Ramadhan is an especially busy time for food operators, especially with the increased foot traffic come sundown. With all the hustle and bustle, dishing out meals in time take priority over everything else, which sometimes results in a chaotic kitchen. However, this is also the time when staff have to be extra attentive as lapses in prep can result in food safety issues that may irreparably damage your reputation.
Here are 3 things you should look out for to ensure diners enjoy delicious and safe food during this period:
Before anything else, check the quality of your ingredients especially perishables like fruits, vegetables and meat.
Fruits and vegetables
The colours of fruits and vegetables should be vibrant, and they should feel firm – never bruised or soft and overripe. Be sure to thoroughly wash all your vegetables before prep, especially if you are going to be serving it raw.
Meats, seafood and poultry
Meats, seafood and poultry should arrive in chilled containers, free from any foul smell or unnatural colours.
Defrosting times for meats, seafood, and poultry vary – for instance, red meat takes an hour to defrost by the pound, while more sensitive proteins like poultry or seafood should only be defrosted a maximum of two hours before cooking, especially if defrosted under room temperature. This helps avoid excess moisture exposure which encourages bacteria to breed.
Cross contamination is one of the most common issues that plague food service operators. It happens when microorganisms are transferred from one surface to another due to improper handling of raw ingredients. This can result in foodborne illnesses that can negatively affect your customers, even after the ingredients are cleaned and cooked.
One way to avoid cross contamination in your pantry is by placing all your goods on a platform to avoid contact with the floor. Ensure you have proper containers for each item, and separate wet goods from dry goods. Avoid using the same utensils in handling different food items – if you must, make sure you wash it properly prior to handling.
Conducting stock checks is highly recommended to keep track and monitor the quality of your inventory. It should be done preferably once every two weeks for raw materials. Be sure to jot down the dates of purchase, expiration, as well as the quantity available and label them accordingly for easy reference. As a rule of thumb, keep the "first in, first out” method in mind – you’ll thank your future self for it.
Cooking and Serving
Raw ingredients are a natural breeding ground for bacteria and, if improperly handled, can cause infections like E.coli and Salmonella, among many others. It’s crucial therefore to make sure all ingredients are cleaned properly or cooked thoroughly, ideally at 63°C or higher, in order to kill the remaining microorganisms and ensure the food is safe for consumption.
Keep in mind that bacteria thrives in the food temperature danger zone (TDZ) that’s around the temperatures of 5°C to 56.7°C. Always keep hot food hot and cold food cold, within four hours of cooking or preparation.
These are just a few basic steps, and there’ always more you can do to ensure the safety of your diners. Unilever Food Solutions’ Chefmanship Academy aims to educate and inspire food operators through different modules that cover everything from food hygiene to menu planning and cost calculations. Interested? Sign up and we’ll get in touch with you the next time there’s an event.