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Doner kebabs

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A doner kebab is a popular take-away food consisting of thin slices cut from a cylindrical block of minced and seasoned meat (beef, lamb or chicken) grilled on a vertical, rotating spit and eaten on unleavened bread with fresh salad and sauce. It is not a shish-kebab!

What is the concern with kebabs?

If not made hygienically, doner kebabs can pose a food safety risk for customers, because some of the ingredients are capable of allowing the rapid growth of disease causing bacteria.

How can I make kebabs safely?

In making commercial doner kebabs safely, the following practices should be observed:

Keep everything clean:

  • always wash hands whenever they are a likely source of contamination (such as after hanging a kebab block) in a proper hand washing facility.

Temperature control:

  • it’s easy to contaminate kebab ingredients such as hommus, tabouli and cheese. Only use such ingredients if they are properly refrigerated (at or below 5°C), packaged and labelled, particularly with date codes
  • frozen kebab meat should be kept frozen until used
  • if you are making your own kebab, keep fresh minced meat for making kebabs under refrigeration until ready for use. Refrigerate freshly made kebab meat while it is setting
  • if you thaw frozen kebab meat before cooking, thaw under refrigeration
  • store potentially hazardous food (including dairy-based sauces) at or below 5°C. Check with a thermometer
  • the bacteria that cause food poisoning grow between 5°C and 60°C. This is commonly referred to as the “temperature danger zone”. Keep cold food in the fridge until you are ready to cook or serve; serve hot foot steaming hot
  • don’t leave foods in the temperature danger zone longer than 2 hours.

Cook thoroughly:

  • start cooking the kebab meat immediately after removing it from cold storage
  • ensure sliced meat is properly cooked and kept above 60°C until served. Use a thermometer to check temperatures
  • don't use any uncooked kebab meat left over from the previous day, unless it was placed directly into the freezer once cooking had stopped. This ensures kebab meat is rapidly cooled to less than 21°C within 2 hours and to 5°C or less within a further 4 hours. (Monitor with a probe thermometer)

Prevent cross contamination of food:

  • separate raw and cooked food
  • remember to wash your hands thoroughly in hot soapy water and dry them before preparing food and after touching raw meat, especially chicken, and other raw foods
  • thoroughly clean all utensils, equipment, surfaces and tea towels after preparing raw food and before contact with other food
  • store seafood, raw meat and chicken at the bottom of the fridge so they can’t drip onto other foods
  • keep pets and animals out of the kitchen
  • don't prepare food for yourself or others if you are ill, especially if suffering from diarrhoea.

Other good tips

  • don't overload refrigerators, as this reduces cooling efficiency
  • cover food in the refrigerator
  • thaw frozen food correctly - in the fridge or microwave or sink filled with water
  • consider using a meat thermometer to make sure food is cooked right through, for example the core temperature of a whole turkey or chicken should reach 75°C
  • remember the "2-hour rule" when entertaining with a large meal or buffet. Don’t let perishable foods linger for longer than two hours in the danger zone
  • only keep refrigerated leftovers for 3 days and reheat until streaming hot.
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