Working with Food? Here’s What You Need to Know About Temperature Control

Working with Food? Here’s What You Need to Know About Temperature Control

Chef prepares steak with the reight temperature.

One of the essential principles of food safety in the foodservice industry is temperature control. By controlling the temperature of all food you will be preparing and serving to customers, you’re ensuring that it’s safe for consumption.

Failure to monitor food temperatures closely can result in foodborne illness outbreaks that lead to fines, lawsuits, and even poor inspection ratings. While you may never eliminate bacteria from food by maintaining safe temperatures, you can significantly reduce the volume of harmful bacteria.

Below, learn all about temperature control for food handlers, appropriate food temperatures, danger zones, and other information that would appear in reading material for a Texas food handlers card. The more you know, the safer you and your customers can be.


How to Control Food Temperatures

Fortunately, making sure your food remains at a safe temperature is not a complicated undertaking. It’s something you can do in mere minutes and only requires basic tools.

  1. Use the correct type of thermometer for the task at hand. In this case, it will be a food thermometer.
  2. Don’t assume your equipment’s temperature display is accurate.
  3. Keep a written record of your temperature checks, including who took the information.
  4. Ensure that you keep your food thermometers clean and calibrated for accuracy.


What Are Time/Temperature Control (TCS) Foods?

Time/temperature control, or TCS foods, are those that require strict temperature and time control. These food types are high-risk for bacteria to spread and can result in foodborne illnesses with disastrous consequences.

Some of these high-risk foods include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Dairy products, including milk
  • Fish, crustaceans, and shellfish
  • Baked potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Cooked vegetables, beans, and rice
  • Sprouts and sprout seeds
  • Untreated oil mixtures and garlic
  • Plant-based meat alternatives
  • Tofu
  • Soy protein
  • Cut leafy greens, tomatoes, and melon


What is a Safe Cold Food Holding Temperature?

For high-risk foods that have been cooked and cooled for the general public, the ideal chilled temperature is 40 degrees-Fahrenheit or below. Temperature control must be maintained while food is waiting to head to a table or while it’s being served from a salad bar or buffet.

From the time cold food is without refrigeration, it is safe for about six hours. Check the temperature every two hours. If it reaches 70 degrees or higher, discard it.


What is a Safe Hot Food Holding Temperature?

Any food that will be served to a customer at their table or a buffet needs to remain at 135 degrees or higher once it has been cooked to a safe internal temperature. Stir food frequently to distribute even heat levels throughout, and monitor the temperature with a thermometer.

If food has been sitting below 135 degrees for more than four hours, discard it. You can also prevent cross-contamination by ensuring that you never mix fresh food with food that has already been sitting out for an extended period.


How Do You Cook Food to a Safe Temperature?

One of the benefits of obtaining a food handlers permit in Texas, aside from it being a legal requirement in the food industry, is learning about safe cooking temperatures. You can use this information both in your workplace and your own home.

These food types should be cooked until they have an internal temperature of 165 degrees:

  • Any dish with TCS food
  • Whole or ground poultry
  • Stuffing made out of fish, meat, or poultry
  • Pasta with seafood, meat, or poultry filling


These food types should be cooked until they have an internal temperature of 155 degrees:

  • Tenderized meat
  • Eggs from the shell for service
  • Ground, minced, or chopped seafood
  • Ground pork, beef, or other meat
  • Flavor-injected meat


These food types should be cooked until they have an internal temperature of 145 degrees:

  • Steaks and chops – pork, lamb, veal, and beef
  • Roasts – pork, lamb, veal, and beef
  • Eggs from the shell for immediate service
  • Commercially-raised game
  • Seafood


These food types should be cooked until they have an internal temperature of 135 degrees:

  • Legumes
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit


What is the Food Temperature Danger Zone?

Understanding the appropriate cooking and service temperatures is an essential part of safe food handling and service. However, it’s also necessary to learn about the danger zone, what it is, what it could mean, and how you can move food safely through it.

The danger zone is the ‘hot spot’ temperature zone in which bacteria grows the fastest. This temperature zone is between 41 and 135 degrees, with between 70 and 125 degrees proving to be the most dangerous. Essentially, the longer food sits in this danger zone, the higher the risk of a foodborne illness from eating it.

Once food you have cooked to 135 degrees has been left to cool, it needs to be brought down to below 40 degrees within two hours of reaching its optimum internal cooking temperature.

To do this, some foodservice businesses use commercial blast chillers and cooling paddles. They may also store food in shallow containers to cool it down quicker or create an ice bath to sit food containers in.


What Happens If You Don’t Monitor Your Food Temperatures?

If appropriate food temperatures are not maintained, people who eat that food can be at risk of food poisoning. This comes about through food not going through the proper cooking and cooling processes to stop or slow down bacteria and pathogen growth.

According to the CDC, bacteria is the most common cause of food poisoning, with salmonella responsible for the most cases in the United States.

Each year, around 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses result in about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Break that down, and that results in one in six Americans being struck down by such an illness each year.


Symptoms can vary but generally include:

  • Stomach cramps and upset
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Fever


Some severe and long-term effects from some food poisoning types can include:

  • Brain and nerve damage
  • Chronic arthritis
  • kidney failure
  • Death


Learn More About Temperature Control By Getting A Texas Food Handlers License

While you may not prevent bacteria from being on food, you can significantly reduce the risk of it becoming a public health risk. Temperature control and many other food safety practices form a significant part of TABC Pronto’s food handlers license course. If you are about to enter the food industry, enroll now to put your customers’ safety first.