Well, it’s officially feeling like summer weather in Ontario. We’ve had temperature highs up into the high 20s / low 30s over the past week with this week looking just as nice. This means prime opportunity to eat outdoors – whether that means hosting golfers poolside or on the patio or a large event such as a tournament, corporate picnic or wedding. Because the weather is hot, ensuring the food being served is safe for patrons is of utmost importance – and something that requires more attention and work then cooking inside a temperature-regulated establishment.
Here are some tips and tools to use when serving food outside in hot weather:
Before and During Transport:
1. Place raw meats in a separate cooler from prepared foods such as salads, raw vegetables etc. and make sure everything is well wrapped and kept separate from each other (i.e. meat wrapped together, poultry wrapped together, fish wrapped together)
2. All food that isn’t pre-cooked needs to be kept cold at 40 degrees F or below to prevent bacteria growth – use ice packs or ice, cooler and/or an insulated food pan carrier. Pre-cooked foods need to be kept at or above 140 degrees F – use a heated food pan carrier which allows you to hold the food at a consistent temperature.
3. Clean all fruits and vegetables prior to packing – you may not have an operating sink and proper cleaning supplies at your disposal.
4. Hot food needs to be kept at 140 degrees F or above – utilizing a chafing dish, warming pan or slow cooker.
5. Make sure there are plenty of serving utensils so each dish has a serving spoon or serving fork and no cross-contamination occurs.
6. Cold foods should be kept on ice to ensure they are kept at a temperature of 40 degrees or lower – you can utilize a Fill n Chill Party Table, a Fill n Chill Little Chiller or putting items on ice.
7. If you’re storing cold foods in a cooler, keep separate from beverages as the drinks will be accessed more frequently than the foods – leading to the food temperature rising.
8. All food shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 hours if outside temperature is between room temperature and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep a close eye on the temperature because if the temperature rises above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, food can’t be left out for more than 1 hour.
Sources: Whole Foods – Serving Prepared Foods Safely, US Food & Drug Administration – Eating Outdoors, Handling Food Safely