What are called “TCS” foods (for Time and Temperature Control for Safety) in the world of food service sanitation include dairy products, proteins, tofu and soy proteins, untreated garlic-and-oil mixtures, and heat-treated plants foods like beans, among others. That includes the majority of popular dips.
TCS foods need to be kept out of the temperature danger zone, which for cold foods means at 41ºF or lower. There are times, though, that in the commercial food world you can serve cold food without temperature control. A food service operation is allowed to hold cold food without temperature control for up to six hours provided the following conditions are met:
- The food was kept at 41ºF or lower before removing it from refrigeration.
- The food is labeled when removed from refrigeration with a discard time of six hours later. (This wouldn’t apply to you, obviously.)
- The food temperature doesn’t exceed 70ºF while it’s being served.
- The food is discarded after six hours.
So if you feel you can meet these criteria, go ahead and bring your dips of choice; just be prepared to toss any leftovers after this amount of time to be on the safe side.
If you’d rather not face tossing any leftovers, there are a few dips that can stay out at room temperature longer. They’re going to be limited, though. What comes to mind is something more of a runny dunking sauce versus a dip with the body usually associated with them. It needs to be flavorful enough that enough of its essence remains to season the dipper.
A garlic/olive oil dip, with or without herbs – or even anchovies, like the French anchoïade – should be modified such that the garlic is cooked gently before the other ingredients are added, because raw garlic kept in olive oil has been known to grow botulism. It’s typically not a problem, but you don’t want to have it happen to you!
Italian pinzimonio is flavored olive oil, too. It can be as simple as with salt and pepper added, or a mix of salt, pepper, and chopped herbs like rosemary, sage, basil, parsley, etc. And lastly, an Asian dipping sauce with roasted sesame oil, vinegar, scallions, and soy and/or fish sauce, is a possibility.