperature. It then needs a 5-10 minute resting time before slicing. That is enough time to ensure that it has reached the safe temperature as well as ensuring that the meat juices have redistributed themselves back into the meat.
When holding food, avoid solely relying on the thermometers on the holding units alone. The best practice is to check the internal temperature of the food periodically. The temperatures have to be outside of the danger zone. Hot holding temperatures should stay above 60°C or hotter. Cold holding temperatures should remain below 5°C or colder.
When checking for food doneness, thermometers are the way to go. But timers are also necessary. Use them to set reminders to avoid leaving a food item in the counter for longer than 15 mins or so. Large volume preparation is a busy, busy task. A lot of things can easily be overlooked. The kitchen team needs all the help they can get.
4. To refrigerate or to freeze?
Refrigerating food items does not halt its spoilage. Refrigeration will only slow it down. Therefore food items that are stored for longer than 3-4 days will already start to break down, and the quality will suffer. Because large food volume preparation may involve pre prepping days ahead, it is important to keep that in mind when planning. If the food item is frozen, include thawing in the planning to avoid resorting to short cuts.
RELATED READ: Safe Thawing Tips From Pro Chefs That You Should Know
If the food item will not be immediately used, freeze it. But do know that some food items do not freeze well.
Preparing and cooking large volumes of food is a challenge that professional cooks often find themselves facing. In addition to ensuring quality and taste, chefs need to ensure that they are also serving food that is safe to eat. There is the temptation to do sanitation shortcuts when doing big batches of cooking for a crowd or parties, perhaps due to time constraints or other pressures. And a great chef knows that food safety is non negotiable.
If you are looking for great professional chefs, either as temporary or permanent hires, for your next big event or venue, give us a call at Anytime Chefs.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,