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3 min read

Beat the Heat, Keep it Safe: A Guide to Summer Food Safety

Beat the Heat, Keep it Safe: A Guide to Summer Food Safety

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, the transition into summer brings the promise of outdoor dining and seasonal delights and heightened considerations for food safety. At BradyPLUS, we understand that maintaining impeccable standards of food safety isn’t just a practice – it’s a commitment to ensure the health and satisfaction of your valued customers. So, let’s dive into some essential tips to safeguard your food during the hot summer months.

Thermometer on a hot summer day
frozen burger patties
kitchen staff cleaning kitchen
frozen meats in the freezer
color coordinated cutting boards in the kitchen
food delivery person at the door with themal carrier

Mind the Temperature

With rising temperatures, the risk of foodborne illnesses increases. It’s crucial to keep a close eye on temperature-sensitive items such as dairy, meats, and seafood. Ensure that refrigerators are set to 40°F (4°C) or below, and freezers are at 0°F (-18°C) to preserve the freshness and integrity of your ingredients.

With outdoor events and catering season amping up, perishable items like salads and deli meats are more popular than ever. Be extra careful to monitor their freshness and throw away any items that have been sitting out for more than two hours. On extra hot days, if the temperature exceeds 90°F, food needs to be discarded after 1 hour to prevent bacterial growth.

Consider chilling serving plates and bowls before serving cold dishes outdoors, or utilize insulated chafing stations, coolers, and ice baths.

For hot dishes, food should be kept at or above 135°F. It’s important to use a thermometer to monitor food temperatures, keep food covered, and stir frequently to ensure heat is distributed evenly. Chafing dishes, steam tables, and other food warmers are great options for keeping food hot while dining al fresco.

Remember—cold food must be kept cold, and hot food must be kept hot. According to the FDA, the “danger zone,” or the temperature at which bacteria grows most rapidly, occurs when food hits a temperature between 41°F and 135°F.

Practice Proper Thawing

As the mercury climbs, it can be tempting to leave frozen goods out to thaw on the kitchen counter or, worse, run them under hot water to defrost quickly. However, this poses a significant risk for bacterial growth. Raw or cooked meat, poultry, eggs, and other perishable foods must be kept at a safe temperature, below 40°F, during thawing. Plan ahead and defrost frozen items safely in the refrigerator or under cold running water to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens.

If you’re short on time, you can thaw food in the microwave, but you must cook the food immediately after microwaving to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. And as a last resort, you can always cook foods from frozen! It is safe to do so, but it will take about 50% longer to cook to the proper temperature for meat and poultry.

Maintain Cleanliness

In the hustle and bustle of the summer, it’s easy for cleanliness standards to slip, but food safety should always be top of mind. Kitchen cleanliness and staff hand hygiene are crucial in preventing food contamination and reducing the risk of foodborne illness.

Regularly sanitize food preparation surfaces, utensils, and equipment to mitigate the risk of cross-contamination. Consider ditching the red bucket and rag, and make the switch to a simpler, more effective sanitizing solution, like PURELL®’s Foodservice Wipes.

Consider using color-coded knives and cutting boards to help prevent cross-contamination and reduce the risk of allergen exposure in your kitchen too.

First In, First Out

First in, first out should be more than just a concept – it should be a mantra in your kitchen. Rotate your stock regularly to ensure that older products are used before newer ones, reducing the likelihood of spoilage and food waste.

Food rotation labels are an inexpensive and easy way to keep your kitchen safe, clean, and more productive. Be sure your labels include the type of food, the date the food was added, and the date the food expires. Labels help reduce food waste, as you can quickly and easily identify which food you need to use first. As you plan your menu, take a quick peek at the food labels in your fridge. Incorporate the soon-to-expire food items into your menu and watch your food waste decrease!


Your kitchen staff is your first line of defense against foodborne illnesses. Provide comprehensive training on proper food handling techniques, temperature control, and sanitation practices to empower them to uphold the highest standards of food safety.

The USDA1, CDC2, and FoodSafety.gov3 are all key resources for food safety education and training. Plus, we’re always here to help! Our BradyPLUS foodservice experts are happy to coordinate food safety training programs with your team to get your kitchen up to speed.

Keep an Eye on Deliveries

It’s essential to inspect deliveries upon arrival—ensuring that perishable items are adequately chilled, labeled, and packaged to maintain their freshness. Our Essential 8 Program, a comprehensive approach to total facility care, always begins in the receiving area. We work with you to ensure that your food is safe, and temperature controlled from delivery to plating. We know that keeping food at the correct temperature can be a challenge for any kitchen, so we’re here to help.

With these simple yet effective strategies, you can ensure that your food stays safe all summer long. Remember, when it comes to food safety, there’s no room for compromise. Stay vigilant, stay proactive, and let’s make this summer a season of sizzling success! Connect with a food safety specialist today to get started.

1. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
2. CDC Food Safety

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