Do Foods Need to Be Heated to Boiling Before Placing on a Steam Table?

I hope you can help with this one, don't know where else to go. I started working at a snack bar that sells hot dogs, chili dogs, etc. We make our own chili for the chili dogs, 10 lbs at a time. Once made and cooled we put it in containers, date them and freeze them to use throughout the week.

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We have a steam table that has 2 stainless pots in it. One is for the chili to keep it hot and the other is for the hotdogs. What they do in the morning is put the chili in a pot with water and bring it to a boil and then put it in the steam table.

The other day I was doing the kitchen and instead of boiling the chili I just put it directly in the steam table to heat up with a little water. Well one of the other ladies heard what I did and freaked out and took the chili and put it in a pot and boiled it and then put it in the steam table.

Now is there anyone out there that works in the food business that could let me know if I was wrong in putting the chili in the steam table to heat up with out boiling it first in a pot and then putting it the steam table? Does it matter or not?

By Pam from West VA

June 23, 20100 found this helpful

I have no food service experience, but I think that just heating your chili on the steam table without boiling it first will not get it hot enough. Another reason to boil it up after freezing is to kill any possible germs or bacteria. You don't want customers to get sick from the food.

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June 23, 20100 found this helpful

You definitely need to bring food to a temp of at least 140 degrees before placing in a steam table. Then at end of day, never put hot food back with cold. Store it separately and then unite the two while reheating the next day.

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June 25, 20100 found this helpful

My guess would be that if it was thoroughly cooked before freezing putting it directly on the steam table would be fine as long as it gets hot enough for the guests liking.

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June 25, 20100 found this helpful

First, no matter where you work you need to follow the directions you are given. Otherwise you might find yourself out of a job and it it simply a matter of being responsible. No one should advise you to go against what your employer has told you to do. Employers need to know you are trustworthy. Here is the reason you need to boil the chili first. It could take a long time to bring the chili up to 140 degrees on a steam table. The purpose of the steam table is th keep it warm not heat it up. Second, while the chili is slowly heating, bacteria can multiply and someone could get very sick.

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June 25, 20100 found this helpful

Yep, it does matter. After Googling safe food handling for restaurants and institutions, found this:

http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn572-1.htm

It's a long read, but well worth looking over. About 3/4 of the way down, it's very clear about not using a steam table to bring food up to serving temp.

Also, the steamer has to have the capacity of keeping the food at a steady 140 degrees or higher. Food that isn't under freezing or refrigeration and is out of those conditions over 45 degrees and under 140 should be thrown out after four hours or you're risking bacterial illness.

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June 25, 20100 found this helpful

Boil the food first. The steam table is just a steam table.

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June 25, 20100 found this helpful

Each food service must follow the directive of the Department of Public Health. This is for YOUR safety as well as others. Anytime food is fixed to be served to the public, there are rules of preparation to be followed. If you are selling the food, it must be prepared in an 'approved' inspected kitchen. MN has strict laws on the books, and each county has an officer which enforces this. Helps to avoid lawsuits for food poisoning, lysteria, samonella, etc. Check out the HUGE lawsuits out there for poorly pre-prepared food served to the public.

Your carelessness could have cost someone their life. Each kind of food item must be brought to a certain temp and maintained as regulated.

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June 25, 20100 found this helpful

Putting you on the defensive didn't serve much in the way of good training for your food-handling job. You should either have had a few good solid rules explained to you, or some type of certificate or diploma awarded to those who have had training in proper and safe food-handling.

The chili did indeed need to be brought to the boiling point or to simplify, just remember 140º is

a good safe number to maintain safe food quality.

I really don't think you'd want anyone to be sick from eating at your little Hot Dog Snack Bar. I'll bet the food is really good.

Good Luck in your new job. You might want to do a bit of reading to help you learn faster all the safety food rules. It'll help you a lot and save having your feelings hurt as well.

Shadow

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June 25, 20100 found this helpful

Pam, the general rule of thumb is that foods should be already at a temp of 165 or higher before you put it in the warmers. By bringing it to boil first it will help keep the temp from falling below that. If you stick it in before that it will be unevenly heated and you are taking a lot of risk of making people sick.

Same thing for cold foods. The temp should never go over 38 degrees.

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Anonymous Flag
June 25, 20100 found this helpful

As was mentioned before, you need to follow the complete directions given to you as an employee! There are always reasons for an employers rules whether employees like or understand the rules or not.

You should ask fellow workers and boss(s) the reasons for everything so you understand things better or perhaps you should call your local Health Department and go to a class and get certification. No one in my state is even allowed to work at 'any' job that requires food handling without taking that class and passing a written exam and receive a certification certificate. I had to do this for a Christmas job a few years ago as a grocery cashier even!

Do you realize that people can and do die from improperly handled and improperly prepared food?

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June 25, 20100 found this helpful

Food needs to be kept at certain temperatures to avoid bacteria, etc. I don't know how long it takes to heat up your food on the steam table. However, to be safe it should be done quickly. It's possible the other person is concerned with food spoilage. I would heat it up on the stove, and then move it to the holding area, and keep it hot. The longer the food takes to heat up, the greater the risk of something going wrong.

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June 26, 20100 found this helpful

Thanks guys for all the feed back. Love this site you can always find the answers to your questions.

Thanks again

Pam

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