“You cannot mandate productivity, you must provide the tools to let people become their best.” – Steve Jobs.
Although Steve Jobs was famous for his work in the tech industry, his words apply to any role in any industry. For food handlers, those tools happen to include knives, cutting boards and aprons.
Whether you're considering a career in the food industry or you're already a certified food handler looking to up your game, having the right tools and equipment is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we'll highlight seven must-have tools and equipment that every food handler should have at their disposal.
Top 7 Food Handler Tools
1. Cutting Tools
One of the most fundamental tasks in food handling is food preparation, and that often involves cutting, slicing, and chopping various ingredients. To perform these tasks efficiently and safely, kitchen staff should have access to a set of reliable cutting tools. These include:
- Chef's knife: A versatile, all-purpose knife used for chopping, slicing, and dicing.
- Paring knife: Ideal for intricate tasks like peeling and trimming.
- Serrated knife: Perfect for slicing bread and delicate items.
- Utility knife: A smaller, all-purpose knife that's great for a variety of tasks.
When choosing your cutting tools, ensure they are sharp and well-maintained to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. During preparation of high-risk foods such as poultry, you should select dedicated knives that are not used for other foods such as vegetables.
Temperature control is a critical aspect of food safety. Food handlers need to monitor and maintain the correct temperature of food items to prevent foodborne illnesses. Different types of food thermometers are available for specific purposes.
The most common thermometer type in commercial kitchens is the probe thermometer, also known as a bi-couple thermometer. These instruments measure the internal temperature of food through a metal probe, which should be inserted into the thickest part of the item (avoiding bones in meat) to ensure an accurate reading. Once removed, it must be cleaned and sanitized to avoid contaminating other foods next time it is used.
If you are measuring surface temperatures of non-food items such as grills and stove tops, you can opt for an infrared thermometer.
Temperature control is one of the primary principles of food handling, and thermometers play a vital role in ensuring that food remains safe for consumption. If food items fall into the Temperature Danger Zone (TDZ) for too long, harmful pathogens can breed quickly, increasing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
3. Cutting Boards
A good cutting board provides a stable and sanitary surface for food preparation. Food handlers should have at least two cutting boards available – one for raw meat, fish and poultry, and one for other foods such as breads, fruits and vegetables.
However, two cutting boards should be the absolute minimum. In fact, many food establishments utilize a colored board system to ensure the correct cutting board is used every time. The color-coding can vary depending on personal preference, but here’s how it typically works:
- Red cutting board: Only used for raw meat.
- Yellow cutting board: Only used for raw poultry.
- Green cutting board: Only used for salads, fruits and vegetables.
- Blue cutting board: Only used for raw fish.
- White cutting board: Only used for bakery and dairy items, such as cheese and bread.
- Brown or beige cutting board: Only used for cooked meat.
Another decision you need to make when choosing a cutting board is the material it’s made from – wood or plastic?
Although wooden cutting boards are the traditional choice, modern kitchens tend to avoid using them due to the fact that they are harder to clean and more likely to harbor harmful pathogens such as E.Coli and salmonella.
Whichever type you choose, remember to clean and sanitize cutting boards after use to prevent contamination. Much like knives, it is important to have dedicated cutting boards for each of the food types you are preparing.
4. Gloves and Aprons
Personal hygiene is paramount in food handling. Disposable gloves and aprons are essential to maintain cleanliness and prevent the spread of contaminants. Food handlers should always wear food safe gloves when handling ready-to-eat food items and when in direct contact with food.
It is important to remember that gloves do not replace the need for handwashing. Additionally, disposable gloves should be just that – change them between tasks to avoid contamination.
When to change gloves:
- After two hours of continuous use.
- When gloves become stretched or damaged.
- After touching your hair or face.
- After using the bathroom.
- When switching between activities, such as food preparation, garbage disposal, food handling and taking a break.
- After handling cleaning products.
- After handling allergenic foods.
- When switching from one raw ingredient to another.
5. Hand Washing Stations
Proper hand hygiene is critical for preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses. Every food handling establishment should have well-equipped hand washing stations with soap, warm water and disposable towels. Food handlers should wash their hands regularly, especially after handling raw foods, using the restroom or touching their face.
6. Food Storage Containers
Effective food storage is key to preserving the quality and safety of food items. Food handlers should have an assortment of food storage containers that are:
- Airtight: To prevent food spoilage and contamination.
- Clearly Labeled: With the date of storage to ensure food freshness and aid First In, First Out (FIFO) procedure.
- Durable and Safe: Made from materials that are suitable for food storage. Containers must be cleaned and sanitized after use. Single-use packaging should not be reused.
7. Cleaning Supplies
Maintaining a clean and sanitary workspace is essential. Food handlers should have access to the following cleaning supplies:
- Sanitizing Solution: For disinfecting surfaces and equipment.
- Dish Soap and Brushes: To clean dishes and utensils.
- Brooms and Mops: For keeping the kitchen/restaurant floor clean and free from debris.
- Trash Bins and Liners: To dispose of waste properly.
Proper cleaning and sanitation help prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses and maintain a safe environment for staff and customers alike.
The Role of Food Handler Training
Understanding how to use tools and equipment effectively is as important as having them in your kitchen in the first place. This is where food handler training comes into play.
During the training process, food handlers are not only educated on food safety principles but also on how to use the tools and equipment discussed above. The Userve Food Handler Course provides individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to handle food safely and effectively, covering topics such as hygiene, cross-contamination prevention, temperature control, and more.
Obtaining a Food Handler Certificate
Achieving food handler certification is a testament to your commitment to food safety. It's a recognized credential that showcases your expertise and dedication as a food handler. Let's take a closer look at the significance of the Food Handler Certificate:
Regulatory authorities recognize the importance of ensuring that those responsible for food safety have received proper training. For that reason, in most parts of the United States, possessing a Food Handler Certificate is mandatory for those working in the foodservice industry, with some states requiring proof of completion to be provided before employment commences.
In states such as California, Illinois and Texas, food handler training must be accredited by the relevant certifying body, like the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB). In these states, any Food Handler Course that has not been approved by ANAB will not be recognized by local authorities and therefore be deemed invalid.
Userve Food Handler training is accredited by ANAB in all three of the states mentioned above.
When customers dine out or purchase food products, they want assurance that the food is safe to consume. Knowing that food handlers have received comprehensive training and hold a Food Handler Certificate can instill confidence in the establishment and the food it serves.
Having a Food Handler Certificate can open doors to various job opportunities in the foodservice industry. Employers often prioritize candidates who are already certified, as it reduces the training burden on their end.
Food Safety Knowledge
Obtaining a Food Handler Certificate is not just about compliance; it's about gaining a deeper understanding of food safety principles. Food handlers learn about the importance of proper hygiene, the prevention of cross-contamination, safe temperature control, and more.
The Bottom Line
As a food handler, your role in ensuring the safety and quality of the food that reaches consumers cannot be understated. To perform this crucial role effectively, you need the right tools and equipment. But remember, having these items is not enough; you must also understand how to use them correctly. This knowledge is imparted through food handler training, which not only equips you with the skills to handle food safely but also opens doors to exciting career opportunities in the foodservice industry.
So, whether you're just starting your journey as a food handler or you're looking to enhance your skills and knowledge, complete the Userve Food Handler Course and obtain your Food Handler Certificate online. This investment in your education and professional development will not only benefit you but also contribute to the overall safety and satisfaction of the customers you serve.