Thawing Meats at Room Temperature

97
15
Joined Oct 29, 2012
I just wanted to revisit this topic.

I have a friend who works at a restaurant where they thaw all the meats (sausage, chicken, beef, etc) at room temperature. I think my friend should either quit or confront the chef/owner. He says that the chef would see this as insubordination and cause a bad vibe between them.

To me, it seems like a moral issue akin to working for a contractor that uses dangerously substandard building materials that could lead to a possible ceiling collapse.

What do you all think?
 
815
301
Joined May 25, 2015
Me thinks the health department will settle the argument in about a second. Completely impartially of course.
 
58
20
Joined Jun 1, 2015
No brainer. Do you have a set safe book? print up the pages and n trig, e coli etc.. and leave it on his desk.
 
3,318
739
Joined May 5, 2010
I just wanted to revisit this topic.

I have a friend who works at a restaurant where they thaw all the meats (sausage, chicken, beef, etc) at room temperature. I think my friend should either quit or confront the chef/owner. He says that the chef would see this as insubordination and cause a bad vibe between them.

To me, it seems like a moral issue akin to working for a contractor that uses dangerously substandard building materials that could lead to a possible ceiling collapse.

What do you all think?

Hello:

At first glance, I'm in agreement with you. Your friend however, will have to suffer the consequences of his actions then.
This happens more often then not. (thawing at room temperature)
So ask your friend what's more important, bad vibes or sick customers?
 
97
15
Joined Oct 29, 2012
Hello:

At first glance, I'm in agreement with you. Your friend however, will have to suffer the consequences of his actions then.
This happens more often then not. (thawing at room temperature)
So ask your friend what's more important, bad vibes or sick customers?
 
97
15
Joined Oct 29, 2012
It's a good well-paying job and the chef is a nice guy. If the chef won't change his old bad habits, I guess my friend will have to quit in order to be true to what's right.
 
2,257
716
Joined Oct 31, 2012
Okay, I'll be the one to disagree here. Depending on a couple of factors, your friend should shut his mouth and pay attention to what he's supposed to be doing. This is one of those situations where it's easy to quote the law instead of thinking things through from a practical perspective.
Let's go back to before the legal eagles wrote the law. Did people thaw things on the counter? Sure. Chefs and ordinary people alike put frozen foods out to thaw on the counter. The law came about because a few people left the item on the counter for too long, didn't understand how temperature relates to bacterial growth over time and then allowed the food product to stay at a dangerous temperature for too long. Did everyone get sick every time someone thawed things on the counter? No, they didn't.
It isn't the thawing on the counter that's the problem. It's the leaving the food in the temperature danger zone for too long that's the problem.
Thawing simply means the overall temperature of the item in question has gotten above 32 degrees, so it is no longer frozen. Depending on several factors, simply thawing things on the counter is no guarantee the food will spoil, or has spoiled or has even come close.
Several small items, for example several six ounce chicken breasts, if individually frozen, would thaw rapidly so the interior is thawed soon after the exterior. A large item, say a top round, would take longer to thaw thoroughly, so the exterior would be in the danger zone for far too long before the center is thawed.
Is the item wrapped and if so, in what? Is there any covering on it at all or is it open to the air? A cryo-vac packaging would keep out both oxygen and bacteria and prevent contamination of the item as it is thawing. As would any kind of tight wrapping.
A container of soup, stew, casserole or similar item with no lid thawing on the counter would mean a moisture rich environment at the surface where melting has begun and the temp can reach well in to the danger zone long before the center is thawed.
Then there's the ambient temperature of the room and the general environment. In colder climates, the kitchen in winter will be much cooler than the same place in the summer. So one kitchen with an ambient temperature of 68 is not the same as a kitchen with an ambient temp of 80.
Then we can consider to what degree the item is thawed. Is it thawed enough when no longer a block of ice, but a bit softer and still very cold? 40 degrees, 50 degrees? Is it thawed only when it is completely limp and not much colder than room temperature?
When the item in question is thawed enough, does anyone get it under refrigeration or allow it to sit out until the entire piece is room temperature?
How soon after thawing is it cooked? Immediately after it is considered thawed or some time later? How much later?
So the real problem is that enough people did not consider all these factors or understand their importance. They also didn't refrigerate the item quickly enough. Because some people don't have the training or experience or simple smarts to know that you shouldn't leave food out all afternoon. And we all have human brains and we forget stuff.
As a result, the Health Department realized that in commercial settings where large numbers of the population can get sick all at once, they can't rely on every kitchen worker to have the skill, experience and knowledge to handle these situations correctly. So they passed a regulation telling you you can't do it.
This reliance on this law reminds me very much of the current reliance on the relatively recent requirement that everyone wear gloves. Years ago we simply washed our hands thoroughly and frequently. Now people with no training or understanding of food preparation can holler "He's not wearing gloves!" and follow up with "It's the law that you have to wear gloves" without recognizing the accompanying requirement to wash your hands frequently and keep all surfaces clean generally.
All of this blather is to say that perhaps your chef is a stupid, lazy person who doesn't understand food safety and may sicken and kill people. OR he might be a consummate professional who knows exactly what he's doing and still following safe food practices, just not the letter of the law. I have no idea from the limited information you've provided which it is.
But if I visited the kitchen, I'd look for confirmation elsewhere. Is the rest of the kitchen generally clean? Are items otherwise labeled, dated and stored correctly? Does the staff wash their hands regularly or just put on a fresh pair of gloves? Do the kitchen staff wear clean, professional looking uniforms or sloppy, stained street clothes? Is the floor covered in debris or does the staff use the trash receptacles and sweep the floor as needed? Are there other bad food practices going on or is this just the only one you recognize?
I'm giving the chef the benefit of the doubt. Unless you have more evidence of unprofessional behavior, tell your friend to get back to work.
 
97
15
Joined Oct 29, 2012
It's a kitchen with over a dozen cooks. So no one is really looking out for these things. Staff is accustomed to seeing fish buckets full of meat sitting on the speed rack, so no one checks to see if they are thawed yet...so sometimes the meat sits on the rack until it is at room temp (85F degrees) before it is noticed. The chef is too busy to notice these things.
 
4,769
1,020
Joined Aug 21, 2004
No offense, but your account... of what a friend tells you... happens at a restaurant... he works at, is a third party report. I am hesitant to convict the chef without seeing or talking to the chef first. Not necessarily the best example I can think of but, one person's thaw, might be another person's 15 minutes, etc.
 
2,257
716
Joined Oct 31, 2012
Perhaps the chef is too busy to notice these things. Or perhaps the chef is relying on one of the dozen cooks to take care of these situations. Because he has a dozen cooks.
So everyone is busy doing their work, knowing the product is on a rolling speed rack and thawing out but everyone, including your friend, is too busy to be bothered with rolling the speed rack back into the walk in. Or perhaps no one in the kitchen, with the singular exception of your friend, is familiar with or cares about food safety.
How long does your friend stand around watching the speed rack full of food reach room temperature, allow it to do so, then blame the chef and/or the other cooks for allowing it to happen? Is every one of the dozen cooks waiting to be told to do what they should know needs to be done?
Where ever I work, I do what needs to be done, whether or not it's my job because all of it is my job. If I see food that needs to be wrapped and I happen to have a minute, I wrap it up. If it needs labels, I label it. If there is a mess on the floor, I grab the broom or mop and clean it. If there is food to be prepped, I prep it. If it needs re stocking, I re stock it.
Most appropriately, if I saw a speed rack full of food thawing, I'd check to see how thawed it was and if it was thawed enough, I would roll the speed rack back in the walk in. I understand that everyone in the kitchen, most especially the chef, has many things to do and my job, regardless of title or written job description, is to be a helpful, productive member of a team.
What is not helpful is to see obvious situations in need of correction and fail or refuse to correct them while blaming everyone else for allowing it.
 
97
15
Joined Oct 29, 2012
What I'm saying is that when I'm not at work there is food sitting out at 85F degrees for hours.
 
4,769
1,020
Joined Aug 21, 2004
I do everything in my power to remedy situations that I find fall outside my comfort zone. If things don't move into my comfort zone, then I move.
 
2,257
716
Joined Oct 31, 2012
"What I'm saying is that when I'm not at work there is food sitting out at 85F degrees for hours."
That is not what you have been saying. So we are talking about you, not your friend. Please fill in all the missing blanks. You keep adding details without relating the whole situation or acknowledging your responsibility.
But food sits out for hours when you're not at work? How would you know? Because it sits out for hours when you are at work? So no one, you included does anything to remedy the situation. But you want to blame the chef.
If you want to quit, then do so. If you want to stay, take responsibility for your active participation in the kitchen duties. Either way, your chef has nothing to do with this. So far in this thread you are the one who seems to be avoiding responsibility.
 
5,551
991
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Busted or not, my question is why can't you defrost in the walk in?
To do this, you need to think 8-24 hours ahead. The ability to think on your feet, 8 -24 hrs ahead is one of the many qualities a Chef MUST have.
 
Top Bottom