We often get emails asking about the proper way to hold hot and cold food, how long our units can safely hold for, and sometimes folks write in wondering if they are doing the right thing? Let’s step back and take a look at the simple concept behind our insulated transport products:
Thermal Energy Transfer
All this means is that heat will transfer from a hotter place to a cooler place, or, that cooler objects will absorb heat from the hotter object. A good way of visualizing this concept is an icy bottle of beer. Cold beer + cold mug= Good drinking! Cold beer + hot mug= Lukewarm beer. Yuck! In this same light, if you put hot food in a cold transporter, your hot food temp will drop as heat is absorbed into the cooler transporter—a true waste of valuable heat. So, we need to make sure we follow certain rules of thumb so that your transporters can serve up the best possible meals for you.
When holding hot food, always pre-heat your transporter—whether it’s a beverage server or a food carrier or cart. Here are a few ways to do so:
- For beverage servers: fill 1/3 of the container with hot water (about 190°F), cover and let the water warm up the unit for 30 minutes. Throw water out and replace with your hot beverage.
- For insulated non-electric carriers and carts: Slide an uncovered pan of hot water (190°F) onto the bottom rail of your unit. Close the door and let sit for about 30 minutes. Remove the hot water pan and start loading with your hot food.
- Or, to skip the hassle of hot water, simply use 2 Camwarmer units (heat for 45 minutes at 350°F) and slide them onto the bottom rail of your carrier. Shut the door for about 20-30 minutes to pre-heat. You can proceed to load hot food pans in the space above the Camwarmers. (Camwarmers are also great for extending the hot holding time of your food!)
TIP! To minimize heat loss and opening of the door unnecessarily, be organized. Label your carrier with the contents of each compartment. Or color code your carriers by content (green for salads, coffee beige for chicken and meat, etc.)
- For electrical carriers and carts: turn on the unit for 45 minutes before loading with food.
When holding cold food, always pre-chill your transporter:
- For beverage servers: fill 1/3 of the container with icy water, cover and let the water chill the unit for 30 minutes. Throw water out and replace with your cold beverage.
- For insulated non-electric carriers and carts: Slide an uncovered pan of icy water onto the bottom rail of your unit. Close the door and let sit for about 30 minutes. Remove the cold water pan and start loading with your cold food.
- Or, to skip the sloshing mess of icy water pans, simply use a Camchiller (freeze flat overnight) and slide it onto the top rail of your carrier. Shut the door for about 20-30 minutes to pre-chill. You can proceed to load cold food pans in the space below the Camchiller. (Camchillers are a great way to extending the cold holding time of your food!)
Pack food densely. The more product is held in the carrier, the better the temperature retention. Minimize empty space by using a Thermobarrier to condense the hot or cold air by either moving the Thermobarrier up or down the unit as food pans are removed.
Use the right products that will go with your carriers. Cambro’s high-heat H-Pans allow food to go from the oven (yes, food can be cooked in this pan to temps of 375°F!) to the carrier or cart (but be sure to cool down the hot pan to about 190° before loading to prevent damage to the carrier). Doing so allows for less heat loss when transferring food between pans. Also, use tight sealing lids (GripLids®) to maintain safe food temps, prevent cross-contamination and reduce labor clean-up.
So, How Long Can Food Be Safely Stored in the Transporter?
All of Cambro’s non-electric insulated transport products will keep hot or cold food out of the danger zone for at least 4 hours–even longer if you use Camwarmers and Camchillers. Some customers write in to tell us that they discovered food still hot when they accidentally left it overnight in their carrier!
Our products will certainly perform their best for you if you follow the steps above AND make sure that you start with foods at the right temperature to begin with. Keep hot food above 140°F and cold food below 41°F. The hotter or colder the food starts out at, the longer the carriers will be able to maintain temps. Follow these simple yet great tips for maximizing the performance of all of your Cambro insulated transporters and for keeping food worry-free!