Catering takes the pressure off for hosts of social events. But for caterers, the pressure is on. Here are tips for transporting foods to your catered events.
All caterers place food safety at the top of the list of concerns when preparing, transporting, and serving food. Systems and equipment for transport must take temperature, cross-contamination, and presentation into consideration.
Keep hot and cold foods separate, and pack them to avoid cross-contamination. Keep prepared foods entirely separated from raw foods, animal products away from vegan and vegetarian dishes, and foods made to be free of allergens entirely separate from foods that contain common allergens.
Keep cold food cold from the moment it’s prepared through the end of the event. That means packing enough ice in leak-proof, insulated containers to transport the cold food, refrigerating it immediately upon arrival at the venue, and using serving vessels that maintain the necessary cold temperature.
Cold foods should be kept at 40˚ Fahrenheit or less throughout the event. Large catering operations use cold tray transport containers that look like mini refrigerators. These store frozen stainless steel or non-toxic eutectic trays (plastic containers filled with a solution that stays frozen below 32˚, the melting point of water) on shelves within.
Similarly, hot food pans can be transported in specially designed, insulated containers that look like mini-fridges. These clamp shut and have rubber seals on the doors to maintain internal temperature. Some even contain electric heaters.
For small operations, caterers can prepare hot food on-site if kitchen facilities are available; otherwise, hot trays must be wrapped in foil and placed in insulated boxes or carry bags. Always check food temperature before serving to ensure hot food has maintained the proper temperature of at least 140˚ or higher during transport.
If you prepare cold trays in advance to be presented as is, with items such as canapés, insalata capresé toothpick skewers, or seafood platters, use disposable trays with lids. Wrap the tray tightly with plastic wrap, put the lid on for added protection, and when you unpack, you can unwrap the tray and present it with the food items already arranged. Save the lid to protect leftovers or to keep food covered until service.
As your catering business expands, you will pick up more tips for transporting foods to your catered events. Simply keep food safety, cross-contamination, and presentation in mind as you pack foods for transport.