5. Preparation – Thawing- Cooking – Cooling – Reheating


When Prepping Food:

  • Only remove as much food from the cooler as you can prepare in a short period of time
  • Return prepped food to the cooler or cook it as quickly as possible
  • Make sure workstations, cutting boards, and utensile are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized

Preparing Specific Foods

  • Make sure it doesn’t touch surfaces exposed to raw meats, poultry, or seafood. Wash produce thoroughly and when soaking or storing in water do no mix different items or multiple batches of the same item. Refrigerate sliced melons and do not serve raw seed sprouts to a high-risk populations.
  • Egg and Egg Mixtures – Handle pooled eggs with care by promptly or storing at 41°F (5°C) or lower. Clean and sanitize between batches. For high-risk populations use pasteurized eggs if they are pooled or not fully cooked.
  • Salads containing TCS FoodsMake sure leftover TCS ingredients have been handled safely.
  • IceNever use ice as an ingredient if it was used to keep food cold. Transfer ice using clean and sanitized scoops. Store ice scoops outside ice machines. NEVER use glass to scoop ice.

Preparation Practices That Have Special Requirements.

You need a variance if prepping food in these ways:

  • Packaging fresh juice on-site for sale at a later time, unless the juice has a warning label
  • Smoking food to preserve it but not to enhance its flavor (think beef jerky)
  • Using food additives or components (like vinegar) to preserve or alter food so it no longer needs time and temperature control for safety (think pickled eggs)
  • Curing food
  • Packaging food using a reduced-oxygen packaging (ROP) method
  • Sprouting seeds or beans
  • Offering live shellfish from a display tank
  • Custom-processing animals for personal use (i.e. dressing a deer)


Four acceptable methods for thawing food.

  1. Thaw food in a cooler, keeping its temperature at 41°F (5°C) or lower
  2. Submerge food under running water at 70°F (21°C) or lower
  3. Thaw food in a microwave, only if cooked immediately after thawing
  4. Thaw as part of the cooking process


  • When cooking TCS food, the internal portion must reach the required minimum internal temperature and hold that temperature for a specific amount of time.
  • When checking temperatures: Pick a thermometer with a probe that is the correct size for the food and check the temperature in the thickest part of the food.

Cooking Requirements for Specific Food

Type of Food Example Minimum Internal Temperature
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Plain Pasta
  • Beans
  • Fruit
  • Refried beans
  • Rigatoni
  • Rice, etc.
135°F. (57°C.)  0 seconds1
  • Commercially processed food
  • Ready-to-eat food that will be hot-held for service
  • Cheese sticks
  • Fried vegetables
  • Chicken wings
  • Rigatoni
  • Etc.
135°F. (57°C.)  15 seconds

  • Seafood
  • Steaks
  • Eggs for immediate service


  • Fish
  • NY Strip steak
  • Pork chop
  • Lamb chop
145°F. (63°C.)  15 seconds
  • Whole cuts of meat
  • Large cuts of meat
  • i.e. Roasts
145°F. (63°C.)  4 minutes
  • Ground Meat and Seafood
  • Eggs that will be hot-held
  • Injected meat
  • Mechanically tenderized meat
155°F. (68°C.)   17 seconds1
  • Poultry
  • TCS foods cooked in a microwave2
  • Reheated food
165°F. (74°C.)  0 seconds1

1 The holding time for these items represents the latest upgrade to the 2017 Model Food Code

2 Guidelines for microwave cooking: Cover food, rotate or stir it halfway through cooking, let it stand for at least two minutes after cooking and check the temperature in at least two places to make sure the food is cooked through.

Partial Cooking

If partially cooking meat, poultry, or eggs or dishes containing these items:


    cook the food longer than 60 minutesduring initial cooking

  • Cool the food immediately after initial cooking
  • Freeze or refrigerate the food after cooling it
  • Heat the food to at least 165˚F (74˚C) for 15seconds before selling or serving it
  • Cool the food if it will not be served immediatelyor held for service

Consumer Advisories

If your menu includes raw or undercooked TCS items, you must:

  • Note it on the menu next to the item
  • Advise customers who order this food of theincreased risk of foodborne illness
  • Post a notice in the menu
  • Provide this information using brochures, tabletents, or signs

The FDA advises against serving the following items on a children’s menu if they are raw or undercooked:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Eggs

Operations That Mainly Serve High-Risk Populations must NEVER serve:

  • Raw seeds or seed sprouts
  • Raw or undercooked eggs, meat, or seafood.
  • Poached eggs
  • Soft-boiled eggs
  • Over easy eggs
  • Raw clams on the half shell
  • Rare or medium rare hamburgers

Cooling Food

Cooling food cannot take longer that 6 hours to reach 41°F (5°C); however, it must be cooled to 70°F (21°C) within the first 2 hours or less.

Reheating Food

Food reheated for immediate service:
Can be reheated to any temperature if it was cooked and cooled correctly
Food reheated for hot-holding
Must be reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F. (74°C.)
Commercially processed and ready-to-eat food:
Can be reheated to a temperature of at least 135°F. (57°C.)

Food must be thrown out in the following situations:

  • When it is handled by staff who have been restricted or excluded from the operation due to illness
  • When it is contaminated by hands or bodily fluids from the nose or mouth
  • When it has exceeded the time and temperature requirements designed to keep food safe