Several equipment companies have revisited holding technology and design. Improvements and upgrades are turning out hot foods that are pretty close to fresh-cooked.
Unless it’s cooked to order, mass-produced hot food often has a not-so-hot image: that of the bland, dried out, overcooked, unappealing steam-table selections found on many cafeteria lines. Several equipment companies, however, have revisited holding technology and design. Improvements and upgrades are turning out hot foods that are pretty close to fresh-cooked.
Sleeker steam tables
Even so, “steam table” hot food wells are still a necessary evil for holding large quantities of food at a precise temperature. Hatco and Alto-Shaam, two manufacturers that specialize in hot holding equipment, have brought several innovations to the category.
Hatco recently began offering a series of hot food wells made of thicker-gauge steel for greater durability. Plus, the bottom and sides are insulated between the outer and inner walls to provide faster preheat times and better heat retention and distribution—all of which keep foods hotter and fresher and make the unit very energy efficient. The rectangular wells are offered in any configuration—from one-well modular units to a single five-well unit.
Alto-Shaam has taken its patented Halo Heat system and incorporated it into the lining of its new hot food wells. It surrounds food with a precisely controlled uniform heat source, preventing excessive moisture loss. Halo Heat is also a completely dry operation; no water or drain connections are required. This cuts back on installation, maintenance and utility costs. Alto-Shaam’s heated wells are offered in the same configurations and electrical specifications as the Hatco units.
Hatco also offers hot holding products for the front of the house that do away with the institutional look of buffet line equipment. The company’s new stone heated shelves can be seamlessly integrated into stone countertops, providing an attractive holding solution. In the same vein, Hatco produces patented glass thermal shelves that eliminate visual barriers but still provide efficient top and bottom heat.
The news in cabinets
FryMaster, an Enodis company, has recently put into production its first piece of hot holding equipment, the HoldMaster heated cabinet. It occupies roughly the same footprint as other half-height and under-counter cabinets, but is comprised of three heated tiers that each hold four individual trays of food. Each “compartment” has independent controls that allow different foods to be held at their ideal holding temperatures—mashed potatoes and breads, for instance, can be held with a milder heat to prevent drying out whereas sauces or soups can be maintained at piping hot temperatures. In addition, the pass-through compartments allow for pre-portioning up to a dozen orders.
“HoldMaster accommodates multiple items, so it’s not necessary to add more production equipment to clutter up your operation,” says Brenda Fried Humphreys, VP of marketing for FryMaster. “The design is very efficient during peak times in QSR and casual dining, especially as breakfast becomes a more important daypart.”