The cook and chill process is where food is prepared, cooked and rapidly chilled to make it safe and to preserve it for reheating at a later date.
The cook and chill process was originally invented so food could be prepared in advance, mainly with the idea of separating food production and service. It optimizes preparation time and standardizes processes, as well as assuring optimal food safety. Undeniably, there are many advantages to using a cook and chill process but a number of issues still have to be considered. Because having a cook and chill system in the kitchen does not just mean buying an appliance or two – the workflow also has to be set up correctly.
Cook and Chill process: things to consider/watch out for
The main features of a cook and chill process are
- Food safety: cook and chill retards bacterial growth and other pathogens because food passes through “the danger zone” (from 60 to 4 Celsius – 40 to 140 Fahrenheit ) more quickly
- Reduced labor costs: cook and chill process enables portioning, grouping together food preparation workflow, standardization of most operations, which means more efficient use of labor
- No food wastage: if used correctly, cook and chill means food can be safely preserved for longer, so it extends the product’s shelf life
These features must be leveraged for a correct approach to cook and chill processes.
Food safety: this is the most important feature, but the process requires some attention:
- Chilling time: the blast chilling process must be fast enough to avoid giving pathogens the chance to develop, but slow – or rather, controlled – enough to avoid food spoilage.
- Process control: although cook and chill can prevent a lot of contamination, safety concerns still exist during preparation, and almost all of them are related to people (i.e. washing hands, cleaning surfaces, avoiding cross-contamination between foods). The cook and chill process requires constant vigilance.
Reduced labor costs: to save with cook and chill, workflow must be correctly and efficiently planned. This means aware of the possibilities that new appliances offer and the best way to use them: you will save very little if the appliances are more productive but workflow is inefficiently planned. You can save even more with ergonomically designed appliances and efficiently designed work spaces but no appliance can revolutionize a poorly planned kitchen workflow.
No food wastage: this issue is related to correctly executing kitchen workflow. Shelf life of the food is increased if the critical control points of each step of the process are respected; otherwise, there is a risk of being forced to throw away food. Two hints:
- Familiarize yourself with cook and chill appliances, to understand their possibilities: capacity, proper operating care, maintenance
Again, take great care in food preparation and cooking workflow.