Taken from July 27th’s Tuesdays with Tom. Edited for length and clarity.
Photo by elloproducts on Unsplash
Food labeling is an integral part of the organization in any kitchen. You want to know which containers contain dairy, where to properly store your meat, etc. In kitchens in care facilities, labeling is critical. You might ask yourself, “What are the best practices for labeling food?”
We highly recommend you use a 2-inch roll of masking tape and a sharpie. You can buy labels, as they work well and are easy to take off when you’re done, but they’re very expensive.
Labeling food doesn’t just extend to dry stores; you must label what’s in your refrigerator as well.
In the refrigerator, you’re going to label the food. In California, according to the Health Department, seven days is the maximum that anything opened in the refrigerator should be there. Some corporations say three days, but seven days should be fine.
You want to make sure that you’re counting the number of days from when the oldest food and product is there. As an example, if you’re making chili and you’ve had hamburger meat in the refrigerator for three days, then you’ve only got four days left for your chili, so keep that in mind. A good rule of thumb is that anything over seven days old should probably be thrown out.
Be sure to watch expiration dates as well. Licensing will specifically check the expiration date on dairy products like milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt.
And in your dry stores, your food should have expiration dates on it. But if you open a package, like pancake mix, you want to label and date that as well. Make sure it’s sealed properly!
Refrigerators should be at 40°F.
In Title-22 for Adult Facilities, it says that that temperature should be 45°F, which is a mistake. The Health Department, RCFE, and Group Homes say that the temperature should be at 40°F. To be safe, go with the lower number.
Freezers, however, should always be at 0°F.
You really should have whoever is working in your kitchen keep temperature logs. Every day it’s good to have the first person in the kitchen check the temperature, as well as the last person to leave. You should have thermometers in the freezers and the refrigerators. By doing this, you will know right away if your fridge—or freezer—is losing temperature.
Put the log in a clipboard, put it on the refrigerator and freezer, and just have the employees write in the temperature in the morning and evening.
Above all else, use your common sense. If you think something has been in the fridge for too long, you’re probably right. If the lid on that jar of flour looks a little loose, inspect the flour. If meat in the freezer has well-formed ice crystals on it, it’s probably very freezer burnt.
Use your judgment, and follow what Licensing has to say.