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Best practices for in-use utensils

Utensils are important tools in busy kitchens and foodservice environments. Knowing how to properly use, store, and handle utensils so that they do not contribute to foodborne illness and contamination concerns is extremely important. This document outlines important points about in-use utensils that all staff members should know.


Utensils being used regularly during food prep and service

There are several effective ways to hold utensils that are being used regularly during food prep and service that will prevent them becoming a potential source of foodborne illness bacteria:

  • Utensils can be held on a clean, dry surface for up to 4 hours.
  • Utensils can be held in a refrigerated unit at 4°C/41°F or less for 24 hours.
  • Utensils can be held in a container of hot water maintained at 60°C/135°F or more for 24 hours.
  • Utensils can be held submerged in a dipper well with continuous running water.

Utensils must be properly cleaned and sanitized whenever there is a risk of cross-contamination (i.e., moving from handling raw to cooked foods) or the maximum time is reached.

In between uses a cloth that is stored in sanitizer can be used to remove excess build-up. This does not replace proper cleaning and sanitizing which requires the four steps of wash, rinse, sanitize, and air-dry.

Storing in sanitizer is not recommended

  • Excess food debris from utensils placed in sanitizer can quickly inactivate sanitizer leaving it unable to be effective.
  • Proper sanitizing requires wash, rinse, sanitize, air-dry to effectively complete it’s full 99.9% reduction in bacteria.
  • An allergic reaction could occur to sanitizer being in food when a utensil is pulled out and touches food.
  • It is also not recommended to store in-use utensils in ice water. Ice melts rapidly in the heat of a kitchen leaving a water mixture with food debris introduced from the utensils. This can be conducive to the growth of bacteria. It is also time consuming to have to continually replenish the ice.
  • Always comply with instructions from your local health inspector. If their instructions do not align with these guidelines, please inform your Steritech Specialist.

Key tips for managing in-use utensils

Here are some key tips to help you manage your in-use utensils.


  • Use designated color-coded utensils for raw poultry, other raw foods and ready-to-eat foods.
  • This helps prevent cross-contamination and reduces the number of times the utensil must be cleaned and sanitized.


  • Handles provide an extra measure of safety so hands are limited from contacting food and food contact surfaces.
  • Bowls and ramekins, for example are not suitable food utensils.


  • Handles must extend out of containers of foods that require time/temperature control.
  • They can be stored in the container with foods that don’t require time/temperature control as long as the handle doesn’t rest in the food.


  • Utensils should be checked every time they are cleaned to ensure they are not damaged.
  • Pieces of damaged utensils could end up in food.
  • The damaged area is also hard to clean which could allow bacteria a place to grow.

Utensils are key tools and it's important to know how to store and handle them to avoid foodborne illness.

Learn about how to properly use utensils to protect against foodborne illness.

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