Food Safety, Sanitation, and Personal Hygiene

6 Storage Temperatures and Procedures

A food service operation needs to have clearly defined storage areas and procedures for several reasons. First, by providing storage facilities it is possible to purchase supplies in quantities large enough quantities to get price breaks. Second, the ability to store supplies on the premises reduces the cost and time needed to order supplies and handle them upon delivery. Third, menu planning is easier when you are aware of the quality, quantity, and types of supplies that are on hand. If there is a run on a particular menu item, it is nice to know there are enough materials on hand to ensure that everyone who orders the item can be served.

In today’s market, many food service operations are reducing the amount of stock they keep on hand because storage is expensive. Not only does space need to be found but security needs to be tight. Many operators are willing to pay a bit extra to suppliers in order to avoid the headaches of keeping track of expensive items such as large quantities of high-quality meat, wines, and spirits.

Regardless, there still is a need for storing many types of supplies including dry foods, dairy products, frozen foods, produce, and fresh meats. Storage areas for such items often have design requirements that must be built into the space in order to efficiently handle the specific types of supplies.

Dry Foods

The storeroom for dry foods should be located near the receiving area and close to the main kitchen. Unfortunately, the storeroom for dry foods is often an afterthought in food service facility designs, and the area designated for storage is sometimes in an inconvenient location.

No matter where the location, there are several essential points to be observed in the care and control of the dry storeroom.

  • The area should be dry and cool to prevent spoilage and the swelling of canned goods. The ideal temperature range is 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F).
  • The storeroom should be easy to keep clean and free from rodents and vermin. This means all wall, ceiling, and floor openings should be sealed and protected to prevent access.
  • It should be designed so it is easy to arrange and rearrange supplies to facilitate stock rotation. The best arrangement is to have shelves situated in the middle of the room so they can be stocked from both sides. This allows you to rotate stock by simply pushing out old stock by sliding new stock in from the other side of the shelf. This guarantees that first items received will be the first items used, or the “first in, first out” (FIFO) concept in stock rotation.
  • The area should be well lit.
  • Shelving must be at least 15 cm (6 in.) above the floor. Do not store items right on the floor.
  • Aisles should be wide enough to allow room for carts or dollies, which should be used to prevent possible injuries from lifting.
  • Food and supply storage areas should be kept under lock and key to prevent pilferage. Food storage control is an important step in the overall control of food costs. All storerooms should be considered to be like bank safes where the assets of the operation are being stored. This may mean that more valuable commodities such as liquor and wine should be stored and locked inside a larger storage area, such as the dry food storage area.

Refrigerated Products

The refrigerator, whether a walk-in or a standard upright, is an important component in planning the storage of food items. Most fresh foods must be stored in the refrigerator to delay their deterioration and decomposition. The most basic rule must be always followed: store raw products below, never above, your cooked or ready-to-eat products.

Critical Control Point

Keep foods 4°C (39°F) or colder, the safe temperature for refrigerated storage.

Here are some considerations to ensure that the refrigerator does not break down and risk spoiling food:

  • Monitor the temperature of the refrigerator daily. All refrigerators should be provided with a thermometer so that daily readings can be taken.
  • Keep refrigerators in good working order. Maintain a regular servicing contract with a local refrigerator repair company.
  • Most breakdowns are beyond the ability of kitchen staff to repair, but if the refrigerator does stop running, first check that the power supply cord hasn’t simply been pulled out or the breaker has flipped off.
  • Clean refrigerators regularly. Shelves should be shallow and well vented to make such cleaning quick and easy. Develop and follow a schedule to ensure that refrigerators are cleaned on a consistent basis.

There are also several general rules that all personnel using the refrigerator should follow:

  • Store raw products below cooked or ready-to-eat products.
  • Develop and follow a FIFO system for refrigerated food.
  • Designate areas in the refrigerator for certain items, and keep only those items in their designated place.
  • Never put hot foods in the refrigerator unless absolutely necessary. (Unfortunately, one person’s understanding of “necessary” may not be the same as another person’s, so consider developing guidelines.)
  • Never leave the refrigerator door open longer than needed.

Although lack of time and personnel shortages often make it difficult to observe these rules, it is imperative that they be followed.

Dairy Products

Dairy products must be stored in the refrigerator at temperatures of 2°C to 4°C (36° to 39°F). Follow these guidelines:

  • The fat in dairy products has a tendency to absorb strong odours from the storage surroundings. To reduce the likelihood of this happening, store dairy products in their own area in protective coverings.
  • Do not store dairy products in a vegetable cooler; a separate refrigerator is much more acceptable.
  • Keep the refrigerator clean at all times.
  • Rotate dairy products when fresh product arrives. Dairy products should not be ordered too far in advance of when they will be used. Ideally, such products should be delivered on a daily basis.


Most produce is stored in the refrigerator at 2° to 4°C (36° to 39°F) to ensure freshness and to prevent rapid deterioration. There are, however, a number of exceptions, including potatoes and bananas, which should be stored at higher temperatures.

Keep these factors in mind when storing produce:

  • Soft fruits should not be stored too long. It is often best to buy soft fruit as you need it, keeping very little on hand.
  • Unripe fruit can be ripened at storeroom temperatures of 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F). It will ripen much more slowly under refrigerator conditions.
  • Before storing and when rotating stock, it is important to remove rotting fruit from cases as one piece can affect others. The chain reaction can quickly destroy the quality of a whole case of fruit.
  • Be aware of special storage problems. For example, bananas stored in the refrigerator turn black quickly. Bananas should be stored under conditions where the temperature range is 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F).
  • The length of time produce can be stored varies widely. For example, hardy vegetables such as carrots and cabbage will last for weeks, while delicate vegetables such as lettuce should be bought as fresh as possible as they do not keep for long.
  • Moisture on vegetables tends to soften them, causing rot. Even though in the early stages of rot there is nothing basically wrong with such vegetables, they can be unattractive to the eye.

Fresh Meats, Poultry, and Seafood

These items are the most difficult to store and the most expensive food items sold by the restaurant. When storing meats, poultry, and seafood items, remember the critical control point.

Critical Control Point

Keep foods 4°C (39°F) or colder, the safe temperature for refrigerated storage.

Keep these factors in mind when storing fresh meats, poultry, and produce:

  • All carcass meats should be unwrapped and hung so that air can circulate around them. They should be stored at 1°C to 3°C (34°C to 37°F) in a walk-in refrigerator. Place absorbent paper under the meats for quick cleanup of any unwanted drips.
  • Fresh meat must not be kept too long. Boned meat should be kept no longer than three days. Individual cuts should be used within two days, preferably on the day they are cut.
  • Individual meat cuts such as steaks, chops, stewing meat, and ground meat should be kept covered on plastic or stainless steel trays at 2°C to 4°C (36°F to 39°F).
  • Fresh poultry should be packed in ice and stored in the refrigerator.
  • Fresh seafood should be packed in ice, stored at −1°C to 2°C (30°C to 34°F) and used as soon as possible.
  • Store raw products on the lower shelves of the refrigerator, below cooked products.

Frozen Foods

Frozen foods should be stored at –18°C (0°F) or lower. If the temperature rises above –18°C, food can become discoloured and lose vitamin content. Lowering the temperature after it has risen does not correct the damage.

Critical Control Point

Frozen food must be kept at −18°C or lower to maintain its quality.

Keep these factors in mind when storing frozen foods:

  • Fruit and vegetables that are received frozen will keep for months if they are properly wrapped. Fish and meat properly wrapped also have a relatively long freezer shelf life.
  • Freezing fresh fruits and vegetables on the premises is time consuming and may be too expensive to consider. Fresh fruit must be properly prepared for freezing or it will not store well.
  • All freezer products not properly wrapped will develop freezer burn, which is a loss of moisture that affects both the texture and the flavour of the food. A common sign of freezer burn is a white or grey dry spot developing on the surface of the frozen product. Meat is particularly susceptible to freezer burn.
  • Rotating stock is extremely important with frozen foods. Such rotation is difficult in standard chest freezers as it often means that old stock must be removed before new stock is added. The temptation with frozen foods is to develop the unacceptable habit of using the last item bought first, instead of FIFO (first in, first out).


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Food Safety, Sanitation, and Personal Hygiene Copyright © 2015 by The BC Cook Articulation Committee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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