Cooking in bulk has some key benefits. In terms of a busy lifestyle, creating multiple dishes, ready to freeze, can save time. As food costs tend to rise, it makes sense to make use of all fresh ingredients before they lose the will to survive. Buying in bulk, and then preparing and cooking in the same way, can make each finished dish cheaper than starting from scratch each time.
But, bulk preparation can have its problems, as can the freezing and storage of the dishes themselves. So here is a range of quick tips to help ensure good food safety practices are followed.
Four basic preparation imperatives
1. Cleanliness throughout the processes – When handling different foodstuffs, frequent hand-washing and chopping board and surface cleaning are vital. Simple example: preparing chicken for frying and raw vegetables as a side, without cleaning your chopping board at each stage, can easily lead to food poisoning and a hospital visit. So washing hands, utensils, chopping boards, and tops of counters with hot, soapy water is a key step to take. Fresh fruit and veggies are best rinsed under running water.
2. Ensure item separation – Cross-contamination (like the example mentioned earlier) can be a serious health risk. Separating produce, such as poultry or raw meat, both in how they are stored and then as they are prepared is a vital safeguard. Such separation is recommended when shopping for groceries, and then storing them in your fridge. If possible, having separate chopping boards and plates as you prepare is a good idea. Otherwise, see tips in the previous section.
3. Correct temperature cooking and swift chilling – Making sure food is cooked for the required length of time, and at recommended temperatures, is always important. This is a way of eliminating the bugs and germs that can cause serious health problems. It’s wise to have a food thermometer. This helps you ensure the dish is cooked through and to the right temperature. When storing cooked dishes, allowing a proper cooling down and chilling process is also key to safe storage.
4. Chilling and thawing – it’s wise to put perishable foods in your fridge within two hours (or less when outside temperatures are high). Frozen foods, if being thawed, shouldn’t be left on a countertop. This is an invitation for bacteria to thrive. Use a fridge or microwave if appropriate. Some foods can also be slowly thawed when placed in cold water.
More wise advice when cooking in bulk or batches
Be careful of only partially cooking food, perhaps to finish off just before being served. Again, this can be an environment where troublesome bacteria can thrive.
In old films of kitchen servants preparing meals, you’d often see cooks mixing and stirring large pots or bowls to serve large numbers. It isn’t good to leave cooked food in such receptacles to cool down before freezing. It’s better to divide them into smaller containers as soon as practicable. This allows each of them to cool at the same rate.
Where applicable, a cooling rack can help. But, as mentioned previously, avoid leaving food out on a surface for any length of time. Quicker cooling, if necessary, can see you place the container in cold water or ice. Stirring it slowly can also help bring the temperature down. A timer, to remind you of the next stage of the process, is a wise investment.
Of course, when bringing your pre-prepared food out of the freezer, it’s vital to make sure it’s both fully thawed and cooked through before being served. Some experts advise not to use a slow cooker for reheating.
Key points about storage
Cooked food left in the fridge for any period has a chance to become contaminated. Even if that doesn’t happen, leftovers are likely to start to lose their structure and taste. It’s also not wise to leave them in the fridge for a few days and only then, when you haven’t used them, to think about freezing.
Our recent blog, ‘How long can you store frozen food for?’ provides further help in this key food safety area.
Getting in touch
For almost a decade, and longer in the education sector, our AIA team have been passionately spreading the word about food safety. Through training and development, we have helped both individuals and companies or corporations across Australia.
So, if individually, or as a business or organisation, you want to know more about safe food handling, we’re always ready to provide the knowledge and resources you’ll need. Simply contact us now to find out much more…