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FE&SEditorial Archives2003 — December — Product Sales Tips

Bring Your Sales To A Boil With Steamers

Ideal for any number of tasks from blanching vegetables to steaming fish, highly durable steaming equipment offers a healthful method of preparing foods. With several different types of steamers to choose from and maintenance issues surrounding the use of water in cooking equipment, however, DSRs must know how and how often a steamer will be used in order to recommend the best unit.

  • The first step in selling steamers is determining if a kitchen is compatible with this piece of equipment. If the unit under consideration is a replacement, DSRs can be confident that the facility has the water and drain lines necessary to accommodate a new steamer. If a customer is buying a first steamer, the kitchen must be reviewed to ascertain the location of these utilities and if they are suitable for connection to the operator's preferred steamer.
  • Steamers fall into four broad categories, so it's essential to know which type is the best fit for any account. Standard pressure steamers cook at 228°F. Food is cooked by forcing steam at a range of two to 15 lbs. psi (per square inch) into an outer cavity that encompasses the cooking chamber. DSRs should let customers know that flavor transfer can occur if different types of food are being prepared in a pressure steamer at the same time.
  • Pressure steamers are best suited for large batch cooking, such as occurs at military, corrections and healthcare foodservices. Because of the complexity of pressure steamers, some DSRs feel that their customers are better served by selecting other steamer types.
  • Convection (or pressureless) steamers cook at 212°F. Heat is transferred via convected steam coming in direct contact with products. Unlike pressure steamers, the doors on these units can be opened during operation so staff can check or season foods, making them particularly well suited for production of la carte menus. Convection units generally cook more slowly than pressure steamers, however, and tend to have a higher operating cost and lower productivity than pressurized units when preparing single items.
  • Both pressure and convection steamers may have boilers. DSRs should make sure their customers know that, in order to maintain efficiency, boilers need to be rigorously cleaned of scale, lime and other mineral deposits regularly, though exactly how often will depend upon the hardness or softness of their water supply and whether the steamer they select is equipped with a filtration system.
  • Operators should be further instructed that mineral buildup on boiler walls insulates the water from heating elements, thereby slowing cooking times.
  • Operators probably also need to know that, oftentimes, if they use a filter made by their steamer's manufacturer, the factory will extend their unit's warranty. This correlation provides DSRs with a good way to help a customer while at the same time increasing the value of a sale and strengthening their relationship.
  • Because of the maintenance issues surrounding boilers, there has been a move in recent years toward "boilerless" steamers. Salespeople should be sure that operators know that these come in two general types: boilerless connectionless and boilerless convection.
  • Boilerless connectionless steamers function as their name implies: They require no water line or drain line. With these models, water is manually added by staff into a tank that contains a heating element, meaning there is no boiler to clean. In addition, since all they need to operate is water and an electrical outlet, these sorts of steamers can be moved as needed.
  • Boilerless convection steamers seek to combine the best of both convection and boilerless units. While most do have water and drain lines, they don't use maintenance-intensive boilers. In addition, by adding a fan to circulate steam within the cooking cavity, production time is typically shortened. Such equipment is relatively new, however, meaning many optional features available on other units may not be offered on this type of equipment.

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