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What is Cook Chill
Cook/chill is a simple, controlled system of food preparation designed to provide more flexibility in food service. The technique involves the full cooking of food, followed by rapid chilling and storage at controlled temperatures (for up to five days). When required, the food must be reheated thoroughly before service. The production system itself is simple to operate if well managed, and completely safe provided the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) Guidelines on temperature control are followed.

While cook/chill is commonly associated with larger institutional foodservice operations, new compact quick chill equipment designs have put quick chill systems within the realm of all types and sizes of foodservice operations
For large and small establishments the principles and advantages of the system are the same. The only difference is that small to medium sized operations do not have to invest in equipment design to deal with volume.
For the simplest cook/chill system,all that is required in addition to the existing cooking equipment is a blast chiller, adequate cold storage and an understanding of the recommended safety procedures.

The Truth behind Cook Chill
By utilizing cook/chill technology, meals can be prepared, cooked, chilled and rethermalized with little or no nutritional loss and without altering its appearance, or taste.

There are several misconceptions concerning cook/chill:

Myth - Cook/chill is only for large institutions.
It is not: Many nursing homes, function caterers, hotels, independent restaurants, fast food restaurants and bakers are already reaping the positive benefits of the cook/chill method.

Myth - Cook/chill requires special recipes.

Not true: You can use most of your favorite recipes without adaptation. What.s more, you can try out new and more exotic ideas because blast chillers give you more time allowing you to store meals for up to five days.

Myth - The equipment is large and expensive.

Not necessarily: The equipment required by hospitals, prisons and schools, which produce large volumes of food, is large and can therefore be costly. But this is not the case for small or medium sized establishments. Many of these operators will already have suitable ovens and storage facilities, so they will only need to acquire a blast chiller.
A chiller capable of handling over 250 meals a day can be purchased for about twice the price of a reach-in refrigerator.

Myth - Cook/chill limits the professional chef.

On the contrary: Cook/chill allows you more time to utilize creative skills than any other method. Instead of spending valuable time on boring tasks, the professional operator can use that time to improve presentation, create new dishes and attend to all the other detail that makes a successful foodservice business.

Advantages of Cook Chill
Suitable for most foodservice operations
The system can be utilized effectively by establishments of any size or type.

Effective time management
The system allows foodservice establishments to better organize their time. Prime cooking can take place when the business is quiet, leaving less to do when you have customers to attend to.

Effective resource management
Equipment can be used more energy efficiently while ingredients can be bought in larger quantities, providing economies of scale. You can also prepare meals for several establishments from one kitchen.

Menu extension
The flexibility of the system allows you to prepare a greater selection of dishes, offering your customers more choice while still maintaining or improving quality. In addition, since you are preparing meals in advance you can afford to experiment on a variety of different recipes.

No modification of recipes
A cook/chill system allows you to use most recipes without alteration.

Improvement in service
Because most food will be prepared in advance, the foodservice operator will have more time to improve on presentation and attend to customers.

Flexibility in service
Because all dishes simply have to be reheated before service, operators can serve a wide variety of food all day and can easily cope with the fluctuating numbers of customers throughout the day.

Reduced waste and improved portion control
Portions can be made up precisely and meals can be rethermalized as needed, eliminating waste.

Increased profitability
Cook/Chill can make your operation more efficient while offering customers greater choice and better service. You will be able to cope with larger numbers of customers and at short notice. This will result in increased turnover and profitability.

Fantastic opportunity for expansion
If the meal turnover of your business is limited by the number of meals you are presently able to cook and serve, cook/chill is a fast way to increase your capacity without necessarily expanding your kitchen or employing extra staff.

The System
What You Will Need

If you are already serving hot food, the only additional equipment you will require for a small to medium sized cook/chill operation is an appropriately sized blast chiller. You will also need a suitable reach-in or walk-in refrigerator for the storage of finished product.

As with any cooking operation, a cook/chill system requires care to ensure that food does not become exposed to harmful bacteria. Staff should, therefore, be given specific training on the cook/chill operation, in addition to basic food hygiene training. Your equipment supplier should be able to help you with this.
It is easiest to view a cook/chill system as a series of stages. Each of these should be regarded as equally important to guarantee food safety, and good quality dishes.

How it Works

1. Selection of raw materials
2. Storage of raw materials
3. Preparation
4. Cooking
5. Portioning
6. Blast Chilling
7. Storage of chilled foods
8. Distribution of chilled foods (if applicable)
9. Rethermalization/reheating of food
10. Service

1. Selection of raw materials
If raw materials are below standard when you buy them, they are not going to improve with cooking. It is vital, therefore, that you check your supplies and, if necessary, check on your suppliers handling and distribution methods.

2. Storage of raw materials
Having purchased top quality raw materials, it makes sense to keep them in proper storage and in top condition before they are needed. This means following basic food safety principles, to ensure that the appropriate temperature and humidity levels are met.

3. Preparation
Again, basic food safety principles apply. Separate surfaces and separate utensils should be used for the preparation of raw fish, meat and poultry to prevent cross contamination. Ideally, food preparation should take place in an area separate from the cooking and post cooking.

If some raw materials arrive in a frozen condition, they should be thoroughly thawed out before use.
Rapid high temperature thawing can encourage the growth of pathogens and may leave cold spots at the core of the food. For this reason we do not recommend thawing products with a microwave oven unless the oven is specifically designed to ensure thawing. In order to make chilling more efficient after cooking, beef or packs of meat should not weigh more than 5.5 lbs, or measure more than 4. in thickness.

4. Cooking
Whatever the food product you are cooking and by whatever method, it is essential that the core temperature of the food reaches at least 160°F, and is held at this temperature for at least two minutes. This is to ensure that any pathogenic microorganisms that may be present are destroyed. To check the core temperature of food use a probe thermometer. (Check the accuracy of this and any other thermometers used, every three months).
You will not find it necessary to modify your usual recipes for a cook/chill system.

5. Portioning
Once the food is cooked, the chilling process must start as soon as possible, and at most within thirty minutes. This leaves time for portioning prior to chilling. However, handling of food should be kept to a minimum. Meals can be portioned from individual components after chilling. Usually, the ideal containers for chilling food should be no more than 2 1/2. deep.
Other containers may only be used if the blast chiller is capable of chilling the food to the required temperature in the required time. Note also that some containers are made of materials which can insulate the food, thereby affecting chilling times.
If disposable containers are used, it is essential that they have been stored under proper hygienic conditions.

6. Rapid Chilling
Whatever the type of blast chiller you use, it should be capable of chilling the food between 33°F and 38°F within 2 to 4 hours of placing the hot food in the blast chiller and commencing the blast chill cycle. This is not only to ensure safety, but also preserves the appearance, texture, flavor and nutritional value of the food. Your blast chiller should be equipped with a food probe or probes, with which you can monitor the temperature of the food during freezing.
Large pieces of meat, etc., may not chill as quickly as required. In this case, the meat should be portioned while hot and then chilled. Alternatively, the temperature of the meat must be reduced to 50°F or below within 150 minutes, and then portioned before final chilling to 33°F and 38°F.
The speed at which chilling takes place will be affected by the shape, size and density of the food, its moisture content, heat capacity and entry temperature. Therefore, placing lids on containers or stacking them on top of one another, will increase the chilling time. However, covering food can protect against contamination, and is thus sometimes appropriate as long as chilling can still be achieved within the time limits.

7. Storage of chilled foods
Blast Chilled food should be stored immediately in a chilled storage cabinet at a temperature between 33°F and 38°F, in order to control growth of micro-organisms.
Ideally, you should use a reach-in or walk-in cooler designed for chilled food storage, and use it solely for your cook/chill products. Refrigerators not capable of holding the chill food below 40°F are not suitable. It is recommended to havestorage cabinets featuring alarms which will alert you if temperatures, for any reason, rise above the recommended levels.
Chilled food may be kept under the above conditions for up to five days. To ensure that products are not allowed to go over this time span (and are therefore not wasted), a system of stock rotation should be employed. The simplest method is perhaps to use color-coded labels, a different color for each day with a .use by. date, production date and product description marked on each label. A .first in,
first out. policy should be used. If, for any reason, the food (in store or during distribution) reaches a temperature over 40°F but not more than 50°F, the food should be consumed within 12 hours.
Should any food in the store exceed its expiration date or reach a temperature over 50°F it should be thrown out as it will be unfit for consumption.

8. Distribution
If you intend to operate a cook/chill system in one location and supply one or more other locations, food must be transferred to the other site while still in their chilled state. The use of refrigerated vehicles is recommended, or at the very least, prechilled insulated containers for short journeys.
If chilled food is being transferred to other sites, it must not only be transported at the correct temperature, but on arrival, it must also be placed in appropriate refrigerated cabinets until required.

9. Reheating
Cooked and chilled foods that are to be eaten cold or at room temperature, should be consumed within 30 minutes after removal from storage. If the food is to be reheated (rethermalized), this should start no more than 30 minutes after the food is removed from chilled storage. Reheating must take place close to the point of consumption.
Appropriate reheating equipment, includes forced air, steam convection ovens and specialchill/reheat carts. Traditional types of hot-air ovens may be used, but care must be taken to ensure that exposed areas of food do not become dehydrated. Commercial microwave ovens may also be used, and we recommend these for the rethermalization of individual or small numbers of meals. Ideally, of course, it is preferable to install matching rethermalization equipment.
In order to ensure the destruction of any pathogens present, the core temperature of the food must reach at least 160°F, and be held at this temperature for at least two minutes. To check that this temperature has been reached, insert a probe thermometer into the slowest heating point (usually the center).

10. Service
Once food has been reheated to the required temperature, it should be consumed as soon as possible, and preferably within 15 minutes of reheating. The temperature of the food should not be allowed to fall below 150°F.

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