It’s Chat Leftovers, at your service — and “service” is the key word in Food this week:
Tim Carman looks at today’s relaxed new style of restaurant service and how it’s changing the dining experience.
Fritz Hahn finds out how bars that stock hundreds of varieties of beer groom their staff to be able to describe those beers to customers.
And Maura Judkis talks to restaurant managers to find out what diners should do when a meal just doesn’t go their way.
Also this week, Bonnie S. Benwick looks at the latest crop of “healthful” cookbooks and finds that “dieting” is out, “rebooting” is in.
It’s cold outside, so why not pour a cup of cocoa and wait for noon? That’s when we begin the weekly Free Range chat, and it would be great to have you stop by. Bring along a culinary question or two, and I promise you an entertaining and rewarding hour.
While you wait, here’s a leftover question from last week’s chat:
I got a refrigerator thermometer for Christmas. What’s the proper temperature setting for a fridge?
Okay, maybe not the most elegant Christmas gift, but a refrigerator thermometer is a terrific idea. Your gift giver has my admiration.
Here’s the short answer: The ideal refrigerator temperature, measured in the middle of the middle shelf, is between 35 and 38 degrees. Your fridge needs to be warm enough so your food doesn’t freeze (32 degrees) but not so warm that it crosses into the bacterial danger zone (above 40 degrees). So a number somewhere around the middle of those two bookends makes sense.
You probably know that some places in the refrigerator are warmer than others. The bottom and rear generally are colder, and the door is the balmiest spot of all. If you keep the thermometer in the middle and set the fridge so that the thermometer registers 35 or 36, that should be high enough so the lower produce crisper bins don’t turn your iceberg lettuce into actual icebergs. And cool enough so the butter and whatever else you stash in the door compartments — hopefully nothing that needs to be kept super cold — won’t overheat.
By the way, place that thermometer where you can easily see it, and turned toward the front. Otherwise, by the time you dig it out from behind the pickle jar and get a good look, the open fridge door will have caused the temperature to change, maybe even by quite a bit.
Now that you’ve got a fridge thermometer, why not keep going by getting a freezer thermometer? For the freezer, you don’t want the temperature to go higher than 0 degrees.
Here’s a cool freezer tip: If you were to lose power for a few days while you were out of town but the power came back on in time to re-freeze your food, you might never realize you had a freezer full of unsafe food. Pack a few ice cubes in a re-sealable bag or piece of plasticware and stash them in the freezer. If the ice melts and then re-freezes, you’ll be able to tell. It’s your canary in the coal mine, sort of.
The FDA has information about fridge and freezer thermometers, and safe refrigeration methods, here. As for the thermometers themselves, you can buy them almost anywhere for as little as $5. At that price, a bargain.