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Rules to run a commercial kitchen

Updated April 17, 2019

In order to run a commercial kitchen properly, you must comply with health department regulations and fire safety rules. Both of these agencies will inspect your operation periodically. Compliance with their rules is not merely a matter of avoiding penalties and possible closures; these regulations also help to keep customers safe and healthy and to maintain the reputation of your business.

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Fire safety rules

Commercial kitchens almost always use cooking appliances, which require attention to fire safety. You must charge fire extinguishers and fire suppression features in ventilation systems annually, and display the tags that document when the servicing occurred. Ventilation systems for cooking appliances that use grease should be professionally cleaned twice a year. Exits should be unobstructed and sockets should not be overloaded.


Health department rules require you to keep surfaces clean and disinfected, and to wash dishes and equipment with a disinfecting solution after use. Keep a bleach bucket on hand with a towel, with a solution of one teaspoon of bleach for each gallon of water. Wash dishes in a three-compartment stainless steel sink, using one compartment for washing, one for rinsing and the third for sanitising. Have a separate sink for washing hands, and keep it stocked with soap and paper towels.

Temperature control

The health department requires you to store all potentially hazardous foods at a temperature of above 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) or below 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit). Definitions of "potentially hazardous foods" change frequently, but they generally include meats, dairy products, beans, rice and cooked vegetables. To cool foods from temperatures above 60 degrees C (140 degrees F) to temperatures below 5 degrees C (140 degrees F), spread them 5 cm (2 inches) deep in restaurant pans and store them, uncovered, in the fridge. They should cool in four hours or less in order to comply with health department rules. Check temperatures regularly with a metal stem thermometer with a range of -17.8 degrees C to 104 degrees C (0 degrees to 220 degrees F).

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About the Author

Devra Gartenstein

Devra Gartenstein is an omnivore who has published several vegan cookbooks. She has owned and run small food businesses for 30 years.

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