Food Transport and Storage

The 3 Most Important Tips for Selecting an Insulated Tray

When it’s time to select an insulated tray for your facility, there are three critical components that must be considered:

1. What is your menu like?

Tray configurations can range from 3-6 compartments depending on your menu (4 and 6 being the most popular). Begin by analyzing your menu for a month to determine the biggest serving sizes and type of food served. Next, decide if you want two items to share the same compartment or if you want each item to have its own compartment.  Then, if the inmate receives a spork with every meal, decide if the spork will have its own compartment or be placed in a compartment with other food (normally, dry food, like bread). Check out the 4 compartment Gator Tray or Grizzly Tray for ideas of this style of tray. If a dedicated flatware compartment is important, check out the 6 compartment Gorilla Tray or Marathon Tray.

2. How do you serve your inmates?

Do the inmates eat in the dining room or in their pods?  For pods, insulated trays or heated carts are necessary to maintain food at the proper temperature.  If you are re-therming in the tray, you will need trays that tolerate a wide temperature range, like the Cook’s Flex Trays.  Its temperature range exceeds 450 degrees F. Check out the video below to see them in action.  If you are serving in a dining room, we recommend a standard, co-polymer 6 compartment tray.

3. How do you transport your meals?

Do you prefer to transport in an open cart or enclosed cart?  Are your required to deliver the meal with hot food above 140 degrees or does the food need to be above 140 when it leaves the kitchen?  Two shelf or flatbed carts provide economical transport of insulated trays.  Trays transported using this method generally hold temperature for 30 minutes.  Enclosed carts will hold temperature slightly longer, especially when transporting outside.  Cook’s has a wide range of two shelf carts, flat bed carts and enclosed carts.

Cook’s has an extremely deep assortment of insulated trays to meet all of your correctional serving needs, for more information visit the Tray Buying Guide or check out the best meal trays for Correctionals.

CCP – Critical Control Point

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) establishes minimum internal temperatures for cooked foods.

FSE Precision Digital Thermometer

FSE Precision Digital Thermometer

It is important to remember that these values can be superseded by state or local health code requirements, but they cannot be below the FDA limits.  Temperatures should be measured with a probe thermometer in the thickest part of the meats, or the center of other dishes, avoiding bones and container sides.  Minimum internal temperatures are set as follows:

165 degrees F (74 degrees C) for 15 seconds:

  • Poultry (such as whole or ground chicken, turkey, or duck)
  • Stuffing
  • Stuffed meats, fish, poultry and pasta
  • Any previously cooked foods that are reheated from a temperature below 135 degrees F (57 degrees C), provided they have been refrigerated or warm less than 2 hours
  • Any potentially hazardous foods cooked in a microwave, such as poultry, meat, fish or eggs

155 degrees F (68 degrees C) for 15 seconds

  • Ground meats (such as beef or pork)
  • Injected meats (such as flavor-injected roasts or brined hams)
  • Ground or minced fish
  • Eggs that will be held for a length of time before eaten

145 degrees F (63 degrees C) for 15 seconds

  • Steaks and chops such as beef, pork, veal and lamb
  • Fish
  • Eggs cooked for immediate service

145 degrees F (63 degrees C) for 4 minutes

  • Roasts (can be cooked to lower temperatures for increased lengths of time)

135 degrees F (57 degrees C) for 15 seconds

  • Cooked fruits or vegetables that will be held for a length of time before eaten
  • Any commercially processed, ready-to-eat foods that will be held for a length of time before eaten.

In addition, hot food must be held at a minimum internal temperature of 135 degrees F (57 degrees C) if it is not immediately consumed.  The temperature must be checked every 4 hours or else labeled with a discard time.  Although monitored hot food can be held indefinitely in this way without a food safety concern, the nutritional value, flavor and quality can suffer over long periods.

You can find more helpful cooking information in the resource section of the Cook’s Correctional Buyers Guide which is available for viewing on CooksCorrectional.com.

 

Hints for Tray Assembly Lines

400_Cooks_GC100

Cook’s Correctional Tray Assembly Line

Pre-portioning meals on insulated trays for delivery to pods or units is efficient and economical.  Yet it’s amazing how many tray assembly operations end up inefficient because of the order of foods on the line.  Hot foods should go on trays last, not first.  Start with room temperature foods like bread and rolls, and next add cold foods.  Last, add the hot portions.

Ideally, cold food should be kept below 40 degrees F and hot food above 165 degrees F.  Minimize the distance a worker has to move food from well to tray.  Be sure to keep the conveyor line moving fast enough to keep workers busy with no time for mischief.

Here are some easy to follow guidelines for your conveyor line set-up:

  • Allow 30” per worker for adequate shoulder space.
  • Using 16” wide hot and cold steam tables keeps workers close to the conveyor
  • Pitch the conveyor line ¼” per 1’0” from the head of the line to the end.
  • Cover hot food after portioning as quickly as possible to keep heat in or store trays in a heated cabinet.
  • Since cold trays chill hot food fast, keep trays in a warm tray washing or other area.
  • Always strap together for transport to retain temperature.

When planning your line, use this guide to steam table pan portion capacities:

  • 2 ½” D Full Size Pan:  9 Quarts = (72) 4 oz. portions
  • 2 ½” D Half Size Pan: 4 Quarts = (32) 4 oz. portions
  • 4” D Full Size Pan:  15 Quarts = (120) 4 oz. portions
  • 4” D Half Size Pan: 7 Quarts = (56) 4 oz. portions
  • 6” D Full Size Pan:  22 Quarts = (176) 4 oz. portions
  • 6” D Half Size Pan: 10 Quarts = (80) 4 oz. portions

If you’re looking for additional capacity guides you can go to the resource section at the back of the Correctional Buyers Guide (click here to view the catalog online).  You can also contact your Cook’s Correctional Sales Representative for any help you may need with

Marketing Manager, Cook's

Candace Meneou

Food for thought: Tray Delivery Carts (part 3 of 3)

Cook's Aluminum 40-Tray Delivery Cart

Cook’s Aluminum 40-Tray Delivery Cart

This is the third and final post (in this series) on Tray Delivery Carts and things to know or think about prior to purchasing.  Our first blog post was on the questions we ask our clients before recommending or quoting carts (click here for Part 1).  Our second blog post was on general facility and cart questions that should be answered before making a purchase (click here for Part 2).  This post is going to cover some of the various cart options available to you that you should consider as you review your Tray Delivery Cart options.

1.  Will you be holding or transporting things on the top of the cart?  You can find carts that offer a sheet pan rack for 18″ x 26″ pans.  These can be open, enclosed and even insulated.  You will want to think through how many pans you would want to carry and the spacing.  If you do this, you need to also consider how much space you will need above the cart to fit the rack.

Rather than product on sheet pans or in steam table pans, will you be transporting Beverage Servers?  You’ll want a rail on the top of the cart to keep them in place.  You also want to consider how tall the cart is because someone needs to be able to put the fully loaded beverage servers on top of the cart.  If you have a five gallon beverage server – it will weigh 40 lbs. fully loaded, as a gallon of water weighs 8 lbs.

A rail can keep wash racks in place too, if that’s how you’re transporting tumblers or mugs.  A top rail can be three-sided which allows you easy access to load the top of the cart or it can be four-sided which keeps things in place more easily.

2.  Will you be doing any assembly at point of delivery?  You may want to consider a work shelf option.  These are available in pull out or flip-up styles.  You will need to consider where you would like it located on the cart, the size and the height you want it to be above finished floor.

3.  Are you purchasing heated carts?  If you are, do you want a thermometer on the outside of the cart that tells you the internal temperature of the cart?  This is a really good idea because then you’re not opening the door and letting the heat out in order to make sure it’s at temperature. Consider how many thermometers do you want on the cart and where you want them to be.

A nice option to consider is a cart with a removable heater because it can extend the life of the cart.  By removing the heater before you wash the cart you minimize potential for damage to the heater.  Additionally, with a removable heater – if the heater goes, you can replace it pretty easily.

4.  Have you experienced damage in your facility from carts or have specific failure areas on your current carts?  You may want to review options for special bumpers beyond the standard 1″ vinyl.  You may also consider wear plates, which are extra stainless.  Be sure to specify where you need these to be located.  There are also options for a top bumper which adds additional protection to walls and cart.

5.  Do you want to gang carts together?  A tow hitch can be used to create a string of carts.  Tow hitches can be ball style, pin or ‘C’ Clamp.  If this is a new option, you’ll want to consider who will actually tow – is it the inmate or the staff, and how many carts will be towed at one time.  Keep in mind that there is typically NO warranty beyond towing ONLY two carts at one time.

Finally:

6.  Do you have any special considerations regarding the doors?  There are options like a magnetic latch which helps to keep heat in by closing and sealing the doors.  Do you want your  door pulls to be flush?  This can ensure there are no handles to get in the way in tight spaces.  A special transport latch will keep the door latch covered so that it stays closed. You may need to specify a security latch or locking latch so that you don’t have any concerns about contamination during transport.

Meal Delivery Carts are a large investment for the correctional kitchen and they will impact your meal serving operation significantly.  Any time you spend before hand making sure you get what you need, what you want and what will work is time well spent, and possibly dollars not thrown away.  If you need help with on carts or other equipment, all the Cook’s Correctional sales reps are trained on our products we have lots of experience that we’re ready to share with you.

Marketing Manager, Cook's

Candace Meneou

Food for thought: Tray Delivery Carts (part 2 of 3)

Cook's 46-7/20"H Non-Heated/Insulated Ironman Tray Hauler

Cook’s Brand Ironman Tray Hauler

Our last post about Tray Delivery Carts talked about some of the different questions we would ask a customer who was looking to replace or buy new Meal Delivery Carts.  We focused on questions about their facility and some things about how they would use them.  The idea is to get the right cart for the application.  In this post, I’m focusing on questions you would ask once you have the type of cart and necessary functionality needs identified.  These are general facility questions and cart questions that you need to know before you buy:

1.  What is the width of the most narrow door? Do yourself a favor and test using a piece of cardboard that is the size of the cart to be sure your cart will fit through the door or in the elevator/sally port. Ask for a spec sheet so you can see the exact dimensions including the handle and possibly a bumper.  We discussed tray delivery carts in a sales meeting the other day – and one story thrown out there was about a customer who had to have the maintenance guy cut the bumper off of all the carts so that they could be used.  That’s right – the ‘protective’ bumper that probably made the cart a little more expensive.

2. What is the turning radius within the facility?  Take that same piece of cardboard and walk it through the path the carts are going to take.  Now think about the caster set up on the cart that you want?  You don’t want to get in a situation where you need a cart that has four swivel casters and you order one that has two swivel in the front and two fixed in the back.  Suddenly you have trustees pushing the back end of the carts so that they can fit them through the turn, destroying the casters, putting pressure on the handles, and so on.  We all now how gentle the trustees are with your equipment.

3.  What type of surface will the cart be moved over?  Is it going to stay in the facility or will you be using it to transport food offsite, will it go over rough pavement, loose gravel or spline joints outside, or is it only to be used indoors?  This is all about getting the right material and size caster to meet your needs and one you aren’t constantly replacing — all purpose casters, TRP rubber casters, polyurethane casters, rubber expansion stem casters, and more.

4.  What type of electrical power does the cart require — and do you have it?  Look too see if the cart and your facility are compatible before you order!  You may have or need 120 or 208 phase.  The cart may have a NEMA plug – so you need a NEMA receptacle in your facility.  You also want to be sure that the electrical is available where you need it and that there is enough of it.  How many carts will you need to plug in to preheat them — it’s better to think through how you will be pre-heating 15 carts with only 10 outlets available before you buy.  You also want to check out the production and staging area and the cell block if you will be plugging them in in both locations.

As the expression goes, the devil is in the details.  Carts are such a big investment and they typically have a longer lead time because they are made to order so you want to be sure to spend some time upfront making sure that you choose a cart that will work within your facility.

The next blog post will be about cart options to you should be aware of before you make a buying decision.

Marketing Manager, Cook's

Candace Meneou

Food for thought: Tray Delivery Carts (part 1 in a series)

Cook's Brand TDC1914SS Stainless Steel Tray Delivery Cart

Two-shelf Stainless Steel Tray Delivery Cart

One of our goals at Cook’s Correctional is to be experts in the field of equipment and supplies for the correctional kitchen. That is one of the top ways for us to bring value to our conversations with you.  We need to know what choices you have, what products work and what doesn’t work in corrections, what products offer the best durability, what products are the best economic value, and in general what products are out there that can help you get the job done safely.   Our entire organization has gone through product training to emphasize its importance.

One of the items that is somewhat unique to corrections are tray delivery carts.  While hospitals and other institutions may use tray delivery carts, the products they choose aren’t the same as what is used in a jail or prison.  When we work with a customer who is looking to purchase a new cart, we start by asking them questions about their facility.  It is by knowing how they will use the cart that we are able to best help them get the right product for the job.  Here are the questions that we start with when we are exploring a new or replacement cart purchase with a customer:

1.  What is the security level of the facility?  A higher security level speaks to a need for a more durable cart.

2.  How many inmates are housed at the facility?  This helps us to determine the cart capacity needed.

3.  Feeding method and location?  Knowing the feeding method helps us to determine the best type of cart for your operation.  Do you need a heated tray delivery cart or is an unheated or flatbed cart going to work?  When we ask about location it helps us to determine what features may best suit your operation. If you’re transporting these carts outside and over rough pavement it will influence your caster choice.

4.  Do you have any issues with your current meal delivery process?  This is a great time to evaluate how the cart may be affecting your entire process and if you can improve the efficiency of your operation by changing the cart type or possibly another component of your meal delivery process.

Purchasing a new tray delivery cart type will often affect your entire operation, it’s that important of a component.  It’s also a significant investment, so it’s worth taking the time to evaluate if you’re purchasing the best product to meet your needs.  In our next post, I’ll talk about more ‘specific’ cart questions that you should consider.

Marketing Manager, Cook's

Candace Meneou

New to Cook’s Correctional: Useco Tray Drying Racks

TGS48-3-C-AF SS HD Tray Drying Rack from Useco

TGS48-3-C-AF SS HD Tray Drying Rack from Useco

We are continually looking to add new kitchen equipment products that fit the requirements of the correctional kitchen so that we have more options for our customers.   This year, one of the more exciting additions are Useco’s Stainless Steel Tray Drying Racks in a variety of sizes. Useco, a division of American Foodservice, is well-known for their superior meal delivery systems, which include banquet carts, hot and cold carts, holding cabinets, and conveyor systems. American Foodservice, is located in Savannah, TN and is part of the Standex Foodservice Group.  The Savannah facility has over 250,000 square feet of manufacturing space.  I believe that our customers will like that all of their products are manufactured to UL and NSF standards and are labeled with the regulatory seals of approval, because we know how important NSF is to the correctional industry.

These heavy-duty welded stainless tray drying racks are designed to position trays, pans and lids to accelerate drying. Laser cut openings provide paths for air circulation to promote drying. Stainless steel construction will put your mind at ease with no rust and years of durability.

Claudia Santangelo, Product Merchant

Claudia Santangelo

You can see our Useco Delivery Cart and Tray Drying Rack offering by visiting the Useco page in our Shop by Brand section on Cook’s Correctional.

What makes a good tray delivery cart?

Cook's Brand Stainless Steel Tray Delivery Cart

Cook’s Brand Stainless Steel Tray Delivery Cart

We have a ton of experience with tray delivery carts, so much that a few years ago we felt we could design and build carts that were superior to anything on the market.

So what makes a good cart…

To start with, you need a strong frame for the entire cart and shelves. One of the biggest areas of failure on a cart is the front of the shelf, where it is typically just welded. On our carts, we reinforce the top/bottom shelves with square tube so when the inmate sits on it or overloads it, the shelf won’t break.

Next, you must have great casters. Casters that are large enough to be pushed easily through the yard or down to the housing unit at the end of the facility. We like 6” polyurethane, non-marking casters which hold about 2000 lbs. Yes, no one will ever put 2000 lbs. on it but why take the chance!

Beyond casters and a sturdy frame, corner bumpers, welded handles and heavier gauge stainless steel are also very important. But when purchasing a new 2 shelf cart, the primary focus should be on the frame and casters. IF the frame and casters are made to

Jeff Breeden, CEO Cook's

Jeff Breeden

withstand corrections abuse, the cart will last you a long time.

Your cart can be Stainless Steel or Aluminum – we carry Cook’s Brand carts in both materials and have many customers who purchase each of them.  The difference in the materials really won’t affect the life of your cart so much as the appearance, weight and the price as aluminum is less expensive than stainless. If you in the market for a cart, make sure to look at how it’s built to be sure it will last in your operation.

Need a lighter weight food transport solution? Meet the Kanga Box.

Kanga Box Transport Carrier

Kanga Box Transport Carrier available at Cook’s Correctional

Does your staff complain about the food transport carriers being too heavy? “I can’t lift the top loader when the pans are full of food”? I need another worker to help me lift the End Loader so we can load the pans correctly?

If these are all comments your staff has made in the past, then we have a new product that we want to introduce to you. Say Hi to the Kanga Box Transport Carrier product line.

This innovative new food storage and transport product line of pan carriers is available in four different styles, and all of these are available in six different eye-catching colors. What makes these carriers so unique is the material that these are made from is lightweight yet strong.  You’re staff will love that the Kanga Box is a durable, lighter solution to standard pan carriers.

Not only are these very light weight, the Kanga box has a perfect closing lid, is totally impermeable to liquids and hot steam, and has ergonomically shaped handles for easier lifting and carrying. The Kanga box is dishwasher safe to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brian Richardson

Director of Merchandising, Cook’s

If you require a food transport option that is durable for your correctional kitchen, consider the Kanga Box as a new solution!