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Stand-Up Training: Taking Food Temperatures

Cook checks the internal temperature of a hamburger patty.

Empower Employees Through Food Safety Training

Customers can become ill when bacteria multiply to dangerous levels in food. Two of the most important causes of bacterial growth are time and temperature. Use this training to teach your employees when and how to take and record the temperatures of food.

Learning Objectives

You may choose to read these learning objectives with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

After this training, employees will be able to:

  • Identify when to take and record the temperatures of food
  • Identify the internal temperatures that food must meet during cooking, cooling, or reheating
  • Properly take the temperature of various foods
  • Properly maintain thermometers and other temperature-taking equipment

The Facts

You may choose to read these facts with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

  • Take and record the temperature of food while it is cooking, reheating, or cooling.
  • Animal products must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature before they are safe to eat. Refer to your local cooking temperature regulations or use the Cooking Temperatures poster as a guide.
  • Cool food from 135°F (57°C) to 70°F (21°C) in two hours or less, and from 70°F to the refrigeration temperature, 41°F (5°C), in four hours or less (for a total of six hours or less).
  • When reheating food, you may reheat it to any temperature if it will be served immediately. If it will be held, you must reheat it to 165°F (74°C) first.
    • If food is not reheated within two hours, you must throw it away.
  • Take the temperature of food in its thickest part, but not right next to a meat bone. If the food is even in thickness, check the temperature in several places. If the food is liquid, stir it and then measure the temperature in the center.
  • The freezing point method, also known as the ice point method, is the most common way to calibrate thermometers. If the thermometer does not show the temperature of ice water as 32°F (0°C), then it should be adjusted (if possible).
    • Calibrate thermometers before each shift, anytime they are bumped or dropped, and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by cleaning and sanitizing thermometers. Clean and sanitize between using them for different foods, when switching tasks, after a break, or after four hours of constant use.

Training Activities

Choose the activities that will be most beneficial for your employees. Modify them as needed to fit the training needs of your establishment.

Match the Minimum Internal Temperature

Prepare: Refer to your local cooking temperature regulations or use the Cooking Temperatures poster as a guide. Before the training, write the common internal cooking temperatures on separate pieces of paper or a whiteboard. For example: 165°F (74°C), 155°F (68°C), 145°F (63°C), and 135°F (57°C). Write the names of different foods that should be cooked to those temperatures on separate pieces of paper.

Match: Challenge your employees to match the different foods to their minimum internal cooking temperature. Let employees discuss and work through problems together but provide hints when needed. You may choose to time this activity or have them work in teams to add a game element to the activity.

Teach: Correct any foods that were matched to the wrong cooking temperature. Explain that cooking food to the correct temperature is essential to killing bacteria and preventing foodborne illness.

Display (optional): Hang up the Cooking Temperatures poster in the kitchen area to remind employees of these key cooking temperatures.

The “When” of Thermometer Maintenance

Discuss: How often should we calibrate thermometers, and why is it important?

Demonstrate: Show employees how to calibrate thermometers using the freezing point method. If you can adjust your establishment’s thermometers, show employees how. A seasoned employee could also demonstrate. If there is time, give all employees a chance to practice calibrating thermometers.

Discuss: When should we clean and sanitize thermometers?

Measuring Temperatures Practice

Prepare (optional): Have food (like meat, a pan of eggs, and soup) ready to use for practice measuring temperature.

Discuss: How do we measure the temperature of most foods? What about foods that are even in thickness or that are liquid, like soup?

Observe (optional): Supervise employees as they practice taking food temperatures. Make sure that they wear gloves and clean and sanitize the thermometer if it becomes contaminated.

Watch (optional): If you would rather watch a video to simulate measuring temperatures of different foods, watch the Cooking Temperatures – Practice video.

Following Up

Use these ideas to follow up with your employees and make sure they’re taking food temperatures properly:

  1. Look out for employees who maintain thermometers and measure food temperatures correctly. Praise their behavior and correct any improper practices that you may see.
  2. Start using a cooking temperature log to ensure the temperature of all meals is checked before they’re served.

Make sure your shift managers and supervisors can answer questions that other employees may have about taking food temperatures. Encourage employees to ask questions when they need help instead of guessing at the right answer.

As needed, review this training with your employees.

Training Resources

The Cooking Temperature Log will help your employees remember to check the temperature of meals before serving them.

Use the Cooking Temperatures poster to remind food workers of the minimum internal temperatures required for cooking meats and other foods.

The Reheating Food Process poster will remind employees how to properly reheat food for hot holding.

Post the Two-Stage Cooling Process poster to help food workers remember how to cool food safely.

The Cooking Temperatures – Practice video presents four practice scenarios to determine how to measure the temperature of different foods. It also asks questions about whether the food is ready to serve or needs to cook more based on its temperature. View the Spanish version of this video: Temperaturas de Cocción – Práctica.

The Cooking video discusses the minimum internal temperatures needed to kill pathogens in different foods. Note that your local cooking temperature regulations may differ. View the Spanish version of this video: Cocinando.

Did you use this stand-up training in your establishment? We’d love to get your feedback! Take a minute to do our feedback survey.

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— Alyssa Erickson

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