We often get asked “What are the important food temperatures in food preparation?” In this article we explain the critical temperatures in the various stages of cooking and storing food.
Temperature control is one the most effective ways to ensure the production of safe food. By storing food at the correct temperatures, we can greatly reduce bacterial multiplication and survival and reduce the risk of microbiological contamination.
The Risk Zone
Bacteria are present in most foods and they can be destroyed by cooking food to the right temperatures. However, if the bacteria in food are allowed to multiply to great numbers then cooking alone might not prevent food from causing food poisoning.
Bacteria are able to multiply when they are above 5°C and below 63°C. This range, from 5°C to 63°C is called the risk zone. Bacteria will multiply very rapidly when they approach body temperature (37°C), so any food left at temperatures of between 20°C and 50°C is at greater risk. Food should be stored either below 5°C or above 63°C.
If you have ever accidentally left milk out of the fridge, you might have experienced how milk goes off very quickly at room temperature, but can keep fresh for several days inside the fridge, this is because chilling slows down the action of bacteria. Keeping food in the refrigerator will reduce the speed at which bacteria multiply, so it is very important to make sure that fridges are kept below 5°C. Temperatures of between 1°C and 4°C are ideal.
Freezing stops the action of bacteria altogether when temperatures of -18°C are reached. However, freezing does not destroy bacteria, and when food starts to thaw, bacteria will start to multiply again.
Food that is cooked can be kept at temperatures of 63°C for long periods of time, this is because any bacteria that might have survived cooking will not be able to multiply. However, if the temperature goes below 63°C then food should be eaten within 2 hours, or it should be cooled off completely and placed in the fridge within 90 minutes.
Cooking ensures that most food poisoning causing bacteria are destroyed, making food safe to eat, but if the right temperatures are not reached then too many bacteria might survive, making the food unsafe.
Once internal temperatures have been reached they must be held long enough to ensure bacteria are destroyed. The higher the temperature, the shorter the amount to of time needed. For 75°C, 30 seconds are needed, but for higher temperatures, like 86°C, an instant reading is sufficient.
When reheating foods an internal temperature of 75°C must always be reached.
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