My Rolling Mini-Fridge

My Rolling Mini-Fridge

I am always interested in applying bookish ServSafe principles to everyday life. It reminds me of those story questions on math tests. For instance, “A train, full of circus performers and headed East, leaves Chicago at 11:40 PM and travels at 65 mph.” Today’s blog is a case study about time and temperature control that happened to me.

The Setting

It’s noon on a bitterly cold and sunny day when my friend Kathy and I meet to talk business over gargantuan smoothies. About 12:30, a server comes to our table with a sandwich wrapped in paper and a clear plastic bag. “I just made a mistake order and have a chicken Caesar wrap to give away. It’s still hot. Do YOU want it?” I think of all the reasons that I don’t want the sandwich and say, “Yes, sure, thanks!” Kathy and I brainstorm for another half hour. Then I run through the frigid air to my black Honda Fit.

Even in bright sun, the car is very cold inside. I toss the wrapped sandwich in the back of the car

By 1:00 I am tutoring at the RI Food Bank and playing Food Safety Bingo with the Community Kitchen students. At 4:15, I run back out into the cold. Hungry but rushed, I have to make a stop at the office supply store. When I come back out, my car has a flat tire. Now I am HANGRY! With another stop for a repair, I am in the waiting area while my sandwich is held hostage in the garage. I arrive home at 6:00, 5 1/2 hours after the sandwich was delivered to me.

The weather has gotten even colder. Once indoors, I grab a bimetallic stem thermometer and stab it into the sandwich. It temps at 41°F (5℃), teetering on the lower edge of the Temperature Danger Zone. The Siren Sandwich was singing her song to me.

But, Wait

My sister once told me about “the Hounds of Heaven”, beings that keep you on the good road whether you like it or not. They were on my heels. Before I dared to take a bite, a study popped into mind. Interested in the public health hazard to children in closed parked cars, two emergency medicine doctors and a meteorologist collaborated on a study. The interior temperature of a closed, parked car was tested. Their results, published in the July 2005 issue of the journal Pediatrics, showed that “…a car's interior can heat up by an average of 40 degrees within an hour, regardless of ambient temperature. Eighty percent of the temperature rise occurred within the first half-hour.” No matter how fondly I looked at the sandwich, it certainly was not a precious child. But the study was a cautionary tale. I was trying too hard to imagine that my sandwich was safe to eat while denying the circumstances that speed up bacterial growth.

Let’s look at the facts: Even on a New England winter day, my black car, small as it is, cannot be mistaken for a reliable mini-fridge.

  • Do I know how long that sandwich stayed warm?
  • Was my temp reading accurate since the stem was only inserted into an airy mix of small chicken pieces, lettuce and sauce?  
  • Was it cooked to the right temperature in the first place?

I slapped the sandwich into the trash and started to make a proper dinner.

Remember the rules for holding hot food without temperature control:

You can hold hot food without temperature control if it was at 135℉ (57℃) or higher before removing it from temperature control and if it is served within four hours. Always consult your ServSafe textbook for full details.

Read more:

7th edition ServSafe Coursebook


Roger Williams and the Sleepy Cooks

Roger Williams and the Sleepy Cooks