A Step by Step Guide to Cleaning and Organizing Your Commercial Refrigerator
The fresh taste and quality of every dish starts with food safety — clean, climate-controlled storage and proper food preparation techniques. One of the most crucial sites for practising food safety is your commercial refrigerator. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most neglected components of a high-volume kitchen.
Why You Need to Clean a Commercial Refrigerator
With frequent opening and closing, retrieval and restocking, it’s sometimes easy to forget to clean up spills and stains or even see them amidst the service rush. Because items get moved around a lot, some of the less popular ingredients and inventory tend to remain unfinished or unused by their sell-by date.
Residue and spoilage can cause cross-contamination and foul odours which affect food storage and, as a result, quality and freshness. Worse, when served, these less than delicious signature flavours can invite customer complaints and erode trust. Come health inspection time, you can face anywhere between a few citations or even an ordered closure.
When was the last time you cleaned your commercial refrigerator? Don’t wait another day for bacteria to grow and the unit’s performance to drop, resulting in increased electricity consumption and a shorter lifespan. Follow our guide to cleaning your commercial refrigerator and restoring optimal food storage:
7 Easy Steps to Clean Your Commercial Fridge
1. Unplug the refrigeration unit
Before you do any actual cleaning, make sure to unplug the unit first. This avoids any risk of electric shock and workplace injuries. Follow safety first — both in cooking and cleaning.
2. Empty the shelves
You need to remove all the items stored inside the refrigerator and place them in coolers or a back-up unit. Don’t take shortcuts, such as simply moving items side to side — you risk leaving contaminated or even mouldy stains uncleaned, as well as long-expired food items.
3. Toss the expired items
It’s easy to neglect certain ingredients, food items and other perishables due to the high-volume use of some items over others and poor organization. But now that they’re out, it’s a good time to check every item and toss those which have expired or are mouldy and smelling ‘off’.
Even if you are unsure whether certain items are already spoiled, the risk of a foodborne illness affecting customers — along with complaints and potential citations — simply isn’t worth the gamble. When in doubt, it’s best to throw it out.
What’s more, while you need to be as cost-effective as possible, saving already-opened cans and jars long after their last use isn’t a good idea. Even when well ahead of their sell-by date, once opened, the can content will need to be used more quickly, especially when sealing and storage are inconsistent. Similarly, toss out anything you have not used for months and don’t plan on using soon. These are likely to spoil — if not already — especially when improperly sealed for long-term storage.
4. Wipe down the interiors
Once all the expired food is thrown out, turn your attention to the unit’s interiors. Use warm, soapy water and a sponge or highly absorbent microfibre cloth to scrub down the walls, shelves and compartments and to remove dried stains and built-up grime. If these are stuck in tight corners, use a toothbrush with flexible but strong bristles to clean these spots. Once done, wipe down with clean water.
Soap and water alone won’t be enough to restore optimal food storage conditions. Go the extra mile by disinfecting the surfaces to kill bacteria and mould. Make sure to use a food-safe sanitizer, so you’ll get a thorough clean while keeping toxic chemicals from making their way into food.
6. Vacuum the condenser and coils
Once the interiors are clean, it’s time to make sure that your commercial refrigerator can maintain food-safe temperatures with energy-efficient performance.
Without regular cleaning, dust and debris can be trapped in the condenser and coils, clogging air intake. This forces the condenser and coils to consume more energy in order to function and maintain optimal cooling temperatures. Over time, you will notice spikes in your utility bills and a shorter lifespan for your commercial refrigerator.
To avoid these and maintain energy-efficient cooling, make sure to clean the refrigerator coils. This requires removing the protective grill located either on the top or bottom of your unit, followed by brushing the coils and fan to free up dust and grime. Finish by vacuuming these to remove all dirt and then reinstall the grill.
Not so handy with tools and parts? Don’t risk damaging your commercial refrigerator by attempting a DIY clean. Since this involves crucial refrigerator parts, call a certified technician to clean and inspect the condenser and coils as part of your regular maintenance plan.
7. Clean the surrounding area
Finish the job by cleaning the area underneath, on top and around your commercial refrigerator. Make sure to reach the area behind the unit when mopping the floors and dust the top of the unit. Cleaning the interior and exterior of a commercial refrigerator contributes to a clean kitchen, overall food safety and reduced risk of slips and falls from spills usually occurring in this area of a busy kitchen.
Organize Your Commercial Refrigerator
Now that your fridge is clean, it’s time to put everything back — in an orderly fashion. How you load and organize items inside determines efficient use of inventory and also avoids messes that can lead to bacteria and mould.
Follow this guide to stocking your commercial refrigerator:
- Top shelf: keep fast-moving items like ready-to-eat and pre-cooked foods, produce, butter and condiments highly visible and accessible
- Middle shelves: seafood, raw pork and beef, ground meat and fish on separate shelves
- Bottom shelf: poultry.
Keeping raw meats separate from each other and well away from produce and pre-cooked foods helps prevent cross-contamination. In particular, storing them below the produce prevents juices and bacteria from dripping down.
For better food storage and safety, you also need to organize your fridge. Store items in colour-coded bins and label them to keep track of their sell-by dates. Most importantly, follow the “first in, first out” method to get in the habit of using up older items and avoiding waste. Follow these hacks to maintain a cost-effective inventory, prevent foodborne illnesses, and maximize the long-term energy-efficient function of your commercial refrigerator.
Contact Ancaster Food Equipment
For more information about commercial refrigerators and coolers, call Ancaster Food Equipment at (855) 888-9644 or contact us here.