Time and Temperature Control (TCS) Foods

Time and Temperature Control (TCS) Foods

Chef Checking Food Temperature

There are certain foods that create a better environment for bacteria to multiply. Time and temperature controlled (TCS) foods are foods that when not correctly stored, heated, cooled, or prepared run the risk of having high numbers of pathogenic bacteria.

Knowing what TCS foods are and how to properly control their temperature will help ensure that your customers do not get a foodborne illness, making it an integral part of food safety training.

List of TCS Foods

The following foods need strict time and temperature control when preparing, serving, and storing:

  • Dairy products
  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Soy protein (i.e. tofu)
  • Raw sprouts
  • Cooked or cut fruits and vegetables
  • Cooked rice, pasta, and potatoes
  • Unmodified garlic oils

Foods that are dried, canned, vacuum packed, high in acidity, or high in salt or sugar are considered low-risk foods as they don’t have good conditions for bacteria to grow in.

Temperature Danger Zone

The temperature danger zone is between 40°F - 140°F and is the temperature range in which foodborne bacteria can thrive. For TCS foods, it is important to minimize time in the temperature danger zone in order to prevent bacteria from multiplying.

TCS Foods Temperature Controls

It is especially important to keep TCS foods out of the temperature danger zone in order to avoid spreading foodborne illnesses.

Here is how to properly hold, cook, thaw, and reheat foods that will keep pathogenic bacteria from multiplying.

Cold Holding

Cold TCS foods must be held at 40°F or below.

Hot Holding

TCS hot foods should be maintained at 135°F or above.


Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, under running water, or during the cooking process. NEVER thaw frozen foods at room temperature.


Cook TCS foods to their minimum required temperature, as listed on our recommended safe minimum internal cooking temperatures guide.


If the TCS food is at 135°F, it must be cooled to 70°F in 2 hours and 41°F within 6 hours. From room temperature, TCS foods must be cooled to 41°F within 4 hours.

Remember to keep containers with hot food uncovered while cooling to prevent condensation, then cover once it is cooled.


When reheating, TCS foods must reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F for at least 15 seconds within 2 hours.

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