Smart Starch Food Safety
Potatoes are among some of the most common left over food items, especially during the holiday season. Be sure you’re storing and reheating all of your leftovers safely before reserving them to friends and family. For more information on why potatoes pose a food safety concern and how to properly handle them.
According to the 2017 Potato Statistical Yearbook created by the National Potato Council, 44 billion pounds of potatoes were produced in the U.S. in 2015. Some of those were turned into potato chips, others french fries. Many potatoes were baked or boiled and then served in restaurants, catering, healthcare and other foodservice operations. And surprisingly, cooked potatoes pose a food safety risk, because they are considered a Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) food.
TCS foods, like cooked potatoes, are prone to bacteria growth because they are moist, contain protein and have a neutral or slightly acidic pH. This is ideal for the growth of microorganisms and production of toxins. Proper cooking, holding times and cooling techniques are imperative to avoiding time-temperature abuse and keeping TCS foods safe.
Why are cooked potatoes considered a TCS food?
If cooked potatoes are not cooled properly, they can easily enter the temperature danger zone. Additionally, cooled potatoes are often combined with mayonnaise or oil to make potato salads, which makes them even more of a breeding ground for bacteria like salmonella or listeria when proper temperatures aren’t maintained.
3 ways to prevent potato-related food hazards
1. Cool off. Cooling potatoes properly is the best way to avoid a foodborne illness outbreak. Cooling potatoes in the refrigerator takes a minimum of 4 hours, but it can be expedited with these methods:
- Ice-water bath.
- Ice paddle.
- Blast or tumble chiller.
- Divide large batches of potatoes into shallow pans and spread them out.
2. Serve safely. If cooked potatoes are being reheated, make sure they reach at least 165°F. If the potatoes are being used in a ready-to-eat cold dish, like a potato salad, make sure the dish is served below 41°F. Tip: Place clean ice packs in or around the dish or use an ice-water bath to keep things safely cool.
3. If in doubt, throw it out! Any food that has been in the temperature danger zone of 41-135°F for more than 4 hours should be discarded. If you aren’t sure how long potatoes have been at 41-135°F, it is better to toss them than risk serving them to your customers, friends or family.
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Potatoes can be prepared in many ways but is there one type of potato that’s suitable for all of your cooking techniques? Find out what type of potatoes you should be using here.
The Difference Between Starchy vs. Waxy Potatoes
Russet potatoes are called starchy because they contain more of a certain kind of starch that makes them cook up drier and fluffier. That’s why they’re ideal for soaking up butter and gravy when they’re baked or mashed. But that same fluffy texture makes them fall apart in stews.
Boiling potatoes and fingerlings are called waxy because they hold their shape when they’re cooked. Firm rather than fluffy, their texture can stand up to the moisture in soups and casseroles without disintegrating.
All-purpose potatoes are like the Goldilocks of the potato world. Their balance of starchiness and waxiness makes them just right for almost any recipe.
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