Food temps during short order service

Joined Dec 22, 2009

I graduated from culinary school five years ago and started working again a few months ago as a cook in a military hospital. In the mornings, I prepare omelets and eggs to order on a flattop in the cafeteria. During service, we keep the fillings (minced ham, veggies, mushrooms) on one third of the flattop. The quarter pans are propped up in a 2" hotel pan containing a little water. One edge of each pan is on hotel pan edge, so the bottom isn't immersed. Over the three hour service period, I may cook a hundred or more orders by myself. There's no time to grill fillings on flattop for each order and it makes everything stick.

Before service, I roast the veggies and mushrooms in the oven. I leave the minced ham in the warmer to heat up a bit. End of service, I toss what's left.

Some cooks say the minced ham should be kept on ice all during service. (Same cooks also insert raw veggies into their omelets. Needless to say, customers sometime complain about cold, runny omelets.)

Obviously, my ham is at temps between 40 and 140 F for much of the three hours. I could bake the ham with the veggies, but the temp will drop during service. I don't know if it rises to 140F inside the cooking omelet. It may not. But if I'm using fresh ham each day, it's safe, isn't it?

I need to make sure my reasoning is correct to back myself up. Sanitation and safety is the one area I feel pretty confident about. If I'm wrong, they'll forever doubt me.

Thanks for your guidance! :)
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Keeping any protein in the danger zone for 3 hours is taking a HUGE chance!

You need to be sure your mise en place you are going to keep warm/hot are just that. It sounds like your bain marie set up does not help if the products are not in the bath. I would consider batch cooking your veggies and ham as you need them during service. Using fresh ham everyday really does not matter if it is being improperly held. Also adding the ham to the omlete will not take it to a safe temp in such a short period of time. My biggest concern here is time and temperuture abuse.
Joined May 29, 2006
Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. There is no in between. I prefer all cold in an ice tub covered ,so one does not fall in the other. I once saw omelletes scaled out in plastic bags uncooked and held on ice each one individual. Just open bag into pan worked good.
Joined Sep 26, 2009
you need a proper electric bain marie that holds food at safe temps. What your doing is fine for short periods of time, but bacteria multiplies exponentially (SP?) in the danger zone and that's your big problem. Keep it hot or cold, not in between.:look:
Joined Dec 22, 2009
OK, point taken. Thank you for your replies.

I don't have the time to bag things up individually or batch cook fillings. Once service starts, it is nonstop. The customers are standing in line in front of the flattop and I am taking their orders as I'm cooking and knocking out about four or five at a time. There are no saute pans, no burners, no salamander, no real grill, just the flattop. As for an electric bain marie, bwahhahaha. Not laughing at you, Chef Pembroke, but at the idea of asking the NCOs for one of those. I had to go and buy a $3 strainer for the grill area sink so that it would stop backing up; I couldn't wait months for them to get it approved. It's a cafeteria, and the customers pay $1.45 for an omelet made to their specs.

What I can try, though, is putting the fillings in eighth-pans, if I can find enough of them, which may allow for immersion and better heating.

I have no illusions about learning fine dining at this job. It's a great drill for developing organizational skills (something I sorely need), though. And the day I cooked 134 orders in 3 hours, i felt like I'd successfully scaled Mt Everest. There are days when I'm stressed out of my gourd, but for some reason, I like the job.

What I remember from sanitation and safety class is that, after four hours at room temp, bacteria double exponentially every 20 minutes. Before that, they're just waiting -- just kidding.

Thanks so much for your quick replies. You guys are awesome!

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