Food Safety: Holding

The Keys to Safe Food Holding

To wrap up September, National Food Safety Month, we turn our attention to safe holding of both hot and cold foods. You’ve received, stored, and prepared food with great care. Often the last step before serving, holding is a time when the greatest risk to food is time and temperature abuse, while the risk of cross-contamination remains.

From staging for pickup or delivery to hot serving wells and bulk food holding, an expansive variety of equipment has been developed to protect food safety and quality on its final journey from kitchen to table, so much so that an entire book could be written on the topic. Today, we’ll focus just on holding individual to-go and catering orders.

Delivery and Takeout Order Holding

There was once a time, not too long ago, that the industry standard was to place packaged to-go orders on a counter or bar for pick-up. Now, with increased off-premise business and the added need to support social distancing, new solutions have emerged to promote safety while reducing traffic bottle necks. Hatco and Food Warming Equipment (FWE), two manufacturers well-known for their hot holding expertise, have developed specialized units to provide an organized, clean, and dedicated place where temperature-controlled, finished orders can be held and retrieved.

FWE’s HHS-513-2039 (at left) and Hatco’s GRS2G Glo-Ray 2-Go™  (above) heated shelves use vertical space to hold a large volume of bags and boxes of foods such as panini sandwiches, flat breads, pitas, and pizzas, for up to 30 minutes with a high temperature range up to 215°F, depending upon the model. Since heat radiates from the shelf below, FWE recommends that operators using their heated shelves place colder product such as pickles and salads on top of hot items to keep them cooler if it’s not practical to bag them separately. Packing napkins between cold and hot items also helps reduce heat transfer during holding and transport.

The Hatco Flav-R 2-Go Locker System can help you safely handle third-party delivery and to-go orders by simultaneously holding multiple hot or ambient to-go food orders with quick and secure, contactless access. Each locker features a timer to safely hold hot, packaged foods for up to 45 minutes at 150ºF. Heat can also be turned off in individual lockers for ambient holding.

Holding for Catering and Drop-off

Knowing average holding time requirements and frequency of access are the keys to choosing the best of a large variety of insulated carriers and carts designed to keep food out of the “danger zone.” Cambro is so famous for it’s nonelectric, or passive carriers, that many foodservice professionals refer to them as “Cambro’s”—even when they’re not! Original Cambro carriers and carts feature a durable polyethylene exterior insulated with polyurethane foam and are available in top- or front-loading models that stack or larger carts on wheels. The beauty of these workhorses is that they are easy to clean, last for many years, and can be used to safely hold hot or cold foods for 4+ hours. Cambro carriers such as the UPC300 are the perfect size for on-premise holding and catering jobs.

Cambro recently introduced GoBoxes, incredibly lightweight expandable polypropylene carriers. Offered at a lower price point than traditional polyethylene-shelled carriers, GoBoxes are ideal for drop-off catering jobs or holding for curbside pickup. Like traditional carriers, GoBoxes can be stacked on a dolly for transport and fit easily into a passenger vehicle for delivery.

If staff need frequent access into a cart or cabinet, electrical models are the best choice because they are designed to quickly recover temperature once the door is closed. Both Cambro and FWE offer full-sized hot holding cabinets suitable for a wide variety of applications from short term staging to prolonged holding periods while maintaining “just-cooked” quality.  Models vary to accommodate the type of storage vessels used such as hotel (steam table) pans, sheet pans, baskets, pizza boxes, plates, and more. Every cabinet FWE makes includes a full range actual temperature thermostat, to give you full control over your product. 

For cold food holding, FWE offers mobile refrigerated cabinets and air screens, while Cambro offers the Pro Cart Ultra line which includes cold holding, hot holding or combination hot/cold holding models that can safely hold food unplugged up to four hours, a big plus when electricity isn’t available.

Wallin Foodservice Resources has helped countless operators conquer unique holding challenges for decades. With access to safe holding equipment designed by manufacturers renowned for world class holding expertise, we can help you find the perfect solution for your business to support your food safety plan and quality standards. Contact us.


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