Poultry must always, always, always be stored on the bottom of the fridge. Everything else you’ll find in this chapter is important, but not quite as important as this.
Because poultry is so high-risk in terms of carrying bacteria such as salmonella, storing fowl on the bottom is incredibly important. This will prevent cross contamination in the form of condensation from poultry dripping down onto the beef sitting below it.
This is important if you simply take a second to consider that, well, some people like their steaks rare. Depending on the health code in your area, there may be a little bit of wiggle room when it comes to slightly undercooked beef, but when it comes to chicken, the Danger Zone is of the utmost importance.
We’ll continue with this chapter in just a moment, but first, let us say it again: Poultry must always, always, always be placed on the bottom rack of the refrigerator.
What Goes on What Shelf
To put it simply, listing from top to bottom…
- Vegetables, fruit and other non-animal food products
Think of it in terms of risk. Undercooked fruit usually doesn’t do much damage, there’s an entire industry built around serving raw fish, plenty of people love their steaks rare, but pork must always be cooked thoroughly, and there is simply no wiggle room whatsoever with chicken.
In a smaller restaurant, you can generally keep the pork, beef and fish on the same shelf, but poultry should always be kept on bottom, and vegetables should never be stored right alongside meat.
Properly Sealing Food
Every item in the fridge must be properly sealed. Not simply haphazardly wrapped in loose tinfoil or tossed in bare, but wrapped in airtight saran wrap or a small plastic tub or other airtight container.
This is especially pertinent when you are storing fruit, vegetables, poultry, meat, and so forth all in the same fridge. Simply put, the prevention of cross-contamination is of the utmost importance. This is because, while you can safely serve any vegetables cold, the same isn’t necessarily true of meat. Should raw vegetables come into contact with raw meat, then the raw vegetables can contract any of the pathogens being carried by the meat.
Watch the Expiration Dates
The prep crew should have marked the food items for the date they were prepared. Typically, no unfrozen food should be kept for longer than two or three days before being discarded.
No matter how slow business has been, there are simply no exceptions to this; Never serve expired or near-expired food.
Frozen food must always be kept in packaging so as to prevent freezer burn. For example, freeze lock zipped baggies and so on. Furthermore, remember that freezing food only slows the spread of bacteria and other pathogens. Freezing food is not a guarantee that the food will stay “forever young”. Food that has been frozen for weeks or months on end is liable to lose flavor.
When restocking food, you need to take the old stuff off the shelves, put the new stuff in the back, and then put the old stuff back in the front.
This method goes a long way towards cutting back on waste and food expiring. To put it simply: Imagine that you’ve been packing the new food in front whenever a truckload arrives. Just as you run out of that newer box of sausages, another truckload comes in, so you put the newest box in its place.
Meanwhile, that box in the back is just getting older, and older, and older, and becoming unusable. Before long, it’s giving off its own distinctive odor and you have what you might call “aged sausage” in the fridge.
So, in other words, just make sure to use the oldest food first.