Cook-chill is one of these techniques, used to streamline production, minimize waste, and improve food safety at the same time. This technique was developed as an attempt to control labor costs, which is still one of its advantages today. Cook-chill is the process of cooking food in quantity, then rapidly chilling it. The cooked food is not frozen, but cooled so quickly that it does not stay in the “danger zone” (from 41 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit, or 5 to 57 degrees Centigrade) long enough to support harmful bacteria growth. Once it’s been quickly chilled, holding the food under proper refrigeration
(at 34 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit) prolongs its shelf life, allowing it to sit for at least five days and, in some cases, up to 21 days before serving. Cook-chill technology is not a way to stockpile leftovers, although it can be used as such. It is a system of quantity food preparation designed to create a stock of safely prepared and refrigerated foods that can be used as needed. That’s one reason why it is also sometimes referred to as the cook-to-inventory method of food preparation. A product that stays fresher longer means certain menu items can be prepared twice a week instead of daily, saving time and money. From an investment standpoint, centralized production allows restaurant operators with multiple locations to produce their high-end, signature items with less cash outlay for real estate, conventional kitchen equipment, and expensive ventilation systems. The food is delivered cold to multiple locations. The chilled items are removed from the refrigerator as needed and brought to serving temperature by heating in smaller, more portable appliances. When done correctly, the cook-chill process produces foods with no loss of color, flavor, texture, or nutrients.