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I need help: we had a problem with health dept. We put 5-10 lbs deep fried chicken in the walk-in cooler directly removed from oil. Around 350 to 400 degree then. After 1 and 1/2 hours in the cooler (cooler temperature was about 40 degree), it stated 77 degree. We got violation notice. To me it is the violation one way of the other. You left outside cooling is violation, inside cooling is violation. Is there any one please help me to give me the answer that how long it will take to cool down?

  • Don't you need a blast chiller to do this ? Check your local restaurant supplier. – Max Jul 29 '16 at 15:26
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    I'm pretty sure that your chicken isn't actually 350 degrees when you pull it out of the oil. Just because the oil is, the chicken itself should only be in the 160 F range... otherwise it will be extremely overcooked. – Catija Jul 29 '16 at 15:31
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    For why this kind of thing is a violation, see also cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/34670/…, which gives the basis for this kind of judgment, especially in a commercial context: if it's 40-140F for at least a couple hours, it should be discarded. If you don't have a method to cool food that fast, you need to either find another method or not plan on keeping food around that long. – Cascabel Jul 29 '16 at 21:53
  • How was the chicken arranged in the cooler? Was it all in a sealed plastic bucket? Was it arranged out on trays for maximum surface area? – Daniel Griscom Jul 30 '16 at 14:15
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What size pieces of chicken? How are they arranged?

In order to cool quickly, you need to spread the food out in as thin a layer as possible, preferable with space between pieces. You may also require a more active cooler for the chilling process with a larger cooling unit and a more powerful fan - chilling hot food is a far more difficult task than holding cold food.

But the most fundamental step is spreading the food out on trays so it is only one piece deep - that will cool much faster than a basket or tub of the same meat at the same starting temperature. If the tray is metal and is stored in the freezer before use, it would add just a bit more cooling.

Another approach would be to place the meat in a sealed bag (still in one layer), and plunge it into ice-water for rapid cooling.

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If you really, literally want to know "how long does it take", you have to measure it yourself. Experiment a few times with the same chicken, and average the times measured. There is no way to calculate it for any practical purpose, and if anybody else measures it with their chicken and their cooler, they will arrive at an answer which will not apply to your chicken and your cooler.

If you are asking something else, such as "how can I chill my chicken so that I am never in violation", the time needed by your current process is irrelevant. You already know that it is in violation of health codes. What you need to do is to change your process. For example, you could cut the chicken into smaller pieces and place them far apart from each other into the cooler. Or use a colder cooler. When you have made the changes, measure your chicken's temperature yourself. If it falls widely below the limit on multiple occasions, it will be OK when the health inspector comes too.

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  • Might be worth letting them steam out on a rack at room temp before packing them up for the cooler, too. – Joe Jul 29 '16 at 17:32
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Depends on many variables:

  • mass
  • surface area
  • air flow
  • cooler temperature

Most health inspectors are reasonable. You obviously cannot go from 140° F to 40° F instantly.

Was the chicken in a sealed plastic container? Plastic is a fairly good insulator. There is no air flow to the chicken. The surface area is limited to the that of the container. If is was only down to 77° in 1 and 1/2 hours I suspect you had it in a sealed plastic container.

Open on a tray is going to be the fastest cooling but then you have odor contamination to and from the chicken. And you use up a lot of cooler space.

Metal is poor heat insulator. Metal is a heat conductor. Your best bet is to spread out the chicken in covered metal tray. Chicken pieces can touch but not two or more layer deep. enter image description here

And let it chill in the basket for like 10 minutes where you are getting lots of direct air flow.

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