I grew up in restaurants, I love to cook, and I teach commercial food safety. On a recent webinar explaining the most current food code updates, I learned that frozen foods are not created equally.
Did you know that if a commercially prepared product that is frozen has instructions for cooking, that you cannot use them without cooking them first (and then cooling before adding)? So, when you see salad bars that have the fresh green peas that were frozen, now they must be cooked and cooled before putting directly on the salad bar. They cannot be put on the salad bar without cooking. This is going to mess up the timing of my aunt’s recipe for peas and peanuts. I remember as a kid dumping the frozen peas into the mixture that would not be cooked before serving.
The code states:
Commercially packaged food that bears a manufacturer’s cooking instructions shall be cooked according to those instructions before use in ready-to-eat foods* or offered in unpackaged form for human consumption, unless the manufacturer’s instructions specify that the food may be consumed without cooking.
Food for which the manufacturer has provided information that it has not been processed to control pathogens, when used in ready-to-eat foods or offered for human consumption, shall be cooked according to a time and temperature appropriate for the food.
Processors are allowed to skip steps to control pathogens, otherwise known as disease causing micro-organisms, if they provide cooking directions on the label.
I have taught many individuals that they need to wash produce before eating, but this will be the first time I teach them to cook the frozen food first if they plan to serve it and it has instructions to do so.
Just a reminder, never thaw food at room temperature. Instead, the best way to thaw is under refrigeration. Other safe ways to thaw are: under cold, running water (no more than two (2) hours), by cooking (smaller frozen items), or in the microwave. For more information about food safety, contact Katherine Allen at UF/IFAS Suwannee County Extension, an equal opportunity institution, by calling 386-362-2771. She provides classes on food preservation, new technologies and food manager certification.