Keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold isn't just about taste. It helps prevent food poisoning, according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. The environmental health and safety department at California Polytechnic State University says hot foods should remain above 60 degrees Celsius. To maintain this temperature, you need a container designed for that purpose.
Insulated containers have thick walls to hold heat inside. If you transport hot food in an insulated container, you should use it within one hour, according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Wrap sealed food containers in a towel and then cover them with newspaper or aluminium foil before placing them in an insulated chest to help retain heat. Before using an insulated container, CalPoly suggests that you fill it with boiling water and close the container to “preheat” it. Pour out the water after 10 minutes before packing the container with food.
Use a slow cooker to keep foods hot before serving. The University of Illinois Extension recommends that you bring the food to a full, rolling boil over high heat on the stove or in a microwave before transferring it to a container for transport to the serving site. At the site, plug the slow cooker into an outlet and put the food in the slow cooker to keep the temperature above 60 degrees Celsius. Use a thermometer to monitor food temperature.
Cross contamination can occur if you use cooking equipment to keep food warm. Never cook food in a chafing dish or steam table, warns California Polytechnic. Cooking food in the same container that you use to maintain the temperature invites food poisoning from cross contamination. While using a steam table or chafing dish to keep food warm, check the temperature of the food throughout the holding time. Keep an eye on the temperature of the water in the steam table or the fuel source for a chafing dish.
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