Heating up, cooling down
Maintaining proper temperature—getting food hot for service or cold enough for storage—is one of the most important concerns in your foodservice operation. Safety, profitability, appearance and flavor are all at stake. Fortunately, much of today’s new equipment can make that job easier.
Keeping things hot
If an entrée isn’t warm enough when a customer digs in, it’s a sure bet that it’s going to come back for reheating—or worse, replacement. While old-fashioned heat lamps can do the trick, there are newer products that can ensure a perfect serving temperature with better design and more plate appeal.
Hatco has just introduced a line of black glass shelves designed to keep food warm on buffet or hors d’oeuvre lines. The ceramic glass surface is approved for direct food contact, so there’s no need for serving vessels. Merco’s Contempo warming lamps are available not only in the traditional copper, nickel and brass finishes, but also in such “decorator" colors as hunter green and royal blue to match your decor. For dishes that need a "final shot" of heat at service time, there’s the new Insta-Therm finishing oven, also from Merco. It provides fast heating in a compact footprint (24 by 14 by 9 inches) that’s smaller than comparable models. Quartz heating elements and contact-activated heating alleviate the need for preheating.
In high-volume production kitchens, holding cabinets are a particularly important part of the food warming process. To improve their efficiency, manufacturers are adding features that make the cabinets hold temperatures more precisely. For example, Alto-Shaam is offering a new digital display and temperature control technology on its cabinets. The system’s sensors respond to temperature fluctuations as little as 2°F. in order to maintain a consistent holding temperature. Henny Penny’s SmartHold cabinets link fans, ventilation and water pan heat to maintain constant humidity levels in the cabinet—anywhere from 10 to 90 percent. Sensors monitor and make adjustments to the humidity as needed.
The problem: Getting the temperature of hot cooked food through the "danger zone" of 135°F down to 41°F (or below) within four hours, as required by the FDA.
The solution: blast chillers or shock freezers. Besides the obvious (and necessary) safety benefit, there are other reasons why having a blast chiller in your operation may make sense. Blast-chilled foods normally have a longer shelf life, so you can prep more food ahead of time and eliminate some repetitive daily production. Blast chilling also allows you to purchase seasonal ingredients at their peak of freshness and use them when it’s convenient for you. And since most blast chillers can be programmed to operate either by a timer or through the use of probes inserted into the food, they don’t require a lot of labor.
In this category, too, there are new developments and products that make the chillers work "smarter" and preserve food longer. Traulsen has matched its RBC100 blast chiller with a Hobart combi-oven. The combi-oven comes with a transport trolley that fits directly into the blast chiller shelves, making for speedier transfer from the cook to chill functions. Confectioners will appreciate the Irinox CP Multi chiller's special "chocolate" setting, which keeps the cabinet between 57° and 59°F., with 40 to 50 percent relative humidity. And even small operations have room for a blast chiller like Beverage-Air's CounterChill model, which measures just 34 inches tall.