When running a commercial kitchen, what are the most important elements of success; serving fire food, impeccable customer service and value for money? These are all key ingredients to making your mark and setting the hospitality industry alight, but they are completely worthless without enforcing simple food hygiene rules.
Kitchens are a melting pot for bacteria and germs that can cause food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses, which is why following hygiene rules in a professional kitchen is essential if you are serving the public.
Your commercial kitchen hygiene standards should cover the four C’s: cleaning, cooking, chilling and cross-contamination. So, without leaving any stone unturned, here are our critical – yet fairly basic – food hygiene rules to keep your commercial kitchen sanitised, scrumptious and successful.
A lot of people believe that harmful food-poisoning bacteria comes from direct consumption of food, when in fact these germs also spread to and from our hands. Eliminating the risk of this is simple if you wash your hands thoroughly and regularly as hand washing significantly reduces the spread of E. Coli, salmonella and several other types of harmful bacteria.
You should wash your hands before and after food handling, especially raw meats, fish and eggs, and ALWAYS after a trip to the bathroom. ‘Proper’ handwashing requires using hot soapy water and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds, something we should all be used to by now – thanks, corona. Hands should then be dried in a hygienic manner such as an air dryer or paper towel.
Food handlers should refrain from wearing rings, watches and bracelets when in a catering kitchen as they become a breeding ground for germ build-up which can then be transferred to food. Avoiding other external hazards such as heavy makeup, strong perfumes or aftershaves and nail varnish etc. is also highly advised.
Safe Food Storage
How you store your food in a professional kitchen is just as important as cooking and serving methods. Safe food storage includes:
- Allowing food to cook thoroughly before it is stored in a fridge or cold room
- A rule of thumb is if you cannot store it cool or hot; don’t keep it. Food kept at room temperature prior to or after cooking is more prone to bacteria
- Never store food in cold storage for more than 7 days
- All food should be well covered or wrapped – open food is also prone to bacteria
- Organise your cold room or food storage according to use-by date of products and ensure proper stock rotation
- Store animal products on the bottom shelves of your fridge to prevent cross-contamination and food poisoning
Carefully Preparing Food
Proper food preparation is another key ingredient for operating a hygienic kitchen or takeaway business. Taking precautionary steps during prep will also help to prevent food poisoning and ensure food is safe to eat.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables before cooking or serving
- Use different colour chopping boards for meats, vegetables, fish, poultry or eggs
- If not, wash chopping boards carefully in hot, soapy water between uses
- Prevent cross-contamination by keeping these foods away from others
- Check food is cooked thoroughly and to a safe temperature using a food thermometer
- Store food in a cold room or fridge within two hours of buying or preparation
- Buy meat, poultry and fish from providers who don’t use antibiotics
- Try to buy organic foods where possible
Are You Defrosting Correctly?
Did you know there are ‘safe’ ways to thaw and defrost food?
The three safest methods of defrosting food are refrigerator thawing, cold water thawing and microwave thawing; but each method still has its own individual rules for food safety.
Defrosting food in the refrigerator is the slowest yet safest method. Most foods, especially meat, will require a full day to defrost fully so it is best to plan well ahead of time, but some areas of the fridge will defrost food much faster than others.
A benefit refrigerator or cold room thawing is that produce should remain safe for an extra day or two before cooking, and if you need to refreeze the food, this is safe as long as the food was thawed in the fridge.
Cold Water Thawing
Thawing in cold water is a quicker method than the refrigerator, but it takes more thought and attention. You should place food in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge the bag in cold tap water that will need to be changed every 30 minutes. A 3 to 4lb bag of meat would take approximately two to three hours to fully thaw, and once defrosted, food should be cooked immediately. If you need to refreeze the food, it must be cooked prior to freezing.
Defrosting food in the microwave is the quickest thawing method, but cooking food immediately after thawing is critical. Some of the food will become warm and potentially start to cook when it is in the microwave, meaning it is in the “danger zone” temperatures and at risk of becoming a breeding ground for bacteria growth. Similarly to water thawing, if you need to refreeze food after microwave thawing it must be cooked first.
Cleaning Top to Bottom
In any commercial kitchen, you should keep your work area clean-as-you-go and the kitchen should receive a deeper top-to-bottom clean at the end of every workday. Cutting corners might seem appealing at the end of a long and busy shift, but when you realise that an average kitchen chopping board has more bacteria than the average toilet seat, your cleaning process and food hygiene rules in the kitchen should seem all that more important.
Damp cloths, sponges and brushes are havens for bacteria, so using prime hygiene products and cleaning chemicals to regularly clean surfaces helps to reduce cross-contamination and food-borne illnesses quite drastically.
- Keep surfaces, crockery, cutlery, chopping boards and utensils clean using hot soapy water
- Wipe all surfaces and food preparation areas multiple times throughout the day
- Air dry all kitchen equipment or use disposable towels and paper towels
- Tea towels should be kept clean, air-dried when possible and in a fit state
- Repair scourers, dish-washing sponges and cleaning clothes regularly
- Wash and disinfect the sink at least once a day – including plug, plug chain and taps
- Wipe the oven after every use and a full clean at the end of every shift
Preventing cross-contamination is one of, if not THE biggest, commercial kitchen food hygiene rules to enforce in your space. Avoiding cross-contamination helps to eradicate the spread of harmful bacteria, food poisoning and other food-borne illness, but also it is important to remember that cross-contamination is detrimental to vegetarian or plant-based diets, too.
Avoiding cross-contamination can be simple if you stay on top of it, keep an organised kitchen and clean as you go.
The most effective ways to prevent cross-contamination include when you handle food:
- Cleaning work surfaces immediately after fish, eggs, poultry and raw meat have been prepared or handled
- Using colour-coded cutting boards for preparing the above items, farm produce and cooking foods
- Keeping separate cleaning cloths for use on surfaces where different meats, fish and poultry are handled
- Separating kitchen equipment and utensils used to prepare raw meats and poultry away from other foods
- Wash and disinfect utensils regularly throughout the day – and after every use, if you cannot keep separate utensils for raw meats
- Disinfect cleaning clothes regularly throughout the day
- Clean work surfaces as you go and keep a high standard of cleanliness in the kitchen
- Maintain high standards of personal hygiene
Kitchen Fridge and Freezer Maintenance
- Are surfaces and oven clean? Check!
- Cloths sanitised? Check!
- Dishes washed? Check!
- Fridge or cold room disinfected? …
More often than not the refrigerator or cold storage room in a commercial kitchen is neglected, however, this can still be a hotbed for bacteria and cause for cross-contamination. The refrigerator will also be inspected by a local authority inspector while assessing your kitchen to issue your food hygiene rating.
It’s important to maintain your cold room as you go and clean up any spillages or leaks immediately, but a deep clean should happen at least once a month.
Remove all the shelves, compartments or drawers to wash them in hot, soapy water before disinfecting them. If you have a walk-in cold room you should also sweep and mop the floor. Wipe down any surfaces that cannot be removed with safe cleaning chemicals or disinfectant, as well as the outside of the fridge and any handles.
Hygienic Waste Management
Proper disposal and management of food waste is another important food hygiene rule if you want to run a safe and successful professional kitchen. Your rubbish can actually be a cause of contamination, so keep the process as clean and sanitised as possible.
You should have bins both inside and outside the kitchen, and any indoor bins will preferably be foot-operated, have a tight-fitting lid, be used with strong bin bags and be emptied regularly – once a day at a minimum.
If you’re looking for a hygienic commercial kitchen or cold room in London; we have sanitary spaces in prime locations in the city. Book your visit now to explore your options and see our amazing sites for yourself!
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