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Buying Guides.

Understanding Beverage Equipment
Hot beverages offer some of the best profit margins in catering with ingredient cost a few pence and selling price usually in excess of £1. That margin allows caterers to invest in high performance beverage equipment, since a quality drink allows for a premium selling price. Yet while the end product is a cup of coffee, there are different ways of making it. What caterers have to do is understand what the different beverage system are for and which is right for the business. These are different types of coffee systems available.
The most simple of coffee making systems yet still capable of delivering excellent freshly brewed coffee. Despite their low cost and simplicity, cafetieres are seen in very smart hotels and restaurants.
It is possible to get them in polycarbonate (a plastic), but heat-resistant glass is the more common construction material with a brass or chromed cage. The size of a cafetiere is given in the number of cups it can deliver, usually from three to eight.
Because different quantities of coffee will be ordered according to the customers sat around the table, it is important to carry a wide range of cafetiere sizes. A three-cup size will normally be enough for one or two customers and likely to be the most popular order size, but should a party of four order coffee a six or eight-cup size will be needed.
The one word of caution is that the detergents used in commercial dishwashers may be unsuitable for a cafetiere and hand washing will be needed. A supplier will advise on washing prior to purchase.
Pour and serve
This is the familiar balloon-shaped glass jug unit, usually two jugs to a unit, one being filled underneath the unit by hot water run through coffee grounds held in a filter while the other glass jug is held warm on the top of the machine from a heat pad. This system is inexpensive and provides a good cup of coffee, providing the coffee is not allowed to stew on the heat-pad for too long. One hour is considered the maximum time to hold coffee in this manner. Pour and serve systems are ideal for catering operations such as pubs, cafes and small restaurants where demand is steady, but not huge.
Soluble machines
These work on freeze-dried ingredients, often a similar type to coffee granules seen on supermarket shelves. They are very convenient and can be cheap for the smaller machines, making them suitable for low-demand coffee needs such as cafes or pubs. The bigger automatic soluble machines are very fast, delivering a cup of coffee from one-button touch, making them popular with fast-food chains, airports and motorway service areas.
Espresso machines
These are usually semi-automatic or fully automatic. The semi-automatic machines need dispense staff to be well-trained on machine operation to provide coffee with the best flavour and the trademark creamy topping on espresso (called the crema), but manufacturers often offer training packages with the sale of a machine. Fully automatic machines require less operator skill, but staff still need proper training. The two main advantages of automatic espresso machines are that they deliver quality with consistency and speed.
Bulk brewers
These are aimed at any catering operation which has the need for a large volume of coffee to be available in a very short time. Typically, this would be a hotel for breakfast service, refreshment periods during conference breaks or for after-dinner coffee in banqueting, but bulk brewers can also be very useful for staff restaurants, roadside catering, universities and hospitals. They are plumbed-in systems which will both brew the coffee, usually from fresh coffee grounds, and hold it in an internal tank so it can be dispensed for service to customers through traditional table-top coffee pots or into airpots or vacuum jugs.
Tea making and water boilers
An on-demand supply of very hot water is essential for every catering operation and while tea making may be the main function of a hot water boiler, they have many more uses in a catering environment, from hot beverages other than tea, to chefs needing a quick source of very hot water. It is essential to get the right capacity of hot-water output which meets both the current need and future needs after growth of the business. The best way to do this is to talk to manufacturers. They will look at the nature of the business, assess water boiler needs and recommend a size of machine which is neither too small or too large. The advice will be free.
Look after it!
Beverage machines cover a wide range of hot drink dispensers and looking after them can range from basic hygiene principles to strict hygiene routines depending on the type of machine.
Looking after water boilers, which are mostly used for tea making, but have a much wider application in the kitchen and for hotels and restaurants, primarily concerns water treatment to deal with limescale build-up on heating elements, the holding tank, inflow and dispense pipework.
This should be done through a water treatment system, which is essential in hard water areas and recommended in soft water areas. Beyond water treatment control, water boilers need little maintenance beyond a quick check during a regular maintenance programme. Pour and serve coffee machines, usually the balloon jug underneath a percolating filter of fresh coffee are also fairly maintenance free apart from the hard water issue which means regular de-scaling is essential.
Where careful looking after beverage machines becomes more important is with coffee machines that produces espresso and the fresh-ground coffee variant drinks that come from an espresso machine.
Espresso machines work under high pressure and have internal pipework through which water and coffee flows. They can also have internal milk holding and frothing systems which bring both hygiene and maintenance issues.
The traditional image of a coffee barista shows used dispense heads being banged to release used coffee grounds into a disposal bin, slapping new coffee heads into place on the machine and generally treating the coffee machine as part of the rough and tumble theatre of good coffee production.
The theatre is very important for front of house coffee sales, but too much robust use of expensive espresso machines might please the barista and the customer in the short term. But add significantly to maintenance and replacement costs not just in the long term but in the medium term.
As with any equipment that uses mains water within internal pipework, all plumbed in coffee machine should have a water treatment system fitted. The type of water treatment should meet the challenges of the local water. A specialist water treatment company will advise on the correct type of system for the local water.
Most coffee systems have a facility for steam heating milk for the production of milk-based coffee drinks such as latte and cappuccino. This is often a steam wand on the side of the machine into which a jug of milk can be placed to both heat and froth.
Milk is a prime breeding ground for harmful bacteria and coffee machines with a milk steam wand should have the steam wand cleaned and sanitised at least every six hours. Some semi-automatic machines have a refrigerated milk system within the unit. These need rigorous care and it is essential to follow the manufacturer guidance on how to keep the unit clean and safe.
Where a machine has a steam wand cleaning cycle this should be used according to manufacturers instructions. Many espresso machines now have a self-cleaning cycle which can work from a button touch and takes just a few minutes.
In Brief
• Fit a water treatment system
• Thoroughly clean where milk has been
• Keep the drip tray clean
• Clean machines daily
• Train staff to make good coffee
• Rough handle dispense heads
• Leave sugary spills to attract pests
• Use hard tap water in unplumbed machines
• Allow untrained adjustments to machines
• Leave spilt ingredients in soluble machines
• Wash cafetieres in a dishwasher

Understanding Combi Ovens
A combi-oven combines several cooking functions in one piece of kitchen equipment and the shortening of the description “combination” is how a combi-oven gets its name. The combi-oven uses dry heat - either still or fan-driven - and steam, which is injected into the oven when the food being cooked needs it. An alternative name for the oven is the combi-steamer.
The combi-oven is the most versatile piece of equipment any professional kitchen can have. These are just some of the examples of its benefits:
Meat – Up to a third of the weight of a piece of meat can be lost during dry roasting through loss of the water content of the meat. Having gentle steam in the oven during roasting both minimises weight loss and produces a more tender joint.
Fish – steaming is an ideal cooking medium for this delicate product.
Vegetables – By cooking in steam instead of boiling water, vegetables keep more of their nutritional value and natural colour.
Baking – by operating as a fan-driven convection oven, baked goods are evenly and crisply cooked. A slight injection of steam can also enhance some baked foods such as bread.
Regeneration – Food which has been pre-cooked and correctly chilled prior to service can be rapidly brought up to serving temperature, avoiding the need to hold food hot for long periods which leads to flavour loss and drying out. Combi-ovens are ideal for busy banqueting operations and can handle both ready-plated meals and multi-portion containers.
What is needed in the kitchen to install a combi-oven?
A water supply and energy supply. Combi-ovens will run off electric, mains gas and LPG.
How to calculate the size of combi-oven needed
This is a job an oven manufacturer will arrange for you. The size of combi-oven needed is calculated by the amount and types of food to be cooked.
A combi-oven is not just for big food operations
Combi-ovens come in a range of sizes and all manufacturers build ovens for the small independent caterer as well as the very high volume outlets
Technical question to ask before making a choice of combi-oven
• What are the performance and cost implications resulting from steam coming from a water boiler or by spraying water onto heated elements in the oven?
• Why is it necessary to fit a water filtration system to the oven to remove dissolved salts in the water and prevent scaling?
• Is there a high pre-heat function to enable fast heat recovery when cold food is put into the oven?
• How easy the oven cavity and the door seals are to clean and what self-cleaning features the oven has.
• What are the programming features, how easy are they for staff to understand and do they meet my kitchen needs? Is there a self-diagnostic facility to warn me should something go wrong?
• Is there a food core temperature probe, rapid cool-down feature or a reversible fan for even heat distribution?
Look after it!
The combi-oven is the workhorse of the kitchen and one of the most versatile items of prime cooking equipment any kitchen can have. It can steam, bake, roast and “dry-fry” chips, breaded and battered frozen products using the residual fat in the coating.
This multi-function feature of the combi-oven means many different foods and cooking methods may be put through the combi oven in any one working day. Typically, chickens may be roasted, fish steamed and frozen bakery goods finished off. That versatility means there are lots of different flavours and smells occurring in the combi-oven. Everything cooked will deposit its own residual taste in the oven which brings up “Look After It” rule No. 1 – keep the oven clean to avoid flavour transfer.
This is important where strongly-flavoured foods such as chicken or fish have been cooked and then vegetables are to be regenerated or patisserie and desserts cooked. Many combi-ovens have a push-button clean cycle which will wash the oven cavity and take away any food residue so a delicately flavoured food following on tastes of its ingredients sand not what was previously cooked. Where a high production kitchen has a bank of combi-ovens, if there is not an in-built self-clean cycle, it is possible to get mobile cleaning systems which can be wheeled to each oven in turn.
The most important clean cycle is the one at the end of each cooking shift. Food residue and debris left will harden and build up.
Door gaskets are built to withstand high heat and heavy use, but they are not indestructible. The soft and flexible nature of these seals mean that while they keep the cooking atmosphere in; they do need care to avoid unnecessary damage and subsequent replacement. Door slamming on any piece of kitchen equipment is a common cause of premature service need and replacement cost. A kitchen manager should always have an ear for this abuse of combi-ovens and train staff to close doors firmly, but not slam.
Door seals can also suffer from a build-up of food debris. The folds in the door gasket which give the close seal will inevitably attract food debris. The manual or automatic clean cycle will clean the oven cavity, but a manual inspection and clean with a grease detergent and clean cloth will bring long life to door seals.
High-fat foods such as chickens can deposit large amounts of fat in the oven. Combi –ovens have different ways of dealing with this. Some have fat drains where the chicken – or any residual grease – drains through a pipe in the bottom of the oven into a collection bucket.
Some have just internal collection depositories or there may not be any facility to collect excess cooking grease.
Where a trap system is built into the combi-oven, the route the fat travels through must be cleaned at the end of every working day to prevent a build-up of fat becoming a hygiene and oven drainage problem.
The combination of different cooking systems in a combi-oven gives versatility, but it also combines water, heat, electricity and computer circuitry in one cooking machine. None of those elements sit easily together and a bad reaction between two of those factors can be a cause of operational problems that need an unplanned visit of a service engineer.
Which highlights the most important point of looking after a combi-oven. A regular service contract is essential. This is preventative maintenance which can spot problems in a combi-oven before they become expensive.
Water treatment for combi-ovens is very important, check the index for a separate section on this.
In brief
Fit a water treatment system
Check door seals weekly
Clean daily
Slam doors
Trap probes in doors
Cook strongly flavoured foods with delicate foods
Allow fats to carbonise in the cavity
Leave food debris trapped in door seals
Neglect to clean fat drains

Understanding Cooking Ranges
The cooking range is the traditional heart of a kitchen. There is little that can’t be cooked in one. There are four types of cooking range.
Open top burners
Open top cooking ranges are either gas burners or electric radiants with an oven underneath. The most common configuration is for either four or six burners or radiants, but a greater number of burners or radiants are available for very busy kitchens. Their big advantage is fuel efficiency, since almost all of the heat is directed at the cooking pan and not into the kitchen environment. Direct contact with the heat source also means pans can be heated very quickly.
Key points to look for when buying a range include at least one burner or radiant that is more powerful than the others for fast boiling or heating large pans. Also look for ease of cleaning as ranges get very dirty. Ensure you buy a model with a build specification rugged enough to meet the demands of the kitchen and check for availability of spare parts.
Solid Tops
These have a solid cast iron top heated underneath either by strategically placed gas jets or electric elements. They will have an oven underneath the same as an open burner range. Their advantage is that size for size, they can accommodate more pans than an open burner range and pans can be moved around from fierce direct heat to a cooler part of the top. Can be wasteful on energy where there are unused areas of the top being heated.
Key points to look for on a solid top include seeing if it just part of the top can witched on when just a few pans are cooking to save energy and has the stove got a rapid heat point for fast boiling?
Boiling tables
The top is exactly the same as a standard cooking range, but with a boiling table there is no oven below. This is useful for reducing purchase cost when there is already sufficient oven capacity in the kitchen. The space below is also a convenient storage area for pans.
Island Suites
These combine a cooking range with other prime cooking units such as a salamander grill, deep-fat fryer, pasta boiler, griddle and char grill. Their reputation is for withstanding the most punishing of cooking demands in busy kitchens. The closeness of cooking functions saves on space and allows chefs to control several cooking functions close to hand. While they are mostly an “island” situated in the centre of a kitchen allowing chefs to work from both sides of the range, they can be wall-facing so that all the cooking stations are in a line. There are two types of island suites.
Modular Island Suites
This system is usually bespoke in construction, with the individual cooking units that a kitchen needs bonded together to for a seamless unit. There is a wide range of options which can include a burner range, a solid top, fryers, pasta cookers griddles, ovens, griddles, grills, char-grills, induction hobs – in fact any type of prime cooking process.
One-piece island suites
These are usually built as a solid cooking suite in the factory and as well as off-the-shelf configurations, bespoke units can be built to order. Since these are modelled on the classic tradition of island suites, they tend to stay with dry heat as a cooking medium rather than offering fryers and water-based cookers as part of the configuration.
Look After It!
All professional catering equipment is engineered to take hard use and to be easy to use, but there are few items as simple to operate and look after as the cooking range. There is just one golden rule to keep performance high and unnecessary maintenance costs low – keep it clean.
With gas fired cooking ranges, there will be high performance burners designed to deliver the maximum energy efficiency conversion from the gas to the heat output. Gas burners almost always operate on a star system with mini jets of flame shooting out of the burner in a circle.
The way burners are designed is that the hottest part of the flame is just beyond the deep blue core of the flame. To burn at maximum efficiency the gas needs to be mixed with air which will come through a vent in the gas burner delivery pipe. The efficiency of a cooking range burner assumes that the burners and the air vents are clean and not obstructed by food debris.
In a busy kitchen, food spillage on the cooking range is inevitable. When food falls into a gas burner it immediately burns, turns to carbon and blocks one or more of the jets, either completely or partially. This disrupts the gas flow and the mix of air and gas and causes energy conversion inefficiency. Cooking is slower and more costly.
Any major spillages on gas jets should be cleaned immediately, minor spillages should be cleaned at the end of shift. A useful tip for gas cooking ranges is to have tin foil spread underneath the burners so spillages can be binned and wiping down made easier.
Cleaning behind and underneath cooking ranges is as important cleaning the surface. Having a cooker on castors with a flexible gas connection hose makes this easy, a point to consider when buying a cooking range.
Most cooking ranges have an oven underneath and the same cleaning principles surrounding spillages and gas burner efficiency apply. What is common to both electric and gas cooking range ovens is that door abuse costs money.
Doors need closing firmly, not slamming, which will give premature hinge and closing fastener damage. If the oven door is pull-down rather than side opening, there is an additional damage risk if the drop-down door is used as a step to reach shelves above the range. Where the cooking range is part of an island suite and cooking utensils are stored above the unit, it is a too common practice by chefs to use the drop-down oven door as a stepladder.
Electric hob cooking ranges are built around stainless steel surfaces. The hobs will burn off any food spillage, but other spillage will drip onto the stainless steel top. Stainless steel used in cooking range construction is tough and polished to make cleaning easy. Scrubbing burned-on food debris with hard wire scrubbers will damage the surface of the stainless steel and lead to harder work to keep the stainless steel clean. It is better to use a professional detergent spray formulated for cleaning cookers and a recommended cleaning pad.
When a service engineer calls for scheduled routine maintenance part of the service call will be ensuring that the oven cavity and the burners are clean. The engineer will do this, but the cost will far higher than if the kitchen staff had done the cleaning first.
The cooking range may be simple to use and work with, but needs the same level of operational care as any other item of prime cooking equipment.
In brief
Clean any spilt food from a range immediately
Ensure gas burner jets are not clogged
Clean pan supports weekly
Putting sheets of tin foil under the gas burners makes cleaning easier
Clean oven cavities weekly
Use harsh abrasives on stainless steel
Stand on drop-down doors
Have pans too near the edge of the range
Slam oven doors
Leave jets turned on when there is no cooking

Understanding Cookware
Cookware is pans, baking dishes and serving dishes and comes in hundreds of shapes and sizes and perform hundreds of different cooking tasks, but when construction is stripped down to the basics, there are just a handful of materials used in professional cookware.
Black Iron - The most simple and cheapest cookware made from mild steel. While cost is on its side, rusting is a risk. They are not particularly easy to clean and if not thoroughly dried, tarnishing can occur overnight necessitating cleaning again before being used for cooking.
Black iron frying pans are notorious for sticking with items such as fish and eggs and the pan has to be seasoned before use. A layer of salt is put on the inside base and heated up. The effect of this is to seal any surface imperfection in the base of the pan. The salt is removed, replaced by cooking oil and heated till it smokes. The pan is then ready for use. But if it is washed in soapy water, then the whole seasoning process has to be re-done. This is why Chinese chefs seldom wash their black iron woks and seem never to be troubled with food sticking. When black iron was much more common in kitchens chefs would often keep one pan kept aside just for omelettes.
Aluminium – The workhorse of many kitchens and still the predominant pan metal for institutional kitchens where the kitchen is on a very tight capital cost budget. The advantage of aluminium is that it is cheap, does not corrode and is a superb conductor of heat. This makes aluminium a good pan for boiling and on cost grounds is suitable for very big pans such as stockpots. One of its big disadvantages is that it can react with acidic food to give flavour taint. It also cannot be used on induction hobs and as with black iron is prone to sticking when food is fried.
Cheap aluminium pans are made from a single sheet of metal, but the best professional aluminium pans have a thicker base to spread the heat more evenly. Medium-duty aluminium pans with a base thick of 3mm to 4mm are suitable for open-top cooking ranges, but with the more intense heat of a solid-top range or for hard use, a heavy-duty pan with a base of 7mm will perform better.
Stainless steel - Fast becoming the material of choice for hotels and restaurants because it is doesn’t tarnish, is easy to clean, hygienic, hard-wearing, less prone to sticking than other metals and looks good. Because it is so popular, there is wide variation in stainless steel quality on the market. As with aluminium, the base of the pan will be layered. This usually takes the form of a three-layer sandwich with stainless steel on the bottom, aluminium in the middle to give good conductivity and stainless steel on top. Some top of the range pans will have up to seven sandwich layers.
Cheap stainless steel pans look serviceable, but are unsuitable for the professional kitchen. The thin gauge of the metal on cheap stainless steel pans gives very poor heat distribution, they will tarnish easily and because the metal surface is poorly polished sticking can be a problem. On workplace safety grounds cheap stainless steel pans can also be dangerous. The tack welding that holds the handle on could be very poor and snap without warning when full with hot liquid.
Non-stick- Most professional kitchens have a small selection of non-stick cookware. It is perfect for frying delicate fish such as sole and plaice, omelettes never stick and using non-stick frying pans can be part of a low-fat style of cooking. The cheapest non-stick is coated on aluminium, but because of the relative softness of aluminium, the non-stick layer will not last as long as it could when on steel. The main cause of damage to the non-stick coating apart from the obvious one of using metal utensils is getting the temperature too high which
will damage the coating. While normal frying is done at 200 deg C, flash frying over a fierce heat can send the base temperature way over 250 deg C causing splitting of the non-stick coating. That is why true wok cooking works better with black iron woks rather than non-stick woks.
Copper pans - Once the material of choice in the classic professional kitchen, their use is dwindling in the face of stainless steel. The traditional construction would be copper for the conductivity lined with tin to protect the food from contamination from the copper.
It is still possible to buy copper-tin pans and they can still be retinned, but copper lined with stainless steel is the growing part of this market, for all the qualities that stainless steel has combined with the conductivity and good looks of copper. One downside of copper pans is their solid metal handles, which can get far hotter than the tubular handles found on stainless steel or aluminium cookware.
Cooking dishes
Stoneware - While these colourful dishes are more often used for food presentation on a servery, they have a lot of temperature tolerance. The manufacturing process can see the clay baked at 1300 deg C for up to 10 hours to achieve great toughness. This material will withstand a temperature range of –20 deg to 250 deg, making them suitable for oven to counter use. Most are dishwasher-friendly and all can be placed in a microwave oven, but definitely not on a hob as the sudden burst of heat will cause the ceramic to shatter.
Many cooking pots are available with matching lids for closed-lid cooking in the oven and to help keep the food warm while on a service counter. Baked-on food debris will benefit from soaking in water before going into the dishwasher, but avoid abrasive scouring pads of detergents as this may damage the surface. Stacking the dishes inside each other can also contribute to surface scratching.
Enamelled cast iron - These pans and casserole dishes are made in cast iron for strength, conductivity of heat and heat retention, then coated both inside and out with an enamel paint which is baked onto the cast iron at high temperature to give a smooth cooking surface and prevent rusting. The colourful nature of these pots and dishes make them suitable for oven to counter like stoneware. The enamelled surface is not suitable for frying due a tendency for sticking. In addition to enamelled cast iron, a variation is enamelled stainless steel.

Understanding Deep-fat Fryers
While called a deep-fat fryer, all food floats in hot oil, cooking in the top two inches of the fryer. This can lead to a kitchen having a fryer which is too big and heating up more oil than needed.
Another mistake is to take a particular day when frying capacity is high, such as fish and chips being popular on a Friday, and buy a fryer as if demand were that high every day.
The industry-wide performance measure of a deep-fat fryer is usually given in weight of chips per hour the fryer can cope with. On face value, that sounds a level playing field, but it is not. Pounds of chips per hour assumes an even demand throughout the day, which seldom happens. For many caterers there is a huge burst of demand for chips at midday, so basing fryer needs on what the output of chips is over an hour doesn’t reflect what the kitchen actually has to produce in a much shorter time than an hour.
Another point to consider when looking a chips-per-hour ratings between different fryers is to ensure that the same type of chip is being rated by each manufacturer. Fry times will vary considerably between frozen chips, chilled chips, blanched chips and the size of chips. The best way of finding out the size and power of fryer needed is to ask a manufacturer to calculate the capacity based on your weekly throughput of fried foods.
Gas or electric power?
There is no clear answer to which is better, both have their own distinctive advantages. The general rule of thumb is that electric fryers are cheaper to buy and suitable for low to medium volume needs. If the kitchen is churning out high volumes of fried product, particularly chips, then gas-powered fryers may be dearer to buy, but will cheaper to run. However, there have been advances in the technology of electric fryers and the operation cost and performance between gas and electric can be negligible.
Servicing costs on gas fryers may be slightly more expensive because of the need to check the gas system.
If the inclination is towards gas fired fryers; there are three heating systems with no clear choice on which is the best option. Tube burners have wide tubes running across the lower inside of the fry tank. Inside the tubes are gas jets which transfer the heat into the oil through the tube wall.
The second gas system is to have a big bank of gas jets concentrated on the exterior of the fry tank while the third, is a system using infra-red heaters, which give a high output of heat.
Good frying practice
A problem common to all gas-fired deep-fat fryers is that the rapid transfer of heat into the oil through a metal wall can lead to oil burn in the base of the fry tank. This happens when food debris falls to the base of the tank and carbonises because of the intense heat. This leads to oil taint and a breakdown of the oil.
The way to get around this used by most manufacturers is a feature called the cool zone. This is normally a sharp depression in the base of the tank which is below the level of the gas burners. Food debris drifts down through the oil and collects in this cool depression, which can often be up to 30 deg C below that of the cooking area of the fry tank. A recent development has been a high-performance flat-bottomed gas fryer without a cool zone.
In a busy operation it makes sense to have at least two deep-fat fryers, once kept exclusively for chips, the other frying anything else.
Electric-powered fryers which have heating elements in the tank have less of a need for a cool zone, but some do still have them on the bigger models.
Oil filtration
With some fryers or small counter-top models, the usual method of oil filtration is the traditional one of a bucket, a sieve with a tea-towel in it and pouring the oil into the bucket through the sieve. This can be both dangerous and inefficient. It is better to buy a freestanding oil filtration system. Either way, oil should be filtered daily.
Some fryers solve the oil filtration issue is using in-built filtration systems. Commonly, the oil is released through the bottom of the tank while still hot through a system of filters and pumped back into the fry tank. The whole process takes between three and five minutes and since the most the operator does is press buttons and open a valve, the safety risks are almost non-existent.
Look after it!
A deep fat fryer is one of the workhorses of the kitchen and has almost no moving parts and has a low maintenance cost. But that does not mean that kitchen staff should not look after it.
The biggest maintenance job of a deep-fat fryer is the cooking oil. Cared for, it will last many sessions without the need for changing. Used carelessly with too high a temperature, a failure to clean and filter food debris at the end of every kitchen session and oil can be degraded within a couple of days.
While oil is the big maintenance issue in a deep-fat fryer, it does not mean the fryer itself can be neglected. Oil can quickly solidify and become baked onto the frying baskets. This is not just unsightly, but can taint the oil. Regular passing of the baskets through the dishwasher will keep the build-up down, if not totally eliminate it.
Baked-on oil is also a problem in the fry tank and periodic degreasing with a strong detergent during oil changes will soften the fat and a non-abrasive kitchen scrubber or plastic bowl scraper will remove much of it. The fry tank will want thoroughly rinsing after the use of detergent and if there are electric element or tubes in the tank, care must be taken not to damage them.
A build up of sticky grease will happen over time around dials for power control making them move slower. This puts stress on what are often plastic fittings and can lead to the dial shearing on the control pin. If the control dial pulls off, then do so on a regular basis and clean around the dial. As part of a regular maintenance cycle by a service engineer, the dials may be stripped down, cleaned underneath and lubricated with a long-lasting grease able to withstand high heat without dribbling away such as lithium grease.
If there are auto-lift baskets on the fryer, then the lift mechanism should also be kept clean, but this is another job that can be done thoroughly on a routine service call.
It is an engineer’s job to ensure that any item of equipment serviced is left in a clean condition as well as a good working condition. If the deep-fat fryer has been allowed to become very dirty with a high build-up of congealed oil on the casing, the engineer may well
remove it, but this is going to reflect in the cost of servicing. Far Better that a member of the kitchen staff do the cleaning before the service engineer arrives.
But do not allow kitchen staff to use abrasive scrubbers or powders on control dials which could eventually remove the dial setting marks and bring about the need for a replacement dial.
In brief
Remove food debris from oil as directed by the manufacturer
Keep fry baskets clean
Use an oil filtration system
Check for a build-up of grease at the rear of the fryer
Clean stainless steel fry tanks with harsh abrasives
Allow a build-up of grease on control dials
Damage tank heating elements during cleaning
Allow staff to knock off excess oil with the size of the fry tank

Understanding Warewashing
Warewashing equipment is the collective industry name for dishwashers and glasswashers. It derives its name from glass “ware” and table “ware.”
A common question from caterers is why can’t they use the same machine for both glasswashing and plate washing? The answer is you can and very small establishments cannot justify the cost of a dedicated glasswasher and dishwasher, but there are problems in using the same machine for glassware and tableware. The wash time for glassware is very short, so putting glasses in with the longer wash cycle needed for tableware wastes energy.
Food debris from tableware can easily cause smears and spots on glassware, leading to the need for hand finishing or re-washing. Even putting glasses in the washing machine on their own following a tableware washing cycle can still produce soiled glassware. Dishwashers are often programmed to do a pre-rinse cycle to clear loose food waste stuck to plates and may have a high finishing hot rinse to aid sanitisation.
Types of machine available
Glasswashers tend to be front-loading compact machines for small to moderate usage of glassware, often fitting under a counter or on a bench in a preparation area. Being compact leads to fast turnaround of soiled glasses, avoiding the need for heavy stocking levels. While they are often sited underneath the bar because of space restrictions, it is better to use the bar area for retailing rather than glasswashing. Busy pubs and bars may need to move to a pull-down hood machine which enables rapid washing of a large volume of glasses.
Cabinet dishwashers
Dishwashers start with compact machines, which look and work in a similar way to glasswashers and are designed to fit on a bench in a back-of-house cleaning area, still-room or satellite kitchen.
Pull-down hood dishwashers
The next stage up in machine design is a pull-down hood machine. These are more powerful, faster and are manually loaded with a basket of soiled tableware. They are usually configured with stainless steel tabling either side of the dishwasher so while a basket of dirty tableware is being washed, another basket of dirty tableware is being loaded ready to go in and a washed basket on the other side of the hood washer is waiting to be emptied. This gives a continual cycle of plate washing.
Rack conveyor dishwashers
These work on a pass-through system where the baskets of soiled tableware are on a conveyor belt which passes through the washing machine, going through wash zones which start at pre-rinse, go to hot wash, then hot rinse and come out on the other side of the conveyor ready for stacking away.
Flight dishwashers
These are a semi-automatic dishwashing system, similar in principle to rack conveyor systems, but very much bigger. They are designed to cope with huge volumes of soiled tableware which might be found in a university or hospital kitchen, an airline food production kitchen, large staff feeding facility or a conference and exhibition centre.
Which size of machine to choose
Many small to medium businesses underestimate the capacity of warewashing machine they need. The big mistake is looking at the overall daily throughput and basing machine size choice on that. This is to ignore there are always peak demand times in the day when tableware and glassware is needed very quickly. Also, buying a machine for current needs makes no allowance for an increase in business. The safest way of avoiding buying the wrong size machine is to ask manufacturers for advice.
Questions to ask before buying
There are strict national regulations on how dishwashers and glasswashers should be connected to the water main to prevent contamination of the mains water system through accidental backflow of dirty water. Some cheaper machines may not fully comply with water supply regulations, involving costly later modifications. Check the machine complies.
Ask about the type of steel. All warewashing machines offer stainless steel washtanks, but there are different grades used in manufacture. The best is Grade 304, much more corrosion-resistant than the cheaper 430 grade stainless steel, though both look the same.
Ask about noise and heat emissions. Double skin casings will reduce noise, operating cost and be cool to the touch.
Study the energy and water consumption performance. What may seem a cheap machine to buy could prove to be a very expensive machine to run.
Ask advice on the fitting of a water treatment system to prevent limescale build-up in the internal pipework of the machine. Water treatment is essential in hard water areas and recommended in other water areas.
Be very specific about the availability of spare parts, the turnaround time for spares and what are the service options offered with the machine.
Look After It!
Warewashing equipment is often shunted to the far corners of a kitchen and since in all but very small catering businesses is operated by a kitchen assistant rather than a chef. Professional warewashing machines are built to take hard work, but a lack of care during use can be a potential source of unplanned and unnecessary maintenance cost.
Responsibility for supervising dish and glasswashing equipment should lie with a senior kitchen manager, who while not involved in daily operation of the machine, will ensure correct operation procedures and in-house maintenance as set out by the manufacturer. Warewashing equipment has heavy use during every service period. It is built for hard work, but not for neglect or abuse.
The biggest drain on maintenance cost of a warewashing cabinet is the failure to fit a water softening system. It is normally an extra item to a new machine, but it is not a luxury. Mains water contains dissolved salts which when heated break out of the water and attach to metal. This will be heating elements and pipework. This familiar furring up of metal increases energy costs and in furring up of pipework in a dishwasher can lead to serious internal damage.
Fitting a water treatment system in hard water areas is essential, but is also strongly recommended in soft water areas, since all water contains dissolved salts and water is passed around the national water pipeline. Fitting a water treatment system to a glasswasher will also reduce the risk of streaking and smearing, which is mostly caused by dissolved salts. It will almost certainly be a requirement for a manufacturer’s warranty to be valid on new equipment and for a service contract.
There are relatively few moving parts on a dishwasher, the main two being the pump that circulates the water around and the wash arms. Fitting a cheap pump is invisible and it may even deliver a comparable time for the wash cycle to an expensive unit, but it will break down quicker and more often than a well-made pump.
The wash arms spin on bearings can wear out and cheap wash arms themselves can get damaged or broken if poorly designed. Spray jets may be individually replaceable, but on cheaper machines it is often the whole wash arm which needs replacing. These points need to be considered when during a routine maintenance visit by a service engineer it is reported that a part needs replacing and there are several spare price part options available.
All warewashing machines have filter systems to trap food debris, but a dishwasher is not a waste disposal system and excess food waste should be scrapped first into a dry waste bin and preferably with a pre-rinse using either a sink hose or a simple dip and scrub in a sink or by using a waste disposal unit. Larger dishwashing system are built to deal with food residues, but with smaller cabinet machines, allowing excess plate waste to go into the cabinet could cause clogging of the water filter system. Rice may seem a benign food, but it notorious for clogging filter systems.
Under-performance of dish and glasswashing machines often has nothing to do with the machine, but with the quality of the detergents being used. Cheap detergents will not damage a washing machine, but can lead to double washing because the plates and glasses were not clean.
Like any item of catering equipment, regular servicing is the key to keeping warewashing equipment running effectively.
In brief
Fit a water softening system
Check the detergent dosing levels
Scrap plates thoroughly before washing
Train staff on good work practise
Check and un-block spray jets
Use cheap detergents
Use a dishwasher as a waste disposal unit
Neglect to clean filters
Mix dirty plates and dirty glasses
Overload the machine

Understanding Fast Food
Cooking Systems
Fast food is a huge sector of the catering industry with annual sales estimated to be more than £7 billion. Because of the high volume nature of fast food service, the equipment not only has to be quick, it has to be very robust. Heavy-duty equipment is the best choice, medium-duty is suitable where business is brisk, but not frenetic, but light-duty equipment is unsuitable in all but very small fast food operations.
Often equipment is designed and manufactured around a specific fast food concept or menu item where there are global volumes of equipment to be sold, but while designed with a specific purpose in mind, creative caterers are always finding additional uses.
This section of the guide is the specialist equipment. More general items of cooking equipment such as fryers and griddles have their own section.
Pressure fryers
Pressure fryers are most commonly associated with fried chicken restaurants. Coated chicken pieces are lowered into the fry tank and a lid closed and locked into place to form an airtight seal. Moisture is immediately released from the food which rapidly builds up the air pressure. The pressure causes rapid tumbling of the food and transfers heat faster from hot oil to the food.
Pressure has the effect of increasing the temperature of the food and oil and because the heat transfer is faster than in a normal fryer, the frying temperature is higher than in a normal deep-fat fryer. A further effect of the pressure is to rapidly seal the outside of the chicken, keeping moisture in and excess grease out. This along with the flavour coating is what makes southern-style fried chicken so crisp and moist compared to chicken cooked in a standard deep-fat fryer.
Because it is not possible to inspect the food as it is being fried, the fryers are computer programmed according to the product being cooked. The programme can do multi-temperature cooking during the pressure cycle, to a rapid seal of the food at first, then a gentler cooking temperature. In a typical chicken operation, the start oil temperature will be 180 deg C for the first burst of heat to seal the chicken, then will lower to 145 deg C to cook the chicken safely through.
Most pressure fryers have an automatic pressure release and audible signal at the end of the cooking cycle to tell the cook that the chicken is finished. More advanced models will also have automated basket lift.
Pressure fryers have in-built filtration systems and a cool spot to collect food debris from frying prior to filtration.
Conveyor ovens
Conveyor ovens are a cooking tunnel with heating elements above or above and below with a constantly revolving belt of steel mesh or slats passing through it. There will be a tray in front of the conveyor for loading foods and a tray at the rear for received the cooked food. While popular for high volume pizza production, they can do a wide range of foods, including steaks, chops, fish, ribs and can gratin dishes such as lasagne. They can also be used for a flame-grilled production of burgers. The heat is controllable, but usually it is the speed setting on the conveyor belt that controls the length of time the food is subjected to heat.
Power source can be gas, electric or infra-red and they come as double-decks or triple-decks for high volume production. The cooking tunnel can be as short as 50cm or more than twice that length on big ovens. Some also feature a split conveyor belt with individual speed settings for each half of the conveyor belt so that two cook times can happen during the same pass-through.
An impinger is a conveyor oven with a difference. Pressurised hot air is jetted at food items on the conveyor as it moves through the oven. Because the jets are positioned to reach the top and bottom of each food item, the cooking temperature is uniform. The air nozzles apply hundreds of independent heat jets to the product and the movement of the conveyor spreads heat uniformly.
Manufacturers of impinger ovens say the food cooks faster and at a lower temperature because of the forced hot air. Moisture content is also increased as the hot air rapidly seals the surface of the food.
Rotisseries are usually associated with chicken, but can also do rolled legs of lamb, pork and rib beef. They can be sited indoors in a well ventilated area in view of the customer powered from mains gas or electricity or outside through a power cable or LPG.
They are available in two configurations – the meat skewered horizontal or hung vertical. The horizontal is seen mostly in retail environments, while restaurants go for the vertical type. While the look to be energy inefficient with the heat radiating outwards, the curvature of the radiants is designed to focus the heat on the meat. This also makes for a cooler working environment for staff.
Profits are high on rotisserie chicken and the cooking smell of it is a huge selling point, but they are messy to clean and staff need a strict clean-down routine at the end of a shift.
Burger Grills and delivery systems
Burger grills are compact conveyor grills, usually upright with a gravity feed system, similar in design to vertical toasters. The table-top versions will run from a simple 13-amp socket, yet production on even the smallest grills will be at least one burger a minute.
There should be a means of adjusting the speed of the conveyor and for the thickness of burger. There should be a fat collection system and a catching tray. Because of the smoke and cooking smells that come from cooking burgers, adequate kitchen ventilation is necessary. Burger conveyor grills are only suitable for frozen burgers, not fresh or chilled.
They can be used in conjunction with burger bun toasters, which operate in much the same way, but can toast top and bottom of a bun in 18 to 35 seconds, depending on power.
When burgers have been assembled and put in colour coded containers, they can be held in burger box chutes. These are the working bridge between the kitchen and the service team front of house with back loading and front unloading. Burger chutes can have from five to 10 or more angled channels so that kitchen staff can keep every channel topped up for fast dispense at the counter and may be stacked. They should have heat and light lamps above for enhancing the display and keep the burger package warm and can have additional under-box heating.

Understanding Food Preparation Equipment
Food preparation equipment is the important stage between fresh food coming into the kitchen and being made ready for either cooking or direct service into the restaurant. The equipment ranges from potato peelers, gravity slicing machines, juicers and multi-function food processors to the traditional hand-held food preparation tools such as kitchen knives and the speciality food preparation tools all good chefs have in their workbox.
There is a wide range of food preparation equipment, but some are necessary items rather than “nice-to-have” items, depending on the style of food the kitchen wishes to offer.
While there is a temptation to buy in ready-prepared vegetables, the kitchen does not always get the best quality with ready-prepared vegetables. It’s a very price driven business, so there is pressure to use older, cheaper potatoes and big woody carrots because they are quicker to peel than small sweeter carrots.
For high volume users of potatoes it can be more cost-efficient to buy sacks of fresh potatoes and prepare them for boiling or frying than to buy in chilled or frozen prepared chips or ready-peeled potatoes in gas-flushed bags. Fresh potatoes will always give a better flavour and buying by the sack give the kitchen control over which variety of potato the customer is being offered.
Chefs think they get a more consistent product when they buy ready-turned carrots, but they don’t – there is so much urgency to churn out the volume and meet a competitive price that buying ready-prepared vegetables can mean the kitchen does not know what is being bought.
Ready-sliced meats are never going to be as fresh tasting as that freshly sliced, packet fruit and vegetable juice cannot match that of freshly squeezed. There is a very strong argument both on food quality and food cost for a kitchen preparing fruit and vegetables in-house.
Food preparation processors
These are at the heart of food preparation equipment in the commercial kitchen. Those sold into restaurant kitchens are much more advanced in construction, versatility and robustness than the lightweight food processors sold for the domestic market, which cannot deliver chopped food acceptable on the restaurant plate. Expect to get a far wider choice of cutting shapes, chopping features and mixing programmes than anything offered in the domestic market. Motors are stronger, blades sharper, speed of processing quicker. The accessories available can produce any size or shape of fruit and vegetable a professional kitchen would want.
Stick blenders
These are medium to heavy-duty versions of the domestic stick blender, but are very much bigger and very powerful. They can pulse large quantities of foods very quickly and have a wide range of uses, helping sauce and puree making in every kitchen, from hospitals to Asian restaurants.
Potato peelers
The theory of potato peelers has hardly altered in 50 years. The sides of the chamber are gritted with a revolving gritted base plate, which actually does 90% or the peeling work. The only real advance has been in double-sided base plates, which feature a coarse grit for peeling old potatoes and a lighter grit for soft-skinned new potatoes.
Choosing a potato peeler size is all dependent on daily throughput, but do the calculation based on 75% of the stated capacity. Overfilling the machine slows down the process, tends to throw squared potatoes and is very wasteful. Another important working practice is to get the machine running before putting the potatoes in. To load the machine before switching on puts the motor under great strain to get moving against the resistance of the potatoes.
Carrots will clean in a standard potato peeler, most manufacturers offer a gentler base plate for skinning onions and salad baskets are available for spinning off washed salads.
Gravity slicers
Their main use is for cutting fine slices of cooked or raw meats, for fish, such as tuna and smoked salmon and other items such as cheese or where the ingredient is too big to fit in a mandolin. With cooked meats, the benefit is that whole cooked boneless joints can be used, giving a fresher, juicier slice and far cheaper than buying pre-sliced. Expensive meats such as dry-cured hams can be cut as wafers for use in salads, as starters, part of a main course of for luxury sandwiches.
A gravity slicer can also be used for cutting wafer thin slices of raw meat such as beef for producing items such as beef olives.
Food safety and food hygiene are extremely important issues with gravity slicers. While cutting cooked meats without strong flavours will not give cross-contamination, after cutting highly spiced or garlicky meats, a careful wipe with a sterile cloth will keep following foods pure.
A full cleaning cycle is essential between cutting raw and cooked food to prevent a serious risk of bacterial infection and a full cleaning must take place at the end of every kitchen service. Slicers are extremely dangerous items of equipment and staff need structured training on how to use and clean them.
Bowl mixers
Also called orbital mixers, these are useful for a bakery or patisserie section of a kitchen and heavy mixing jobs in the main kitchen such as mashing potato. If a kitchen wishes to bake its own bread, it may be worth thinking about a dedicated dough-mixer, otherwise, a standard bowl mixer will do both dough and batter beating.
Look After It!
Commercial food preparation equipment is manufactured for high performance and long, hard use. That brings with it the temptation to think it is so robust it does not need the same level of care as more expensive and technically complex items in the kitchen such as the combi-oven or the automatic coffee machine. Food preparation equipment will last a long time and give consistent high performance, but only if it is used properly and looked after properly. This is how to get the best from some of the popular pieces of food preparation equipment.
Potato peelers – These are very low maintenance. The main regular check to do is that water outflows are not clogged with peelings. The electric motors in commercial potato peelers are built to withstand long and regular use, but what can cause excess wear on the motor is if the peeling tank is consistently overloaded with potatoes. This not only puts strain on the motor, but will prevent the potatoes from being peeled efficiently.
Eventually, the grit wheel or the walls of the tank will need re-gritting. The time when needs to be done is for most kitchens measured in years. To maintain food costs, when a potato peeler has been re-gritted, kitchen staff need to be advised that peeling times will be much shorter than they have been used to and a careful watch is needed in the first few weeks of vegetable peeling to establish new, shorter peeling times.
Gravity Slicers – These are almost always used for slicing cooked foods, so thorough cleaning is not just looking after it mechanically, but for food safety. Sharpening of slicing blades should not be necessary through the lifetime of the unit unless raw meat containing gristle and bone is regularly being cut. Even then, the speed of the cutting wheel on a good quality slicer will be able to perform with some slight dulling of the edge.
Stick blenders – These work tirelessly in pulverising sauces, but the most common cause of motor burn-out is using too small a blender for the food in the pan. Hand blenders are available in a wide range of size and motor powers. To get long life from the blender, go big. This is particularly true with pulsing heavy sauces. Beyond cleaning, there is no maintenance needed on stick blenders.
Food processors – Providing a commercial model has been bought, these are very easy to maintain. Blades are very robust and as long as the right food is matched to the recommended blade there is unlikely to be any maintenance problems. Even if a blade is being regularly used to chop an unusually tough ingredient and becomes blunt, replacement blades are available. It is good practise to retain one fine chopping blade which is for chopping fine herbs such as parsley so it remains sharp.
Bowl mixers –Commercial models are extremely reliable and can be almost maintenance-free for many years apart from a regular safety check and greasing of the gearing by a service engineer on a scheduled visit. The main thing which will accelerate wear on the motor is overloading or putting dense product on a high-speed action instead of working through the gears until the mix becomes well broken. Care should also be taken that if a safety guard is fitted to prevent hands being put into the bowl during mixing that it is always working. For it not to be could be a serious health and safety issue for employees.
In brief
Clean gravity slicers daily
Periodically check the grit in peelers
Cut frozen food on a gravity slicer
Check for stove singeing on blender power cables
Allow food debris build-up on gravity slicers
Overload potato peelers
Allow meat bones on a gravity slicer
Use low power blenders for high power jobs
Have faulty hand guards on bowl mixers
Allow peeler drains to become blocked

Understanding Food transport, Holding and Regeneration Systems
Service points are often some distance from the kitchen and food needs to be kept hot between leaving the kitchen and presentation to the customer. If the food has been pre-cooked and chilled the trolley needs not only to transport the food under chill, but to also heat the food back up to a safe and pleasant to eat temperature. Trolleys can transport individual plated meals or bulk dishes.
While food transport, holding and regeneration systems are often associated with public sector catering they offer huge benefits to the profit sector. Function suites, hotels with banqueting suites, conference centres, outside event caterers – anywhere that food needs to be safely transported and either kept cool or re-heated find them invaluable. While their image is of keeping food hot or heating up food, many of them are just as good as keeping food cool.
There are different types of hot-holding food trolleys.
Mobile hot cupboard trolleys – These are well insulated which maintains food temperature during transport to the service point and have internal heating elements which can be plugged into an electricity supply on arrival to main food temperature. Some have a steam generation system which in addition to keeping the food hot, will keep it moist, preventing drying out and skinning of sauces.
They can also provide a full meal service with options of a bains-marie for hot sauces, over-counter lighting and service areas and an outward finish which can make them look part of the board room furniture
Regeneration trolleys – These have a much more powerful heating system. They are designed to accept chilled or frozen food, keep it chilled during transport, then heat it back up to a safe and pleasant serving temperature close to the point of service. They can take either individual plated meals or bulk food dishes and the heating process begins when the regeneration trolley is plugged in to an electricity source close to the point of service.
The more advanced trolleys have split and insulated compartments so that while food intended to be served hot is heated, that which needs to be kept chilled, such as sandwiches, desserts and salads, is held at chill temperature. Most of them will take food from chill to serving temperature in one hour.
Big users of this regeneration trolley system are hospitals and schools, where food may be prepared in a central production kitchen and transported across a large site.
Thermal Boxes - Transportation boxes are insulated containers which can range from units which hold just a few food boxes to those which are capable of holding gastronorm-size containers and include a plug-in heat facility. It is also possible to get them with a chilling mode for transporting food under refrigeration.
The basic construction is normally a plastic case with a double skin and a high density insulation between the skins. Commercial holding boxes are far superior in construction and insulation properties to leisure cool boxes, which should not be used for professional food service.
Cleaning of the boxes is paramount, so examining for internal corners where food debris may collect is important and it is very useful if the box and lid can pass through a commercial dishwasher.
Features to look for when buying
What is the regeneration time? With a fleet of trolleys possibly in use twice a day, a few minutes extra on regeneration time can add up to a substantial additional energy cost over a year.
Have someone with a detailed knowledge of energy costing calculate the cost of bringing food up to temperature. A trolley may have an impressive heat-up time, but may be very heavy on energy use.
Examine the ease of cleaning on both hot-holding and regeneration trolleys, which can be expressed as a labour cost in a viability plan.
Is there a good serving area on top of the trolley and are there optional extras of a gantry and table extension for service?
Look after it!
Regeneration trolleys have been a major step forward in the last 10 years in delivering high-quality and hot food at every level of foodservice, from banqueting to hospitals. Yet any item of equipment which involves chilled food and reheating chilled food has to have a double levels of preventative care. Care of the equipment itself and care that the highest possible standards in food safety and hygiene are maintained.
Every regeneration trolley should have a thorough cleaning after every service. There are different systems in use which need different cleaning routines, but the manufacturer will have clear cleaning guidelines and all staff members should understand and follow them.
Food holding systems are similar to regeneration trolleys in that they are usually transportable around a site, but their use is to keep hot food hot without drying out, rather than bring frozen or chilled food up to a serving temperature. The same high regard for thorough cleaning is needed to remove any food debris, but since more advanced hot holding trolleys may have steam injection to keep food moist and prevent skinning and drying, the point where the steam comes in must also be kept clean.
Regeneration trolleys are relatively trouble-free. The main point to watch is that the thermostats and heating elements are correctly working. Regular probing of food with a digital thermometer as part of good handling practice will show if an engineer needs to visit as well as being a requirement under HACCP.
The biggest cause of repairs to regeneration trolleys is miss-handling by staff, bumping trolleys against each other or into solid objects such as walls. Many trolleys are fitted with bumpers to cushion rough handling, but there are always lots of protruding objects and surfaces around a kitchen which can collide with dials and connection points on the trolley if staff are careless with movement of the trolley.
Castors can also be subject to abuse by rapid movement over very uneven floors. Castors are designed to last as long as the trolley and if one needs replacing, then miss-use is almost certainly the reason.
In brief
Thoroughly clean after each use
Keep castors lubricated
Regular temperature probe checks on cabinet heat displays
Use very hard water with steam injectors
Train staff on the correct way to transport trolleys
Let mobile trolleys be moved while still plugged in
Overload beyond manufacturer’s recommendations
Knock into walls during transit
Run without any food in
Serve food until it has reached correct serving temperature

Understanding Heavyweight Food Production Equipment
For many caterers the demand on kitchen equipment is not just for heavy-duty, but for high volumes. To meet this need, equipment manufacturers produce a wide range of equipment that will cook large volumes of food. Typical situations where high volume cooking is needed is hospitals, universities, large banqueting operation, cook-chill units and prisons.
However, manufacturers of high volume equipment have begun to realise there is a demand for the same style of cooking equipment for slightly lower volumes for large hotels, staff restaurants and residential schools.
Bratt pans
A bratt pan gets its unusual name from the German word brat meaning to fry, though they are not called bratt pans in German, but kippentopf, meaning tilting pan and do far more than fry. Bratt pans are deep, rectangular cooking pots with a counter-balanced pull down lid. The heat source to the base of the pan can be gas or electric. They all have a tilting feature, operated electrically or by a hand-driven mechanism, so food that has been cooked can be poured into containers through a “vee” in the top edge of the forward side.
Bratt pans are a versatile piece of high production equipment, able to perform eight cooking functions: braising, boiling, steaming, poaching, stewing, roasting, deep-fat frying and shallow frying. Not all bratt pans are suitable for all eight functions, but looking at a model specification sheet will show what is possible.
They can be used for multi-function cooking of one product, such as browning-off meat with the pan set at a fry temperature with the lid open, then liquid added, the temperature turned down and the lid closed to softly braise. Soups and sauces can be similarly prepared using multi-cooking temperature modes.
At the end of cooking the tilt feature is very useful for emptying the contents out and helps wish washing the pan. Most bratt pans offer the option of being plumbed in so that a swivel tap is connected to the unit to allow water to be added both for adding liquid for the cooking and for washing out.
In addition to bratt pans that work at normal atmospheric air pressure, a more advanced version is a pressure bratt pan. This performs all the same functions as a standard bratt pan, but the lid can be clamped tightly shut for cooking at a higher water temperature than 100 deg C. As with any pressure cooker, the increase in pressure means the food is cooked much quicker and tenderised, so is very suitable for dishes which use tougher cuts of meat. A pressure bratt pan can also be used in atmospheric mode.
Boiling kettles
Boiling kettles work in a similar way to bratt pans in that they are large multi-function heated cooking pans. The main differences are that instead of the flat cooking bed of a bratt pan, the boiling kettle is an upright cooking pot with an in-built heating system.
An added feature of most boiling kettles is that while they have a tilting mechanism, they may also have a drain tap at the bottom of the kettle. This will be a wide-mouthed tap from which wet dishes such as sauces and soups can be drawn off with the need to tilt the kettle.
The popular use of boiling kettles is not actually to boil, but to gently simmer dishes such as soups, sauces, custard or stews. There are three types of heat source. It can be a direct heat applied to the underside of the kettle, which can cause burning on thick sauces such as custard. The more versatile heat source is indirect heating through a water jacket, a double pan arrangement as with a bains marie. This indirect water-based heat system can work with hot water or steam. Burning of delicate sauces is virtually eliminated and the cooking and holding process can go on with out constant attention.
Most boiling kettles will come plumbed-in with a swivel tap for adding water for cooking and cleaning. They often come configured as a double unit so that two products can be cooked from a single footprint.
How to find out more about Heavyweight Food Production Equipment
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Understanding Kitchen knives
As with cooking pans, kitchen knives reflect designs and cooking techniques that follow tradition in the part of the world where they were developed. As with all professional kitchen equipment, quality is reflected in the price.
The most common way of making a knife blade, bolster and tang is to drop-forge it, which means putting a piece of red-hot stainless steel in the lower half of a mould and stamping down on it with a huge force to form the basis of the knife. Some manufacturers prefer to fuse together three different grades of metal for the three parts of the knife, believing that each part needs a different steel quality.
The blade is then tempered with heat to create extra hardness, polished, fitted with a handle and sharpened. The higher quality the steel, the sharper will be the edge and the longer it will remain without needing re-sharpening. Low grade stainless steel kitchen knives are unable to hold an edge much beyond first using and hand-steeling will fail to bring back the edge. It pays in the long term to invest in quality kitchen knives.
The traditional way to fit a handle is to rivet a solid handle in two halves, but cheaper knives will come with a single-formed solid plastic handle. A plastic handle is not always an indicator or poor quality blade steel any more than riveted handles are a signal of high quality.
Balance is very important in kitchen knife construction. There should be a good counter-balance between handle and blade so that the knife sits level in the hand for quick and comfortable working.
There are basically two styles of kitchen knives; Eastern and Western. Eastern style knives such as Japanese are made from very hard steel, the blades are significantly thinner, producing a lighter weight knife and the bevel angles are more acute. These knives will hold an edge for longer, but will also take longer to sharpen. They are good for cutting where accuracy is important, such as preparing Sushi or doing decorative work.
The Japanese also make knives that incorporate a chisel grind. This is a bevel on one side with the other side flat. These are usually made from what is called sandwiched steels, where a hard steel for edge retention is sandwiched between soft steel or even iron to provide better toughness. They do an excellent job with Eastern style cooking where there is much fine chopping, but their sharpness is also a feature many Western chefs like.
Western knives are made from tough steel, but slightly softer than Japanese knives which makes them easier to maintain a sharp edge on. They tend to be thicker and heavier with a more obtuse bevel angle. These are perfect for chopping and for those jobs where a heavier knife is an advantage.
There are three types of steel used in kitchen knives
High carbon steel - An excellent material, providing toughness and the ability to take a very sharp edge. However, carbon steel is not stain resistant. It can rust and will discolour from use. After much use, high carbon steel kitchen knife blades will actually become black. This discoloration is purely cosmetic and does not affect the performance of the knife in any way.
High carbon stainless steel - The most popular steel for kitchen knives. It has a high content of carbon for hardness, but chromium and nickel to keep it looking clean. High carbon stainless will take a sharp edge and maintain it well.
Titanium enhanced knife blades will hold an edge longer than most other steel alloys. The alloy mix allow the blades to be heat treated to a high level of hardness. The blades are more flexible than standard steel blades so work well for boning, and filleting.
Ceramic is not a steel at all, but a very hard ceramic material called zirconium oxide. These blades are so hard that they will maintain a sharp edge for months or years with no maintenance at all. On the negative side, they are more brittle and they require diamond sharpening tools to maintain.
Knife styles
The range of blade designs is very wide and this is just a selection of the more widely-used blades designs and their use.
Cook’s knife - The basic kitchen knife for doing a wide range of cutting and chopping jobs. It has a pointed blade and comes in a wide range of blade sizes.
Turning knife - A short-bladed knife with a downward-pointed hooked end which makes for easy turning of vegetables in the classic French style.
Scalloped edge - A long thin knife with a scalloped edge. The scallops allows air to pass around the blade as it cuts very thin slices making this blade style suitable for cutting cold meats or smoked salmon.
Serrated edge - The feature of serrated blades is that they tear as well as cut. Narrow serrated blades are suitable for soft foods such as tomatoes or cucumbers. Wide serrated blades are used for cutting hot meats (carvery) and bread.
Fish filleting knife - This needs to be a thin slender and slightly flexible blade to allow for filleting of flatfish such as turbot and working around the skeletal frame of round fish such as cod.
Hachoirs or Mezzalunas - These are curved blades, usually double bladed, but can be treble bladed, with a handle at either end. They are the traditional way of finely chopping herbs, vegetables and meat. They can come with a specially curved wood bowl to fit the cutter or just rocked under pressure on a chopping board. The quality of the steel has to be very good to maintain the edge for chopping herbs such as parsley. However, their use is not so widespread now since food processors have become popular. Some chefs will argue that a hachoir properly cuts herbs and meats while a food processor pulverises them. Sharpening them is not easy due to the closeness of the blades, another reason to buy quality steel.
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Understanding Hot Holding Equipment
Warming cold food such as pies or sausage rolls or keeping food which has been freshly cooked at serving temperature needs careful food safety handling and the right equipment. It is not just about maintaining the heat to help keep the food safe to eat, but to keep it in a fresh condition.
Dry heat will keep food warm, but if the food is susceptible to drying out, then dry heat will over a period of time fail to deliver food items in the best condition. Foods with have a high moisture content such as pasta dishes, or a high fat content such as pies and sausage rolls, will keep well in dry heat cabinets. Food items such as cooked chicken will hold over a short period of time in a dry heat display cabinet, but are better stored in a cabinet that has a humidifier that injects a small amount of moisture in the cabinet to prevent drying out, but not induce sogginess.
Food can also be held hot in serving dishes using underneath heating units or in the traditional chafing dishes which use spirit lamps for heat. These are some of the ways in which food can be held hot.
Snack warmer cabinets
These are not just warming cabinets, but merchandisers, so the food being held must appear attractive in order to assist sales. Apart from an attractive cabinet with good all-round vision, lighting in the cabinet will add to the appeal of the food. If the cabinet is fitted with a humidifier, the foods in the cabinet will stay fresher and moist for a much longer period than in a dry-heat only cabinet.
Humidifiers can be something as simple as a built-in water trough which causes water vapour to be released into the cabinet. The more sophisticated models will have atmospheric as well as temperature automatic control. Check to see if there is a feature on the unit which prevents misting up, preventing the food from being properly viewed. Doors on two sides can be useful in self-service situations, with food being loaded from the back and the customer taking from the front.
Chafing dishes
These the traditional way of serving hot food at a self-service buffet. They should be gastronorm compatible to allow for a full tray of food to be inserted over the water bath. A spirit lamp underneath the unit keeps the water hot, but it is possible to get electrically heated chafing dishes. These are potentially safer, but there is less mobility with the need for a power socket.
Cheap chafing dishes will have lift-off lids, which are awkward for the customer. Better units will have a roll-over lid allowing the customer to hold a plate with one hand and a serving spoon with the other.
Electric heat pads
These are flat pads with an electric heating element inside. The base should be insulated to prevent undue heat loss, but it may still be necessary to place a protective mat underneath if
the pad is sited on wood. The advantage of them is that food that has been prepared in an oven dish such as fish pie that cannot easily be transferred into a chafing dish can be on the menu.
While standard electric heating elements are the norm, it is now possible to get heat pads which work using induction heating. While the heat can be set high for theatre cooking in front of the customer, some have a hold-only mode which just emits a gentle heat.
Hot cupboards
Traditionally, these would be fixed units in the kitchen into which plated hot meals would be placed in stacks separated by a plate ring with a top cover on top to help prevent drying out.
While fixed hot cupboards are still widely available, they are much more versatile if they are on castors with a brake mechanism. The shelving arrangement can be flexible, with many shelves to take single plates or to use the stacking system. Gastronorm size compatibility is useful for keeping batches of food warm.
The top can be a solid work surface or have dry or wet heated bains marie so that things such as saucing, gravy or custard can be added at the point of delivery to prevent skinning.
Ease of cleaning is very important, as food debris not wiped up is a serious food hygiene risk. There is often a range of accessories for hot cupboards, including tray slides, sneeze screens and digital temperature display.
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Prime cooking equipment
Down to Basics
The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA) has drawn up the following basic explanation of the main cooking equipment in a professional kitchen.
(Note: Combi-ovens, ranges, microwaves and fryers are covered in separate guides)
Convection ovens
While many ovens underneath cooking ranges rely solely on the natural convection of hot air in the oven cavity to spread the heat, in a convection oven, the heat is spread very evenly around the cavity by means of an electric fan built into the wall of the oven. This gives very even cooking for all foods, but it is especially important in bakery and dessert work where evenness of temperature is critical.
Because the heat is forced around the oven cavity, cooking is faster, so on standard recipes either the cooking time or the temperature needs reducing. While a combi-oven will perform all the functions of a convection oven, if a lot of dry air baking and roasting is done, it pays to buy a convection oven to free up the combi-oven for cooking tasks which require its steaming function.
Key points to look for
Is there a humidifier feature that will inject a moderate amount of steam to aid crisping on baked goods?
Is there variable fan speed to allow for cooking delicate goods?
Is there a timer/programming facility?
Will it do cook and hold?
Grills and salamanders
These are two words for the same item of equipment and there are two types available. The conventional grill is usually gas powered in the UK, but electric models are available. Some have variable heat settings that adjust the cooking temperature, but raising or lowering the grill tray with the heat full on is the usual method as this keeps
cooking even. An additional item popular for meat grilling is a branding plate. This is a ridged cast ironplate that sits on the grill pan. When a piece of meat is put on the brander plate it cooks from both sides and has a char-grilled appearance.
The less common type of grill is a pull-down grill. These are usually electric and work the reverse of a conventional grill. The grill plate is static while the radiant head is pulled down towards the food. They are popular for gratineeing and browning cheese-topped dishes.
Key points to look for
Cleaning is a big headache with grills. See how easily it strips down and to remove traces of carbonised food and fat.
Griddles and char-grills
Griddles are a very simple item of cooking equipment, popular for breakfast preparation, burgers and any thin food items, but are slow to cook thick portions of meat such as steaks or chops. There are two surfaces to choose from. Steel is the cheaper and most popular, either as carbon steel or stainless steel. Chromed griddles cook the same, but tend to be less prone to food sticking and are easier to keep clean.
Char-grills are popular for the barbecue look and taste they bring to meat, fish and vegetables. There are two popular systems of delivering the heat, almost always coming from gas. Lava rock is the most common and gives a traditional barbecue taste and smell. Its drawbacks are that the lava rock can become impregnated with food, which when it burns off creates a lot of smoke in the kitchen and distribution of the lava rock has to be very level to give even cooking when the char-grill is full.
The other system is not to use lava rock at all, but to have upward-facing gas jets that are shielded by a protective steel shroud to prevent fat falling into the jets and clogging them. As the fat falls onto the hot protective covers, it carbonises and gives of the smoke that brings the barbecue flavour. This system is easier to clean.
Key points to look for
With griddles, check how easy it is to clean the fat chute and collection tray and ensure the heat settings meet the purpose for which you mainly intend to use it. Check the uniformity of heat across the full cooking surface. If you need it, see if there is both manual heat control and thermostatic control.
With char-grills, cleaning is a big issue, ensure there is easy access for cleaning. See if there is a split level facility to enable part of the grill irons to
be lifted for cooking more delicate foods or those which require longer cooking time.
Steamers lost some popularity with the advent of combi-ovens, but are a very useful item of equipment where a lot of steaming is done in the kitchen such as with fish, vegetables or steamed puddings. Having a dedicated steamer prevents tying up the combi-oven for long periods of steaming when it is needed for other cooking modes.
There are two types of steamer. A pressureless steamer cooks with steam at normal atmospheric pressure and is very gentle for items such as fish. A pressure steamer is like a domestic pressure cooker, working with a sealed chamber that allows the steam temperature to rise, so cooking faster and able to tenderise tough cuts of meat.
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Understanding Refrigeration
A fridge is an insulated cabinet with an electric pump or a compressor which moves a refrigerant liquid around the cooling bars. When the door is opened, the cold air falls out to be replaced by warm air in the kitchen, which triggers the pump to circulate the refrigerant liquid and cool down the internal temperature and keep the food safe.
Domestic fridges and commercial fridge look similar, but are not. With a domestic fridge, the power of the compressor is designed around the few number of times a domestic fridge door is opened during the day. A quite modestly-powered compressor will be able to cope with the heat loss without food safety risks. The construction of both the cabinet and the motor is only robust enough for light domestic use, so used in a commercial environment, not only do they pose a food safety hazard, they need replacing far more often than commercial fridges, so are not even cost effective.
With a commercial specification fridge in a busy working kitchen, the door is going to be opened very regularly and probably be exposed to a far hotter kitchen. The compressor needs to be powerful enough to rapidly pull down the internal fridge temperature to replace heat loss.
Most commercial fridges also incorporate fans which evenly spread the cool air through the cabinet, a feature domestic fridges do not have. Commercial fridges are better insulated, designed for easy cleaning and some are able to electronically record temperatures which can be used as proof of due diligence in food safety procedures should a food poising claim be made. As well as freestanding fridges it is also possible to get walk-in fridges which can be built to fit a specific kitchen area.
Commercial freezers share all the high specification features of commercial fridges and should always be used for the same performance, food safety and cost efficiency reasons.
Blast chillers and freezers
These are refrigeration cabinets which use fiercely-driven cold air to rapidly pull-down the temperature of hot food so it can be safely stored either in chilled or frozen form for future re-heating. Allowing foods to cool without refrigeration can be extremely dangerous as it will allow harmful bacteria to develop during the long cooling process.
Cooling hot foods in a fridge already containing chilled food is also very dangerous as it will raise the temperature of all the food in the fridge and pose a food safety risk. Any kitchen which wants to have pre-cooked, chilled food as a major part of the provision must have blast refrigeration.
How to choose the right fridge or freezer
Talk to a manufacturer who will look at the type of operation you are running, the mix of fresh, chilled and frozen food you serve, the volume of meals you are preparing. This will identify the capacity of unit you need and the power of it. It is the same with ice cube needs – let someone else do the specification sums. The advice will be free.
Look After It!
The outward construction of a piece of refrigeration equipment appear simple, but while operation seem trouble free, miss-use can lead to under-performance and add unnecessary cost to maintenance bills as much as any other equipment in the kitchen.
Overloading shelves and above marked levels in a refrigeration cabinet will affect performance with the potential to interrupt the cold airflow. Commercial fridges should always be fitted with circulatory fans, but if food is pushed up against the fan, the cold air is not going to circulate properly. This is not just a food safety issue, but can cause the fridge fan to run faster than it needs to leading to the possibility or replacement earlier than should be.
The siting of any refrigeration equipment is important. Fridges designed for use in temperate climates such as the UK and most of Europe work on a maximum ambient temperature of 28 deg C. That means that while the atmosphere in the kitchen will always fluctuate according to he cooking going on and the outside temperature, the thermometer does not rise above 28 deg C.
If it does, then the compressor in the fridge, which is the motor that pumps the cooling fluid around the cooling bars, will be overworked. This could lead to premature burn out of the compressor and have a food safety risk. Where ever practical, refrigeration units should be sited away from direct cooking heat.
It is good working practice to regularly check the temperature of the fridge using a digital thermometer. A service engineer will do this as routine, but if the fridge is beginning to lose power, then the engineer will need to be called out quickly to prevent food from the risk of contamination. Many commercial fridges have digital temperature displays, but it is still useful to perform this occasional check.
As part of the regular thorough cleaning of the kitchen, include using an appropriate attachment to a vacuum cleaner to clean the area around the compressor if it is accessible. This will prevent excess dust and fluff from getting inside the compressor and being a damage risk.
Because of the constant opening and closing of fridge doors, door seals will wear out. A damaged door seal will force the compressor to work harder than its needs to, which apart from anything else will increase energy use. The service engineer will check them on a routine inspection, but it should be part of a fridge clean-down to inspect the seals for any sign of damage. It will also prolong the life of door seals if staff are encouraged to close doors and not slam them shut.
In brief
Check and clean door seals weekly
Clean up spillages immediately
Visually check compressor fins and vents monthly
Defrost freezers to manufacturers’ instructions
Check working temperature monthly
Overload the fridge
Allow fans to be obstructed
Leave the door open
Put hot food in
Slam doors
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Understanding Refrigeration
A fridge is an insulated cabinet with an electric pump or a compressor which moves a refrigerant liquid around the cooling bars. When the door is opened, the cold air falls out to be replaced by warm air in the kitchen, which triggers the pump to circulate the refrigerant liquid and cool down the internal temperature and keep the food safe.
Domestic fridges and commercial fridge look similar, but are not. With a domestic fridge, the power of the compressor is designed around the few number of times a domestic fridge door is opened during the day. A quite modestly-powered compressor will be able to cope with the heat loss without food safety risks. The construction of both the cabinet and the motor is only robust enough for light domestic use, so used in a commercial environment, not only do they pose a food safety hazard, they need replacing far more often than commercial fridges, so are not even cost effective.
With a commercial specification fridge in a busy working kitchen, the door is going to be opened very regularly and probably be exposed to a far hotter kitchen. The compressor needs to be powerful enough to rapidly pull down the internal fridge temperature to replace heat loss.
Most commercial fridges also incorporate fans which evenly spread the cool air through the cabinet, a feature domestic fridges do not have. Commercial fridges are better insulated, designed for easy cleaning and some are able to electronically record temperatures which can be used as proof of due diligence in food safety procedures should a food poising claim be made. As well as freestanding fridges it is also possible to get walk-in fridges which can be built to fit a specific kitchen area.
Commercial freezers share all the high specification features of commercial fridges and should always be used for the same performance, food safety and cost efficiency reasons.
Blast chillers and freezers
These are refrigeration cabinets which use fiercely-driven cold air to rapidly pull-down the temperature of hot food so it can be safely stored either in chilled or frozen form for future re-heating. Allowing foods to cool without refrigeration can be extremely dangerous as it will allow harmful bacteria to develop during the long cooling process.
Cooling hot foods in a fridge already containing chilled food is also very dangerous as it will raise the temperature of all the food in the fridge and pose a food safety risk. Any kitchen which wants to have pre-cooked, chilled food as a major part of the provision must have blast refrigeration.
How to choose the right fridge or freezer
Talk to a manufacturer who will look at the type of operation you are running, the mix of fresh, chilled and frozen food you serve, the volume of meals you are preparing. This will identify the capacity of unit you need and the power of it. It is the same with ice cube needs – let someone else do the specification sums. The advice will be free.
Look After It!
The outward construction of a piece of refrigeration equipment appear simple, but while operation seem trouble free, miss-use can lead to under-performance and add unnecessary cost to maintenance bills as much as any other equipment in the kitchen.
Overloading shelves and above marked levels in a refrigeration cabinet will affect performance with the potential to interrupt the cold airflow. Commercial fridges should always be fitted with circulatory fans, but if food is pushed up against the fan, the cold air is not going to circulate properly. This is not just a food safety issue, but can cause the fridge fan to run faster than it needs to leading to the possibility or replacement earlier than should be.
The siting of any refrigeration equipment is important. Fridges designed for use in temperate climates such as the UK and most of Europe work on a maximum ambient temperature of 28 deg C. That means that while the atmosphere in the kitchen will always fluctuate according to he cooking going on and the outside temperature, the thermometer does not rise above 28 deg C.
If it does, then the compressor in the fridge, which is the motor that pumps the cooling fluid around the cooling bars, will be overworked. This could lead to premature burn out of the compressor and have a food safety risk. Where ever practical, refrigeration units should be sited away from direct cooking heat.
It is good working practice to regularly check the temperature of the fridge using a digital thermometer. A service engineer will do this as routine, but if the fridge is beginning to lose power, then the engineer will need to be called out quickly to prevent food from the risk of contamination. Many commercial fridges have digital temperature displays, but it is still useful to perform this occasional check.
As part of the regular thorough cleaning of the kitchen, include using an appropriate attachment to a vacuum cleaner to clean the area around the compressor if it is accessible. This will prevent excess dust and fluff from getting inside the compressor and being a damage risk.
Because of the constant opening and closing of fridge doors, door seals will wear out. A damaged door seal will force the compressor to work harder than its needs to, which apart from anything else will increase energy use. The service engineer will check them on a routine inspection, but it should be part of a fridge clean-down to inspect the seals for any sign of damage. It will also prolong the life of door seals if staff are encouraged to close doors and not slam them shut.
In brief
Check and clean door seals weekly
Clean up spillages immediately
Visually check compressor fins and vents monthly
Defrost freezers to manufacturers’ instructions
Check working temperature monthly
Overload the fridge
Allow fans to be obstructed
Leave the door open
Put hot food in
Slam doors
How to find out more about refrigeration equipment
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Understanding Pizza Equipment
Pizza represents huge business for caterers. It provides a focused menu, fast throughput of customers, has global appeal and does require the kind of kitchen staff training that a full service restaurant needs. There is also a range of dedicated kitchen equipment available which makes preparation and cooking of pizzas consistent and quick.
Dough mixers
There are three types of mixers - planetary, spiral and vertical cutter mixers. The spiral mixer has a large bowl and an agitator that looks like a giant corkscrew. These are excellent for mixing dough, but some do not have attachments for additional preparation work such as sauce preparation, cheese grating or chopping vegetable toppings.
Vertical Cutter Mixers
These are high speed mixers with agitator speeds at about 1700 rpm. The dough mixing times for vertical cutters is between 75 to 120 seconds. This is useful if you like to mix your dough fresh during the day rather than a large batch done ahead of opening time. This type of mixer can also be used to grate cheese, but is not recommended for sauces because they can pulverise items such as chunky tomato sauce.
Planetary Mixers
A planetary mixer consists of a large bowl for ingredients and a dough hook agitator that stirs the dough. There is also usually an attachment point for driving a grater or vegetable preparation equipment. The planetary action causes the agitator to move in a figure-eight motion, allowing the dough to uniformly mix.
Rolling and forming
Low volume outlets can weigh out a doughball and roll with a wooden pin doing work and turn to fit the baking dish or required diameter. Hand-tossing is wonderful cooking theatre, but requires great skill by the pizza chef.
Using mechanical presses gives a uniform shape and thickness. There are three types of mechanical pizza press, the sheet roller, the cold press and the hot press. The sheet roller is a type of pastry roller, through which dough is fed to produce a large flat sheet. A hand cutter is then used to cut out the required diameter of pizza dough and the leftover dough goes back into the roller. This is for very high volumes of fresh pizza.
A cold dough press has a portion of dough placed on a baking dish and the dough is pressed to shape. Cold pressing gives a very uniform crumb structure, more like a bread than a crispy thin pizza. Hot pressing forms a skin on the pizza dough, which can allow for a rising up of the edges (deep-pan) and give a more crispy finished base after cooking than cold pressing does.
Refrigerated preparation tables
These are essential for any busy pizza operation. They combine three things for speed and food safety. There is a flat surface for working, usually in stainless steel but can be in granite or Corian, which is an acrylic polymer which has many of the features of granite. At the back of the work surface should be pick-bins, which will contain all the ready-prepared toppings such as onion, tomato base, olives, ham, etc, and all within reach for the pizza maker. Below
the preparation surface will be refrigerated drawers for items that need keeping under refrigeration, such as extra cheeses, speciality ham, tuna, prawns, etc, as well as dough balls for rolling out. Most pizza preparation units are standard zero-plus refrigeration, but it is possible to get them with both freezer and refrigerated compartments.
Pizza Ovens
The way the pizza is cooked is as important to the finished quality of the pizza as is the dough. There are traditional stone ovens and high-speed ovens – the choice is as much about the volumes needed as the style of pizza offering and restaurant ambience. The fastest type of pizza oven is the conveyor oven, either radiated heat or forced hot air (impinger ovens), both of which are covered in the fast food cooking systems section of this guide. These are the fastest ways to cook pizzas from scratch, but they may not deliver the final taste, appearance and restaurant atmosphere the high end of pizza restaurants want.
There are two speciality pizza ovens, the deck oven and the traditional stone oven.
Traditional stone ovens
Open brick ovens are wonderful theatre reminiscent of old Naples and produce a pizza with a great taste and crispness, but require more effort and experience by the operator. They can come as wood-fired, gas or electric ovens.
The taste varies from pizzas cooked in conveyors because the pizza is placed directly on the cooking surface and bakes the bottom crust differently. Another difference in the crust is that the bottom is usually coated with flour or cornmeal to prevent the pizza from sticking to the surface, which adds a different texture, appearance and taste.
Stone baking surfaces have several advantages. Because pizza is best cooked from the bottom up to get a crispy crust and cook toppings, stone works well. Stone holds heat on the surface better than metal, so less heat is lost in cooking. Another advantage to stone is that it absorbs oils and moisture that is released from pizzas making them dryer. These ovens can be used for much more than pizza, such as toasting the surface of a lasagne, making garlic bread or cooking meat and fish in a cooking dish.
Pizzas cooked in wood-fired ovens look and can taste different and are generally darker in colour than those cooked in other styles of ovens. Partly because they absorb some of the smoke, depending on the type of wood used, and the bottom crusts tend to be a little crispier because of the intense heat of the cooking stone.
Deck ovens
These are multi-level conventional-style ovens each with their own door. There may be as few as two decks or as many as five or even more. This allows many pizzas to be cooked in the one unit with different start and finish times. Because they are for pizza production, each oven is quite shallow. The base is usually stone or ceramic tile, so the effect on the finished pizza is similar to the traditional. They are controlled in the same way as a conventional oven and have a door to keep the heat in.
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Microwave Ovens
Microwave ovens are a hugely important part of every professional kitchen. As a standard microwave-only oven they can perform essential functions such as safely re-heating frozen or chilled food, which is at the heart of many menus in informal dining restaurants and pubs or in room-service for hotels.
Where they get much more versatile in when they become a combination microwave oven. The combination is the addition of convection hot air and a grill. This transforms a simple re-heating cabinet into a multi-function cooking oven. Jacket potatoes can be softened then crisped, pastry dishes can be reheated and crisped, in fact almost all of the functions of a standard oven can be performed in the combination microwave oven. The main limitation is of load capacity and the absence of steam in a standard-size microwave oven. Although it is possible to buy a combi-oven which incorporates microwave energy.
A general rule of thumb is that microwave only is for re-heating, combination microwave ovens are for reheating and primary cooking.
There is a minority view among caterers that all microwave ovens are the same, the only difference between commercial ovens and domestic ovens being the power and price. This is completely untrue. There are clear cooking, construction and food safety differences between microwave ovens designed for domestic use and those designed for the professional kitchen.
Domestic microwave ovens are often low power, which means they will take far longer to reheat, defrost or cook food than a commercial oven. While domestic ovens have a power rating from 600 watts to 900 watts, commercial microwave ovens can be up to 2000 watts. The term watts is a unit of measurement for the heating power of a microwave oven.
The device which produces the energy waves which heat food in a microwave oven is called a magnetron. Domestic microwave ovens usually just have a single magnetron while commercial microwave ovens usually have two magnetrons which are built to a higher specification, making them faster, more efficient and longer lasting.
A commercial build microwave oven is built to withstand hard use every day, while a domestic is designed to be used just a couple of times a day, which repeated use of a domestic microwave oven can lead to a loss of power with the associated food safety risks.
Microwave energy needs to be evenly spread around the oven cavity to ensure that all parts of the food inside are safely heated. Where chilled or frozen food is not thoroughly heated, harmful bacteria within the food is unlikely to be killed, risking food poisoning. Many domestic microwave ovens use simple turntables to try to distribute the microwave heat, while commercial microwave ovens have sophisticated heat mixing systems in the oven cavity.
The casing of most domestic microwave ovens is painted mild steel which will chip, corrode and cause food safety hazards. Most professional microwave oven have casings made with hard-wearing stainless steel which is easy to keep clean and will not corrode. Commercial microwave oven are likely to have far more sophisticated cooking programmes, often push-button pre-sets, so staff can reheat properly and easily every time. The oven cavity size on a commercial microwave is usually based around the gastronorm system, making it easier to accommodate industry standard sized food dishes.
Most commercial microwave ovens have a cavity space of ½ gastronorm, but they are also available in 2/3 gastronorm and full-size gastronorm.
Manufacturers group commercial microwaves into four power bands.
Light-duty - The oven will have a power ranging between 900 watts and 1100 watts. This is suitable for use where demands are light, such as a café, satellite kitchen or petrol filling station.
Medium-duty – A power rating of 1100 to 1500 watts, proportionately more robustly built than a light-duty oven and suitable for restaurants where the microwave is only in occasional use, busy cafes, pubs or leisure centres.
Heavy-duty – Powered from 1500 to 1900 watts and the most popular power range used in catering. Suitable for busy pubs, hotels, busy restaurants or staff catering. Built to withstand hard and heavy use.
Extra heavy-duty – these are usually where large quantities of food are needed to be reheated quickly rather than just individual portions. They can take up to a full gastronorm tray. While all other power bands are connected to a 13amp socket, this very heavy duty oven will need hard wiring into the mains.
While the general rule is the high the wattage the faster the food will be heated, much beyond 2000 watts and food risks being burned on the outside before it is heated on the inside.
Look After It!
Microwaves oven can become quite dirty with food debris during a service and a full clean-down every day is essential to maintain food hygiene. Cleaning materials should only be those recommended by the manufacturer.
Regular safety and maintenance checks in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions are vitally important with microwave ovens. Any slight drop in power output and food will begin to be incorrectly re-heated, disappointing customers and presenting a food safety hazard.
Looking after a microwave oven is not difficult and they are one of the more reliable pieces of cooking equipment in the kitchen, but not without some look-after rules. Regular and thorough cleaning is the No. 1 rule of microwave ovens. The intense heat they put into food inevitably leads to some food spatter around the oven cavity.
If this is not wiped out regularly, but left, it will bake on with the heat of the microwave energy and give an even greater cleaning problem.
Kitchen staff using a microwave oven should be trained to wipe off any spillage or spattering as soon as the food item has been taken from the microwave. At the end of shift the microwave needs a thorough wipe down with a detergent on a non-abrasive cloth, then sanitising.
Non-abrasive cloths are very important, as the internal coating on the cavity of a microwave oven is tough, but not resistant to constant scratching. If the internal cavity walls become scored or damaged, then the repair might be so expensive that it will call to question whether to repair or replace. Both questions would not arise with careful use.
The exterior casing of a commercial microwave oven is usually stainless steel, but there will also be plastic or toughened glass used in fascia panels and controls. The exterior can withstand a tougher scrub, but if the oven exterior is regular cleaned at the end of a shift there should be no need to.
Beyond regular cleaning and careful cleaning, there is little to go wrong with a commercial microwave oven. Repairs are usually caused by operator miss-handling, either rough cleaning or damage to door hinges and closures through constant slamming. A microwave oven is like any item of kitchen equipment in that the door will prematurely break down through slamming abuse. Staff should be trained to know that a positive push closes the door of a microwave oven just as effectively as a heavy slam.
It is easy to think that the simplicity of operation of a microwave oven means there is not the need for a high maintenance schedule as there might on kitchen equipment using water and gas. Professional microwave ovens are relatively low in maintenance costs, but they must never be excluded from the regular maintenance cycle. It only takes a service engineer a few minutes to check for leakage of microwaves through door seals, but it is a vital part of regular maintenance for staff safety and efficient operation.
Take care not to operate the oven with little or no food in it – this will reduce the life of the magnetron which is the component that produces the microwave energy.
In brief
Clean regularly, but gently
Avoid letting food debris burn
Have the oven regularly serviced
Train staff on the fire hazards
Allow for proper rear ventilation
Slam doors
Use metal containers
Scratch the insides
Use abrasive cleaners
Run the oven without food
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Understanding Kitchen Ventilation
In the kitchen, a ventilation system removes heat and grease coming from cooking equipment, steam from ware washing and boiling and dangerous carbon monoxide fumes produced from the combustion of gas cooking equipment. Front of house, a ventilation system removes smoke, keeps the restaurant or bar at a pleasant temperature and reduces humidity. Externally, it can remove cooking smells, which are being discharged into the atmosphere to the annoyance of other businesses or houses in the vicinity.
A kitchen ventilation system, incorporating extract and supply air is not an optional extra any more, but a legal requirement. Legislation regarding health and safety in the workplace insist on kitchens being well-ventilated and comfortable to work in. This is not met by just opening a window or door, which in itself would give access to airborne pollution. Tobacco smoke in public areas is a huge issue both for customers and staff. Any cooking smells being discharged into the outside is not just a nuisance to neighbours, but also a reason to be refused planning permission for any kitchen redevelopment or the subject of an enforcement notice for an existing kitchen.
It is now a requirement to comply with BS-6173 to have the gas supply interlocked with both the extract and supply air systems. This automatically switches off the gas supply should the extraction system stop working for any reason and a fire occur in the extraction canopy.
There are two main types of kitchen ventilation, canopy or ventilated ceiling. Canopies are the most popular in commercial kitchens. Both systems involved a system of filters and fans, exhausting the heat, dangerous gases and humidity and trapping particles of food and fat debris while at the same time introducing cleaned and cooler air into the kitchen.
The system to fit depends on the nature of the kitchen operation, the available space and nature of the cooking. One of the variable features of a kitchen ventilation system is the type of filtering system used to remove food debris, notably grease. Grease is not just an unwanted smell; it is also a high fire risk within the extraction systems. There are six types of grease filter available.
Mesh filters – These are layers of metal mesh onto which the grease particles are deposited as they are drawn through the system. They require regular washing, are not efficient at removing high levels of grease and in a high-fat kitchen can pose a fire risk in the extraction system. These types of filters should only be used where there will be little or no grease held in suspension within the exhaust gases, therefore, these filters should not be installed above deep fat fryers, chargrills, griddles, salamander grills or bratt pans to be used for shallow frying. Cleaning of these filters is done by soaking them in very hot water with a de-greasing detergent, although this will eventually destroy the internal mesh and require the filter to be replaced.
Baffle filters – More efficient than mesh filters, as they work by making the air change direction and velocity, which separates the grease from the air stream with the deposited grease running off into grease collection troughs. These types of filters are suitable for general cooking with moderate grease load applications. These filters should only be manufactured from stainless steel. Cleaning procedure is very simple as they can be simply washed in a commercial dish washing machine.
Cartridge filters – These types of filters should not be confused with disposable filters, as disposable filters should never be used in commercial kitchen extract systems. Cartridge filters are stainless steel filters, which are more efficient than baffle filters as they are intended for moderate to heavy grease load applications. These types of filters will be cleaned, like the baffle filters, by running through a commercial dishwashing machine.
Water wash – A more advanced cartridge system where the filters are subject to an automatic internal washing cycle to clean them, usually at the end of the working day. They need a hot water supply and are among the more expensive systems, but are very good at extracting grease.
Continuous water mist - Regarded as one of the most effective of grease extraction systems, but requires plumbing and is expensive. There is a continuous mist of cold water sprayed into the extraction system that emulsifies the fats and causes it to drop into a collection trough.
Ultra Violet UV-C - The latest technology for the efficient elimination of grease from within kitchen ventilation systems is the combination of Cartridge filters and Ultra Violet UV-C light. This will give grease and odour removal efficiencies in excess of 98%.
Fire risk
The large amount of grease drawn into a kitchen ventilation system creates a fire risk. One of the most common causes of commercial kitchen fires is through sudden combustion of grease-laden air in the extraction system. It can happen very quickly with no obvious cause to the kitchen staff. Where more than moderate grease extraction is happening, a fire suppression system needs to be built into the ventilation system.
Most fire suppression systems use either wet or dry chemicals that are activated automatically in the event of a fire, which originates in any one item of cooking equipment. In the event of a fire in the ventilation system, there should be a trigger mechanism that shuts off gas and electricity supplies to prevent making the fire worse. The Association of British Insurers has produced a Fire Risk Assessment document for kitchen ventilation systems.
Cleaning of extraction systems is essential on both hygiene and fire safety grounds. If there is a high level of frying within the kitchen the essential cleaning may be as frequent as weekly. The kitchen designer or installer will advise on the frequency of cleaning. Failure to follow laid-down ventilation system cleaning routines could render insurance invalid in the event of a kitchen fire.
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Understanding Waste Management
Kitchen waste has a double hit on kitchen costs. Food not sold and thrown away immediately hits the bottom line of profit, but the second hit is the charge of removal for both kitchen waste and plate waste. Most local authorities will charge for both packaging and food waste removal and waste cooking oil often carries a removal and recycling cost from specialist oil recycling companies.
There is not uniformity across the UK with waste disposal regulations and different local authorities and water companies have conflicting policies. But one aspect of food waste management common to all is that food waste cannot go for animal feed as it once did.
While not always illegal, tipping old cooking oil into the sewerage system is a serious pollution and if it caused a mains drain blockage leading from a kitchen, the restaurant could be charged for cleaning and repairs to the drain by the local authority. Some water authorities take a harder view than others on it. It is a feature of most local authority building regulations for commercial food premises that a grease separation system be fitted in all new or refurbished kitchens, but the legislation is not retrospective.
While plastic sacks are adequate for non-food waste in small premises, no waste food should ever be stored in plastic sacks which vermin can easily tear open. The most practical means of holding all waste not destined for recycling are heavy-duty wheelie bins with lids that are too heavy for vermin, feral cats, dogs and foxes to lift. Wheelie bins come in a range of sizes and can be bought outright, leased or loaned as part of a collection scheme.
Since waste collection is charged by the wheelie bin it makes economic sense for premises which produce a lot waste to invest in a waste compactor. Typically, the wheelie bin is pushed up against the compactor and bulky items such as packaging waste will compress to a quarter of the space. The cost of buying a compactor can easily be recouped by a busy operation in under a year.
While commercial wheelie bins are efficient in holding waste, they can be unsightly and smelly. Screening hides the view, but not the smells in summer. One way to contain both sight and smell is to invest in a dedicated walk-in cold-room for food waste with a constant temperature of 8 deg C.
Blocked drains in kitchen premises caused by food waste and fats that wash off dirty plates can be a very expensive service call and can be avoided through fitting a fat separation unit or grease trap to the water outflow system.
A grease trap works by slowing down the flow of warm or hot greasy water coming out of a dishwasher and allowing it to cool. As the water cools, the grease and oil separate and float to the top of the grease trap. The cooler water containing less grease continues to flow down the pipe to the sewer. The grease is trapped by baffles, which cover the inlet and outlet of the tank, preventing grease from flowing out of the trap. The baffles are regularly removed for cleaning and the grease put into general waste.
Different local authorities have different views on the siting of a grease trap. Some say it must be outside of the kitchen, other are happy for it to be in the kitchen. Where a grease trap is taking water from a dishwashing system, it has to be sited sufficiently far away from the dishwasher to allow the emulsified fat to cool and split out from the water. A popular way of reducing the amount of food waste going into wheelie bins is to fit a waste disposal unit.
Food waste is pulverised and discharged into the sewerage system, reducing the cost of waste management.
Some local authorities will not allow food waste that has been pulverised in an under-sink waste disposal unit to be discharged into the sewers and the normal way of complying with this regulation is through a dewatering system. This quite simply separates out the water from suspended solids. The water goes into the drains and the slurry disposed of through other means.
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Understanding Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is one of the main construction materials of every professional kitchen. It is tough, easy to clean and resistant to corrosion. It used in cutlery, prime cooking equipment and utensils, but its most visible use is in shelving, tables and sinks. Not the most glamorous areas of the kitchen, but where stainless steel plays a pivotal role in durability of work surfaces and kitchen hygiene.
Steel is made by mixing molten iron with carbon in a furnace. Adding the carbon gives greater strength, but does not overcome the problem of rusting. By adding nickel, chromium or both metals to the molten iron in addition to carbon, rusting can be controlled, though not totally eliminated.
There are international standards laid down for the making of stainless steel so that metal from different parts of the world is consistent. The two main grades of stainless steel used in catering equipment are grade 304 and grade 430. The grade rating indicates the mix of metals in the stainless steel alloy.
Grade 430 is the cheaper stainless steel, containing just chromium. Grade 304 contains both chromium and nickel and is more corrosion resistant, but more expensive.
The benefit of 430 stainless steel is that being cheap, it is useful for the manufacture of tables and pressings such as sinks where low cost is an important part of the specification, but corrosion will be a problem in the long term.
Another important consideration when buying stainless steel tables and sinks is the thickness of the steel. A thin gauge metal will not be as durable as a thick one. The usual thickness for stainless steel tables and sinks is 1.2mm. It is possible to buy .9mm stainless steel, but don’t expect a long life from it. The top end of stainless steel for very heavy use is 1.5mm thickness. One way of making a medium thickness stainless steel used in tabling much stronger is to seal in a layer of medium density fibreboard (MDF). This manufacturing process also reduces vibration and noise.
There are no international standards on the polished finish of stainless steel, but there are manufacturer descriptions which indicate the type of surface. Satin finish is a fairly dull looking surface which is suitable where the appearance of the tabling or sinks is not important. This is a very hard-wearing surface which does not show scratch marks as much as a highly-polished stainless steel.
A high polished finish is often used where the stainless steel is on public display such as in serveries and counters, though for economy reasons, the underside may be satin finish. The stainless steel finish gaining popularity for its looks and ease of cleaning has the generic name of superbrush. This has a close grain finish, does not show fingerprints so easily and is easier to keep clean than other stainless steel surfaces.
Popular logic says that pressing a sheet of stainless steel to form sinks or tabling will produce weak spots in the bends. The science of metal says different and folds in metal can actually increase the strength. Where weak points in the fabrication can occur is with cheap welding. With 304 stainless steel it is important that the welding rods are also 304 stainless to avoid the weld becoming a vulnerable area.
One of the principal benefits of stainless steel is its ability to keep clean, yet with sinks and work tables, the cleaning is often the cause of damage. No detergent with bleach or any
chlorine content should be used on stainless steel. Chlorines attack the surface of stainless steel and will lead to rust spots. The best way to clean any stainless steel table or sink is soap and hot water. Harsh abrasives such as wire wool pads will also damage stainless steel. Nylon scouring pads are better, but if they are too rough they will still score the surface and spoil the polished sheen.
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Understanding Snack Equipment
This is the lightweight equipment that can perform a heavyweight performance in a wide range of catering operations, from cafes and pubs to hotel restaurants. Snacks are by definition a light bite, but business can be frequent and busy, so using anything less than commercial equipment means that it will not perform or last.
One of the most commonly used items of snack equipment and one of the most heavily used. For this reason alone buying anything other than commercial specification is pointless. Commercial toasters are built to withstand prolonged heavy use with heavy-duty elements unlike domestic toasters, which often toast unevenly, will have no spare parts available and the toaster is unlikely to have the versatility to cook toasted sandwiches, a very lucrative revenue opportunity.
The peak demand time for toast is around breakfast and for hotels this will usually be focused into a tight window around 7.30am to 8.30am or for staff restaurants and cafes 8.30am to 9.30am. The size and type of toaster needs to be able to cope with that peak demand as breakfast is seldom a leisurely affair.
The fastest toasting production comes from conveyor toasters, which is what hotels need to deliver toast quickly and hot. Conveyor toasters are available as single slice belts, double, treble or even wider for really high toast production. Output can be awesome, with up to 400 slices an hour from a single conveyor belt.
Features to look for include an adjustable belt speed and heat setting, the facility to toast bread buns or muffins if needed and a toast rack on top of the unit for holding the toast warm.
Pop-up toasters can still produce lots of toast through having more than the traditional two slots. Pop-up toasters are available with up to 12 slots, which in output per hour is not far behind a single-belt conveyor toaster.
If toasted sandwiches are on the menu, it’s possible buy toasters with an extra wide slot and a sandwich clamp for making toasted sandwiches or toasters with extra wide slots for toasting bread buns or muffins. A useful variation for hotels where the breakfast is self-service is to have a four-slot toaster where two slots are independently controlled, allowing two customers to use the toaster at the same time.
Bains marie
Often incorporated into modular island cooking suites or serveries, bains marie are also available as stand alone individual units usually holding between one to four flush-fitting tubs. The name comes from a French housekeeper called Marie who wanting to keep her master’s food hot until he came home so sat small pans in bigger pans of hot water to keep the food hot. The French word for bath is bain, hence bain marie.
They can powered by LPG, which is useful for outside catering situations, but most are electric. There are two types, wet heat and dry heat. Both types will have thermostatic and adjustable heat controls with a maximum temperature of 90 deg C to avoid either the product boiling or burning or in the case of a water bath bain marie, the water boiling dry. Water bath models should have a drain tap to allow for emptying and thorough cleaning at the end of a service session. It also possible to get bain maries that are refrigerated for holding cold food safely.
Potato ovens
Baked potatoes are a British institution and while they can be cooked back of house and held in a warming cupboard, the popular way is to have a counter-top potato oven which acts as a cooker, a holding cabinet and a merchandiser. Most are made using enamelled cast iron to give that traditional appearance.
The cooking is done on racks using gas or electric convection. The holding drawer or cabinet should be matched to the cooking capacity, so an oven that can cook 30 potatoes in an hour has a holding drawer that can also take 30 potatoes to ensure a cooking and delivery cycle.
The normal way to operate them is for the first batch to go into the cooker one hour before service commences, then those stored for sale and a fresh batch loaded into the oven. If demand is high, extra potatoes can be cooked in a kitchen in the oven and leaded into the holding drawer while the potatoes in the oven are cooking.
An additional feature that is available is to have the oven with a built-on bain marie to hold toppings such as baked beans or curry sauce or a refrigerated bain marie for holding grated cheese and coleslaw. A flat surface around the bain marie makes for a cutting and topping work station. It is also possible to get merchandising accessories such as menu boards setting out prices and toppings available.
Hot dogs
Hot dogs are ready cooked and come in ambient tins or tubs, but need heating. There are three ways of heating the sausages: on a roller grill, in a hot dog steamer or in hot water. Hot water is not recommended as it leeches out the flavour and seasoning from the sausage.
Hot dog steamers are a type of table-top bain marie. The base has a heated water bath and suspended over it is an inner pan with water in which the sausages are held. The advantage of this double pan system is that the temperature of the sausages never rises above 75 deg C. Beyond that temperature there is the risk of the skins splitting, particularly with high-quality sausages which are using natural skins as opposed to synthetic. This style of hot dog machine tends to be where demand is heavy.
The best cooking theatre and merchandising comes from dog rollers where the customer can see the hot dogs rolling around. The heat comes from heating element running through the rollers, which can be gas heated, but more commonly is electric. Buying one with non-stick rollers prevents sticking, which can occur if the sausages get too hot. A useful accessory is a bun warmer, which can be sited underneath the roller to hold ready split finger rolls. Also very useful is a sneeze guard to maintain high standards of food hygiene.
For smaller operations, such as pubs or cafes an alternative theatre style of production is combined bread and dog warmers as a table-top, plug-in unit. The sausages are heated in a vertical heated glass container surrounded four heated spikes. The system is to cut off one end of a small baguette, spike it for a short while to heat the bread, then slide a hot sausage into the cavity made by the spike. For use with traditional finger rolls, an alternative bread warmer is a heated clamp. Both sausage warmers and bread warmers are available as separate units.
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Understanding Shelving and Storage Equipment
When it comes to enough space to work in, most chefs will say the person who designed the kitchen was never going to have to work in it, or the kitchen was designed when food sales were not as busy as the present. That means the maximum use of available space is important which means efficient shelving and storage.
Not only must there be efficient use of space with shelving, but it has also to conform to good food safety practice and increasingly, to employee health and safety requirements. Lifting from high shelves involving stretching or standing on a raised surface could be viewed as an employee safety risk.
With walk-in coldrooms and freezer rooms it is important to maximise the storage areas through good racking and shelving, since the running costs over a year will be very similar for a coldroom under-stocked and one that has shelving which utilises as much space as possible.
Shelving fixed to the walls of the kitchen or the dry store area is still widespread, but it is impractical to move it, cleaning is more difficult and since all kitchens evolve in layout it does not make for sensible use of the storage area.
The most effective shelving is a modular system. This usually comes as a flatpack or semi-fitted. As part of a new kitchen or refurbishment, the installer will put the shelving together, but it is literally snap and click, often without any nuts or bolts to fix. Self-assembly is very straightforward.
Advantages of modular shelving systems include mobility, versatility and the ability to remove shelving for washing, either through a dishwasher or in a sink. The uprights on modular shelving have anchor points for shelf support brackets, so many or just two or three shelves can be fitted according to the goods in store and their size.
Changing shelf height is very simple and additional shelves and support brackets can be bought. A good system will allow for shelving to be fitted around a corner, often without the obstruction of a support post on the leading edge of the corner, further increasing the versatility of the unit. Where transporting of shelving is a feature needed in a kitchen, modular racking systems mounted on castors are available.
The materials available
There are a wide range of materials used in shelving, each with their advantages, but the one material which has a food safety question mark against it is wood. In theory, wood is cheap and for dry goods storage such as tins presents no food safety risks. But things other than tins get stored on wooden shelving and it can become soiled and be a breeding ground for bacteria. A regular and thorough cleaning routine using a sanitiser will keep the wood clean, but in practice this is unlikely to happen.
Zinc chromate - Usually the cheapest material for shelving, useful where cost is very important to the buyer. It performs well for ambient dry goods storage, but if used in the damp environment of a coldroom over a period of time it can produce a type of white rust which needs to be cleaned off.
Coated wire – This is metal, usually as a mesh or parallel bars, which is given a plastic coating, similar to the racking used in a domestic fridge. This is a versatile material which can
be used in both coldrooms and for ambient racking. Care has to be taken that in a coldroom rust does not begin to break through at bends and joints. In a coldroom environment, cracking can occur in the plastic coating, which as well as allowing corrosion to break through, gives a cleaning problem.
Anodised aluminium – This is one of the less expensive materials and has strength, stain resistance and the anodised coating makes it easy to keep clean. Can be used in both dry goods storage and in coldrooms and freezer rooms.
Stainless steel – The most durable of construction materials, good to keep clean and corrosion problems are very rare. The choice of kitchens where there is a desire for high performance and the willingness to pay for it.
Shelf construction
There are several construction forms for the actual shelf, but they fit within two types – solid shelves and slatted shelves. A solid shelf is useful if small items are being stored, such as cooking utensils or small jars which would topple over on a slatted shelf.
Slatted shelves are the more popular. These allow air to circulate freely around food, important in storing fresh food at ambient temperature and for coldroom storage. The slats allow for a good circulation of the cold air around the food. For use in wine storage, then round slats are useful as they allow bottles to be racked horizontally and put on top of each other.
Dunnage racks
Dunnage is a technical word that describes a low-sited ambient racking system that keep heavy items just off the ground to prevent moisture, heat and cold from rising up through the ground and spoiling product. Having foodstuffs raised off the ground also helps to be a barrier to walking and crawling pests. Typical products stored on dunnage shelving are sacks of potatoes and other bulky vegetables such as onions and carrots. Dunnage shelving needs to be very robust, able to withstand heavy and prolonged weights being stored on it.
Cleaning shelving
With modular shelving, the slatted shelves can be lifted out and in most cases put through a dishwasher. For parts of modular shelving which cannot be put into a dishwasher such as the upright frame, a medium bristle brush with hot soapy water will clean off spillages and a sanitising spray will help remove residual bacteria. A hot power wash spray gun normally used for cleaning solid floors is another way of cleaning shelving, but check with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Immediate cleaning should be done when there is a spillage of cooked food or leaching of fluid from meat and fish.
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Understanding Servicing
Modern catering equipment is manufactured to high engineering standards, designed for the punishing routine of a professional kitchen. Yet it is not indestructible and just as a car needs regular servicing to perform well and last, so does catering equipment.
Regular servicing is life enhancing and can spot potential problems before they cause a breakdown, which is likely to be far more expensive than the cost of servicing. Servicing will also highlight any impending dangers, such as worn gas connections or loose electrical wiring, which could be a hazard to both staff and premises.
Lastly, failure to have regular servicing in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and with service records to prove it, could work against a business in the event of any insurance claim for either damaged premises or injured staff.
Types of service arrangements
Most catering equipment comes with a manufacturer’s warranty. The terms and guarantee period will vary, but both parts and labour are likely to be included. However, That warranty is for the unlikely event of a manufacturing defect occurring, it does not cover servicing or replacement of parts that have worn out through fair wear and tear or misuse. Failure to follow the manufacturer’s servicing guidelines will also result in invalidating the warranty.
The recommended way of ensuring proper maintenance is carried out by professional engineers is to take out a service contract through the manufacturer, supplier of the equipment or a catering equipment service company. The service contract will cover all the kitchen equipment with varying levels of charging.
Charges vary by reasons such as servicing only, servicing and any labour charges for repairs needed, speed of response time, number of service visits a year, amount of equipment in the kitchen and location.
The temptation to only call a service engineer out when something breaks down is how to learn just how far down the pecking order in call-response time someone without a service contract is. With busy service engineers, their own service contracts and manufacturers’ warranty work will take precedent, with random calls for help at the back of the queue.
Ensure all the detail of a contract is understood before signing it. Things such as mileage charges, is engineers’ time charged by the quarter hour or full hour, are there premium rates for evening or weekend call-outs, what are response times, what exclusions are there and is there any minimum charges?
Can anyone repair catering equipment?
Definitely not. Gas equipment in particular is governed by strict laws. Only engineers who have a certificate of competence from the Council for Registered Gas Installers, better known by its acronym of CORGI, can work on gas equipment, both mains gas and LPG.
There is separate certification and rules for working on domestic and non-domestic appliances. Domestic certificated gas engineers are not allowed to touch catering equipment. Evidence of the correct certification should always be asked for on any first visit.
Gas-fired cooking equipment is divided by CORGI into five individual certifications, each with their own piece of training and certification. For practical purposes, this means a catering engineer needs to be trained in the appropriate category for the equipment being serviced.
The main types of equipment in the five categories of catering competence in gas-fired catering equipment are:
Category 1: Boiling tables, open and solid top ranges, convection ovens, combi-ovens and bains-marie.
Category 2: Water boilers, boiling pans, steamers and dishwashers.
Category 3: Deep-fat fryers, bratt pans, griddles and grills.
Category 4: Fish and chip ranges
Category 5: Forced draught burner appliances, such as impingers and conveyor ovens.
Keeping servicing costs down
There are two factors that contribute greatly to servicing and repair costs. Abuse and misuse by kitchen staff can be very costly and is avoidable. Oven and fridge doors should be firmly closed, not slammed, equipment should not be loaded beyond recommended capacity or run empty if manufacturer’s guidelines say it should not be. Water filtration systems should be installed to remove limescale before it gets into cooking and washing equipment pipework.
Proper daily cleaning routines will also contribute greatly to reducing servicing and repair costs. Any spillages should be cleaned immediately, particularly if food has spilled into gas jets, where the heat will carbonise the food and block the jets. Microwave ovens should be thoroughly cleaned at the end of every shift, door seal gaskets properly wiped down. Staff may be eager to go home, but neglecting cleaning will cost money.
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Understanding Water
Treatment Systems
Water is commonly classified as hard or soft depending on the type and amount of naturally occurring and harmless minerals and salts dissolved in it. The most common ones are calcium and magnesium. When water has a relative high content of dissolved minerals it is described as hard, a low dissolved content and it is described as soft.
When mains water is heated it causes the dissolved salts to attach themselves to any metal they come into contact with, forming a creamy-coloured hard crust which builds up and is called limescale or just scale. It’s a familiar sight on the heating elements in electric kettles. In areas of the country where the water is naturally soft, the build-up will take a long time to be noticed. In hard water areas the build-up can be relatively quick.
The danger of limescale build-up is where it occurs in the internal pipework or water heating elements of kitchen equipment which uses running mains water and heating elements, such as dishwashers, combi-ovens, coffee machines and vending machines.
Where scale build-up occurs in internal pipework it restrict the flow of water causing serious and expensive damage to equipment. Where scale build-up occurs on heating elements it will insulate the elements forcing them to use far more energy than needed to heat the water, leading to early burn-out.
The fact that a catering business may be in an area of the UK officially classified as a soft-water region is not an excuse for not fitting water treatment, because there is still a risk. There are dissolved salts in all water and scale build-up will occur eventually. While the normal water supply is regarded as soft water, should the water be drawn from deep boreholes in times of drought, its hardness level will change.
Also, water companies move water around from region to region through underground pipework, which will also change the hardness level. Apart from softening, water treatment systems will remove contaminants, which can affect the taste of water in ice, mains water for the table and hot beverages.
There are several different water treatment systems. A hotel may choose to have a system which treats all water coming in through a central treatment point. This will give purified and soft water not just for the kitchen, but for all other parts of the hotel. A system may be installed to serve all kitchen equipment or individual items of equipment can be fitted with their own water filter.
Water softeners – These add a slight amount of salt to the water, which has the effect of greatly reducing the amount of dissolved limescale which will be released when the water is heated. Suitable where the water is not directly for consumption, such as in dishwashing or laundry. Not suitable where the water is to be consumed because of the slight increase in saltiness. Can lead to streaking of glasses in glasswashers and over time the salt can corrode welds on internal pipework. The least expensive form of water treatment.
Carbon Filters – These will remove chlorine and discoloration, but not hardness. So if the business is located in a soft water area, but there is a wish to make the water taste better for drinking or use in draught soft drinks dispensers, carbon filters are an option.
De-alkalising units – Sometimes called calcium treatment units because they remove the hardness. The water is passed through. Suitable for combi-ovens, steamers, icemakers beverage machines and vending machines.
De-mineralisation – This removes almost all the dissolved minerals and hardness in the water and an option where the water is very hard. Useful for glasswashers where there has been a history of smearing on glasses due to high levels of dissolved salts in the washing water.
Reverse Osmosis - While this sounds like high science, it is in principle a fairly simple water treatment system. The water is forced under pressure through a very thin filtering membrane, like a sieve, which removes not just the harmful limescale but many other trace elements, giving water, which is very pure, but total removal of trace elements may change the flavour of beverages. For use in delivering very pure water or where the water is exceptionally hard.
How to choose the right water treatment system
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