Q: At a church where I work part-time, people make sack lunches to feed the homeless. When they think it is cold enough, they put the sandwiches in an elevator that is on the outside of the building, and is not heated. A few times I have been concerned that it was not cold enough to be refrigerating the food this way. At what temperature can you safely refrigerate food outside?
A: The internal temperature of the food should be at 41 degrees F or lower, to be safe from bacteria growth.
Q: Why is it safe to simply sear the outside of whole muscle cuts of meat, as opposed to cooking ground meats to higher temperatures?
A: Bacteria are usually concentrated on the outside surfaces of whole muscle cuts of meats such as steaks, roasts, chops. Cooking these foods to 145˚ F kills bacteria to safe levels. Because grinding meats essentially distributes bacteria throughout the product, it is necessary to cook these products to higher internal temperatures, 155˚ F for safe eating.
Q: I always thought that after a food was reheated, it must be thrown out after service. Can TCS foods be prepared, cooled, reheated, and served repeatedly as long as they are held hot and cooled down properly?
A: Yes. FDA regulations do not prohibit reheating more than one time. It is sometimes industry that prevents this practice, more for quality reasons, (food dries out, taste or appearance may be compromised) but from a food safety point of view, it is safe as long as the cooling, reheating and storage is done properly according to FDA Food Code guidelines or regulations in your jurisdiction.