Steam table maintenance

steam table server


Could the cold part be shorting out a hot and cold steam table?

– Cristial Satterwhite, Attorney, Frisch’s, Cincinnati


Over the past five years, this column has kept me current on topics ranging from culinary techniques to HR policies to pest control. As a culinary and hospitality educator, one of the things I really value about my work with Restaurant Business is that it broadens my knowledge base so I have more answers in the classroom.

But part of being a good professor is being smart enough to say, “I have no clue, but I know who will.” When it comes to equipment engineering, I’m lucky if I can find the “on” switch.

Fortunately, I have James Feustel, Principal of Feustel Foodservice Design LLC, in my corner. Feustel is trained as both an engineer and a chef, so he has seen it all from both sides. He says, “Hot and cold steam tables should be serviced once a year as part of any service agreement that the owner has for commercial kitchen equipment. If the unit is still under warranty, there won’t be a need for routine maintenance unless something goes wrong, in which case the manufacturer's authorized service technicians should make the repairs for free.

“If this is a hot-cold steam table unit with a refrigeration compressor, there would only be a few ways that the circuit could short out:

  • If there's loose or bad wiring internal to the unit (which could be repaired as regular or warranty maintenance).
  • If water or condensation infiltrated the controls. This is a serious issue and a licensed electrician and authorized service tech should be called right away.
  • If the circuit is shared with other equipment or undersized. Refrigeration compressors require a surge in amperage when they start running, and if a circuit is too small or overloaded, it could trip a breaker.”

Keeping your equipment—including steam tables—properly maintained is key not only for food quality, but to prevent fire hazards, maintain proper temperatures for food safety and make sure you are using energy efficiently. More on steam table maintenance here.