How to Improve Food Shelf Life: Commercial Kitchen Best Practices

March 08, 2021 Bidfood - News

Buying from wholesale food suppliers is one of the best ways to increase your profit margin in the foodservice industry. However, this will only be possible after you master the art of keeping ingredients fresh until you’re ready to use them.

Here, we have listed five best practices you should follow to maximize the shelf life of your food supplies in your commercial kitchen:

1. Learn the common causes of reduced shelf life.

In any battle, the first thing you need to do to prepare is to know your enemy. And when it comes to keeping ingredients fresh, the enemy would be the causes of premature food spoilage.

For fresh produce, the most common factors that affect shelf life include:

  • Exposure to ethylene
  • Extreme or inconsistent temperatures
  • Moisture or humidity
  • Physical harm
  • Microbial growth

For other food products, the shelf life may also be reduced because of the type of packagingstrong> used, oxidation, and exposure to light.

2. Use better packaging (or choose a supplier that does).

Food shelf life can be maximized with the use of appropriate packaging. Following the example mentioned earlier, fruits and vegetables can be kept fresh using containers that can control the rate of ripening, respiration, and microbial growth.

For fruits and vegetables, pallet covers, sheets, and even cartons can reduce their exposure to ethylene. This gaseous compound hastens the ripening rate of fruits and vegetables, causing fresh produce to soften and deteriorate when in storage.

Controlling oxidation is also one of the primary purposes of optimum food packaging. This is why meat suppliers and other food merchants opt for vacuum packaging to prevent spoilage from oxygen exposure. This packaging method entails removing some – if not all – the oxygen inside it.

Below are other containers and packaging options that are ideal for specific types of food products:

  • Cans
  • Foil pouches
  • PETE bottles (for corn, wheat, beans, and other dry products)
  • Sealable food-grade storage buckets
  • Sealable food-grade plastic or (lined) metal drums

3. Invest in a good freezer.

Freezing is probably the easiest and most convenient method you can use to improve food shelf life. It stops microorganisms from forming (or kills them off if the temperature can reach -18 degrees Celsius and below).

When buying your equipment, always keep the following considerations in mind:

Capacity

Overstuffing the freezer can reduce its efficacy in keeping food products fresh and safe for consumption. To avoid this, be sure to pick a freezer with just the right capacity for your commercial kitchen.

Organizational features

One more important factor you must consider is how to organize food within the freezer. If you’re storing different food items in one freezer, remember to check for layered shelves or partitions that will help segregate them.

Defrosting

Ice buildup can lead to poor freezer performance, so you might want to go for one with an automatic defrosting feature.

4. Never break the FIFO rule.

FIFO – short for “first-in, first-out” – is one of the food storage rules that will optimize your supply usage. This entails rotating stock and using them according to the date they were delivered.

You need to use up ingredients and other food products that are delivered first, queuing any newer ones behind them. This lowers the chances of such resources expiring because they were stored past their best-by dates.

Besides their storage arrangement and usage schedule, the FIFO rule also covers labeling products with their expiration dates. You should also include this information in the inventory list that should be updated periodically.

5. Keep your storage area organized.

From the freezer to the shelves, you must ensure that your food storage area is organized according to the following guidelines:

Freezer

Keep food stacked neatly, with the biggest flat packages at the very bottom. Don’t forget to mark them with their best-before date and divide according to type – keep beef with beef, fish with fish, and so on.

Put older stocks in front of (for shelved freezers) or above (for chest freezers) newer ones to make it easier to follow the FIFO rule.

Refrigerator

Store similar items in the same group to make it easier to find them (e.g., sauces in one area, meats in the meat drawer, vegetables in crispers, etc.). Use clear containers when storing leftovers and label them accordingly.

Always discard food that is past their recommended storage period.

Shelves

Again, put items that are similar or are under the same category together. Put canned goods on one shelf, baking ingredients in another, and so on.

Arrange according to the FIFO rule – old stocks in front and newer ones at the back. Use clear containers for opened items such as pasta, rice, and cereals for ease of access.

Better Shelf Life for Cost-Effective Inventory

Buying wholesale is only half the battle – maximizing the shelf life of your ingredients and other food supplies is crucial in keeping a cost-effective inventory for your foodservice business. Follow us to stay abreast of commercial kitchen storage best practices and to make the most of your supply purchases.