With the rise in vendor-prepared foods, cook-chill methods and batch production techniques, the role of warming and holding equipment has grown in importance. Even at four-star restaurants, some cooked-to-order elements must be held just long enough for six different entrees and sides to be presented. Equipment manufacturers are meeting these challenges with an impressive array of holding equipment designed to provide safe haven for bulk product, assembled trays, plated meals and impulse-buy snack items. Here are the prime considerations when looking to buy:
Safe food holding temperatures: Holding equipment must be capable of maintaining constant temperatures while providing easy access to the food. The current FSA Food Code requires that hot food be maintained at an internal temperature of 135°F or higher. When specifying holding equipment, buyers should verify its ability to maintain safe food temperatures.
Maintaining food texture: While hot is nice and necessary, the flavor and texture of food can suffer from an extended stay in holding equipment. Some products (dinner rolls) will dry out when exposed to a dry-heat environment, while other products (crispy fried chicken) can’t tolerate high humidity. Winston Industries was founded on the premise that the vapor pressure of foods could be measured and the temperature and humidity inside the holding cabinets adjusted to suit specific products. While the science is sophisticated, the results are simple—extended holding time in an environment that optimizes moisture level. Look to manufacturers with units that can measure and control relative humidity, if extended product holding is routine.
Location, location, location: Hot holding equipment has evolved into many forms to meet operators’ specific needs.
Heat lamps and strip heaters are typically used to keep plated meals warm, just prior to service. Suppliers make these available in attractive decorator colors, for use in open kitchens and where visible by diners.
Drawer warmers and holding cabinets provide longer-term storage in and near assembly areas. Almost all holding cabinets have heavy-duty casters for mobility, making satellite feeding safe and practical. Heated display cases are all about enticing guests by showcasing food out in the open, often enhanced with lighting, curved glass and motion.
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