If you're a restaurant owner, your livelihood depends on your kitchen equipment being in good working order at all times. If your range or ovens break, you may be able to wing it with a different piece of equipment or by just crossing a few items off the menu temporarily. But your walk-in cooler is easily the most important and heavily used piece of equipment. If it goes on the fritz, your entire refrigerated inventory is at risk.
Believe it or not, one way to take good care of your walk in coolers is by keeping it well organized and not overloading it. Storing more food that is recommended or storing it improperly can tax the cooling units, leading to potential problems. Here are four things to consider when using your walk-in cooler.
Divide and Separate Cooler Areas
Fresh meat, fish, and poultry should be placed on the furthest back shelves. This way, they will not be as affected by the fluctuating temperatures as the door opens and closes during heavy use. Dairy products, such as milk, cream, eggs, and cheese can occupy the middle section. Everything else, like produce, condiments, and prepped products can occupy the front third of the cooler. Have three separate thermometers in each area to ensure the proper temps are maintained.
Arrange Your Food Carefully
The most potentially dangerous food should be on the bottom shelf. For example, in your meat area, you'll want to store the fresh chicken on the bottom. This way, your other meats and fish aren't at risk of salmonella or E. coli from cross-contamination in the cooler. If the container leaks, rather than chicken juices going on the rest of your meat, it goes to the floor drain and can be easily washed away.
Keep Proper Ventilation
Don't line your walk-in shelves, and don't put things on the floor underneath the shelves. The air needs to be able to properly circulate throughout the entire cooler or the cooling unit can be unnecessarily taxed.
Store Food Properly
Don't put piping hot vessels of soup or other foods in the cooler. It can dramatically decrease the temperature, making the unit work overtime. According to the government's food safety website, foods can be safely left out to cool for up to two hours before putting in the cooler. In the summer, this time should be cut down to one hour, though, as bacteria will grow faster during warm weather.
Not only are these the best tips to not overload your walk-in cooler, they are also the best ways to keep your food safe and cut your food costs from waste.