Published Article

Ask the Expert Using a prep line reach in cooler to cool chicken breasts

Aug 26, 2014

EcoSure Food Safety Monitor

by Miriam Eisenberg

Q: Due to space constraints, we cool chicken breasts in the reach-in cooler under the prep line. Is this OK?

A: While the Food Code does not specifically prohibit cooling hot items in reach-ins (see §3-501.14-15), Food Code does make mention of using "equipment to provide maximum heat transfer". I do not recommend use of the reach-in for cooling for many reasons:

  • Reach-in coolers do not have the same power to cool as walk-ins. Reach-ins are designed for holding cold food, not for cooling hot foods. (think proper use and maintenance of your equipment)
  • Some health departments would view this practice as out of compliance (think critical finding and possible fine)
  • Placing hot items in a reach-in will significantly raise the air temperature in the relatively small cooler (compared to walk-ins) as well as the above cold prep line (think food in the Temperature Danger Zone leading to potentially unsafe food and maybe more health department findings)
  • Some might be tempted for use a small container which might inhibit proper cooling from 135ºF to 70 ºF in two hours and then to 41ºF in the next 4 hours (think foodborne illness caused by improper cooling – a frequent cause)



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