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Food Safety Practices, Prepping in Large Quantities

Learn about how to make sure you’re cooling, reheating and storing your food properly when preparing it in large quantities.

Group of businesspeople eating at a business conference event

October 29, 2021

Prepping in Large Quantities

A respected leader in food safety audits, with more than 65,000 food safety and sanitation audits conducted each year across the United States, UL has deep understanding of and expertise in safe food practices. Now, with the holiday season upon us and a need to plan ahead for busier times, it may be necessary to prepare large amounts of food in advance. It is critically important to have a plan to ensure that you’re cooling, reheating and storing your food properly.

The first thing to know is that the FDA Food Code requires that all food subject to time or temperature control for safety (TCS) be cooled from 135 F to 70 F within two hours of cooking, and from 70 F to 41 F within a total of six hours after cooking. Since pathogens rapidly grow in the temperature danger zone from 41 F to 135 F, cooling food quickly is essential to safety.

Tips for rapid cooling

Best practices for rapid cooling include:

  1. Cool food in thin layers in a walk-in cooler — sheet pans often prove effective tools for this purpose. To be in compliance with current food safety guidelines, do not cool at depths greater than 2 inches.
  2. Cool food either uncovered or loosely covered.
  3. Use stainless steel containers instead of plastic, as the metal transfers heat better.
  4. Do not attempt to cool food in the same container you cooked it in. Instead, transfer the product to a new container that is not already hot from the cooking process.
  5. Fully submerge cooling food in ice baths and stir frequently using an ice wand instead of a spoon, if possible. If you use ice wands, be sure to store them in a way that prevents contamination when not in use (e.g., in a clean container, hanging from a shelf or wrapped in plastic wrap).
  6. If you have one, use a blast chiller, which circulates very cold air to cool food quickly.
  7. Add ice as an ingredient to rapidly cool foods.

When the day of the event arrives

On the day of the event, make sure to properly reheat hot food to 165 F within 2 hours of beginning the reheating process. Current food safety guidelines prohibit reheating food on steam tables or in warming cabinets, as these units are designed to hold food, not rapidly reheat it. Finally, be mindful of how long you keep TCS food under refrigeration. You must use any TCS food opened or prepared in-house within seven days, with the day of preparation or its open date as day one. If a recipe involves a combination of ingredients made on different days, the seven-day timeline begins on the day you prepared or opened the first ingredient. If the product is frozen, the seven-day use-by countdown begins when you remove it from the freezer.

This is just a quick taste of what UL can train your team on concerning food safety practices. We want to educate your company by offering a dedicated account and audit team trained to meet your standards and needs. Our independent and objective audit team offers you operational flexibility and industry-leading customizable audits. We provide responsive reporting and analytics designed around your business needs.