Food Safety in Winter

 

This month we are all about the importance of food safety All Year Round.

Summer is the time that we naturally become more aware of the risks with serving food.  There is something about food being left out in the heat and lots of egg-based salad dressings that heighten our senses to the risk of food poisoning.  But winter food, those warm comfort stews and slow cooked casseroles can also be troublesome if we don’t use a little common sense and caution.

It is easy to cook large amounts of slow cooked food and then batch freeze them.  Having pre-prepared meals to draw on can be a lifesaver when the week begins to implode.  Unfortunately, things can become tricky and potentially dangerous if the cooling down process prior to freezing takes too long.  Nasty Pathogens that are reduced to safe levels when cooking can re-activate when foods are held at unsafe temperatures.

So what’s the solution?  Cool your cook-up to 3°C as rapidly as possible.  We recommend using this easy three-stage cooling process.

  1. Remove the food from the heat source and place into container you are going to freeze in.  Allow to stand lid off for 10 minutes while the initial heat is released.
  2. Place container into some cold tap water for 20 minutes to increase the rate of the cooling process – stir occasionally.
  3. Place into an ice-slurry (water and ice, or ice bricks in water) until the contents reach 3°C.  You can place this in the fridge.

This process should take no more than 6 hours in total – 2 hours to reach 21°C, and no more than 4 hours down to 3°C.  You can then safely freeze.

When we go out to a cafe or restaurant, we trust that our Chefs are adopting food safe practices.  The reality is that it is just as important for us at home to be mindful of food safety.

Bonus tips

  • If you don’t know how fast your food is cooling, use a probe thermometer.
  • Divide your food into smaller portions which naturally cool at a faster rate.
  • Cook in meal portion sizes with your sous vide.  This reduces handling of the food and the risk of contamination because you are cooking, cooling, freezing and reheating all in the one bag.  Another reason to love sous vide!