Charbroilers & Broilers
Types: Charbroilers come in both floor and countertop models. Specialty broilers include salamanders, wood-burning units and cheese-melters.
Capacities/Footprints: Broiler volumes vary greatly. A 150 3 220 charbroiler's grid can cook 24 hamburgers per load or 340 per hour. A 160 3 200 grid will produce about 380 an hour, while a 200 3 320 model can turn out as many as 760 burgers in 60 minutes. Some charbroilers are sized to accommodate smaller kitchens. For example, drop-in models range in width from 150 to 420, with a standard depth of 240. Grates on gas-powered units generally measure from 240 to 720. Gas broilers are also typically taller (60 to 120) than electric models. Burners are positioned one for every 60 to 120 of grate area. A countertop model can fit snugly into a space 29 square.
Energy Source(s): Heat can come from any of four sources: charcoal, wood, gas or electricity. Conducted heat is transmitted through the top grate. Convected heat is carried by circulated air. Infrared rays emanate from the heat source. Some models offer variable front-to-rear control of heat sources for more precise cooking outcomes.
Manufacturing Method: Most charbroilers are built with a fixed distance between their heat sources and grates. Others, such as wood-burning and charcoal (and some gas) units, feature adjustable grates, letting cookline staff select settings most appropriate to product type and preparation volume.
Standard Features: A basic broiling unit is fundamentally a fire-box with a steel or cast-iron top grate on which foods cook. Some gas charbroilers transfer heat via metal radiants made of stainless-steel alloy or cast iron. Many manufacturers offer grates that can be angled to direct grease away from the hearth. The result is that grease is instead sent down into a trough or tray where it is held until emptied. Most models cook best between 550°F. and 625°F.
New Features/Technology/Options: Sectional units accommodate accessories like shelves, flue risers, spreader cabinets and support frames. Some makers now offer polyurethane swivel casters with front brakes. Stainless-steel sides and back are available, as are adjustable legs. Burners equipped with a pilot shut-off valve and electric spark ignition on the pilots are helpful, as are brackets for wall-mounting and interconnecting gas piping for range-mounting. A spatula-wide grease trough and tandem grease drawer system allow for cleaner operation.
Prime Functions: The primary function of a charbroiler is to cook a wide variety of foods at consistent temperatures and high production levels with as short a recovery time as possible.
Key Kitchen Applications: These include broiling meats, fish and shellfish. Broilers offer fresh-cooked flavor, appearance and evocative "backyard barbecue" aroma.
Sales Guidelines: DSRs should inform their customers that one of the primary benefits of broilers is in food presentation. Many diners prefer food cooked on charbroilers because they give items the appearance and flavor of having been cooked on an outdoor grill.
Maintenance Requirements: Exhaust requirements are highly important. For drop-in models, for example, exhaust requirements range from 900- to 1,200-cu.-ft. per minute (CFM). In addition, such units must be installed 19 from any side wall, at least 50 from a back wall and about 40 from any other piece of countertop equipment. Proper ventilation and frequent cleaning are equally important.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Prepares raw foods quickly and thoroughly, minimizing chances of pathogen contamination during cooking. However, special attention is required when operators cook products over crushed lava rock or ceramic briquettes rather than coal or wood embers. Rock or ceramic materials can acquire considerable accumulations of carbon and grease. Makers recommend replacing elements and even the cast-iron grates that hold briquettes as frequently as twice annually. Some models offer self-cleaning heating elements.
Types: Traditional fryers are gas- or electric-powered and cook with hot oil. Other models can use infrared or induction heating. A pressure fryer cooks food with a combination of hot oil and steam.
Capacities/Footprints: Fryer wells come in a variety of widths, from 110 to 340 and depths of up to 340. Fryers are commonly identified by the number of pounds of oil they hold. The smallest fryers, drop-ins, have capacities ranging from 15 to 30 lbs. of oil.
Manufacturers also rate their units based on the number of pounds of french fries they can prepare in one hour. Generally, fryers produce a volume equal to one and a half to two times the weight of the oil they will hold. Thus, a countertop model with an oil capacity of 15 lbs. can produce about 25 lbs. of fries per hour.
Energy Source(s): Gas or electricity.
Manufacturing Method: Fry tanks are most frequently constructed of heavy-gauge (often 16-gauge) stainless steel. They come equipped with a full-port ball drain or similarly designed valve to enable draining and prevent clogging. Heating elements are most often made of ribbon-style steel.
Standard Features: These include solid-state controls, adjustable steel legs, wire baskets, stainless-steel fronts and sides, and lockable casters. Several manufacturers have introduced electric induction fryers. Efficient in heating, the primary cooking temperature in induction units is reached at 600°F., well below the nearly 800°F. required by conventional fryers. At least one maker has redesigned covered blower motors that align within a fryer to reduce the overall depth of the machine by up to 40. A filter tub located on one side of another fryer stores neatly beneath it and includes a breading strainer, shortening flow diverter and a front cover to minimize spills. A different model features a hands-free automatic vat-cleaning function, including a bottom pressure sweeper to remove debris.
New Features/Technology/Options: Automatic controls, such as basket lifts, help to minimize operating costs and ensure product quality. Matching end units, with or without heat lamps, and lift-off single-drain shelves add convenience. Larger single baskets, split pots, built-in filters, and extra sets of twin baskets are now available to ease production. One recently introduced model features a convenient two-step filtering process that makes operations safer, with less chance of burns and oil spills. With this model, smaller particulates are caught by a screen, eliminating the need for filter papers. Newest fryer accessories include stainless-steel tank covers, grease protector strips, stainless-steel crumb scoops, swivel casters with brakes and tank brushes.
Key Kitchen Applications: Deep-fat frying (breaded and unbreaded) of foods including fries, doughnuts, poultry nuggets, seafood and shellfish.
Sales Guidelines: While some operators may be tempted to order low-end models, DSRs should encourage these customers to purchase fryers with additional safety features, citing the fact that employee burns from fryers can result in thousands of dollars in medical payments and other compensation. Higher-end models with additional features also allow for more efficient operation and easier cleaning, thereby lowering the total cost of ownership.
Maintenance Requirements: Equipment life can be maximized by regular and thorough cleaning. Temperature shock caused by dumping frozen product into fully heated oil scorches the frying medium, stressing heating elements and, so, should be avoided.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Most fryer models feature easy-to-clean, stainless-steel cabinet fronts, front tops and sides. Swing-up elements that can be lifted out of a frying area allow the most thorough cleaning.
Griddles & Grills
Types: Griddles/grills cook foods on a smooth, solid surface with a heat source below. A grill is not a cooking appliance per se. Instead, it is a grid of metal bars that holds food over a heat source. Floor and countertop models are available. Sandwich and panini griddles have also earned a spot in many kitchens.
Capacities/Footprints: Standard griddles range in width from 240 to 720. Tops can range in length from 180 countertop models to 720 floor units, with 200 to 320 of depth. Additional depth can be added in half-foot increments.
Energy Source(s): Griddles can run on electricity, gas or propane. Many operators laud gas models for their more even heat distribution. Electric countertop models' energy requirements range from 8 to nearly 33 kph. Gas models generally have a rating of 20,000 Btu per hour per burner.
Manufacturing Method: Griddle surfaces should be chosen based on the foods that will be prepared on them. Choices include cast iron, polished steel, cold-rolled steel and chrome-finished. Some grills and griddles feature grooved plates to provide the seared look many customers appreciate on steaks, hamburgers and filets.
Standard Features: Griddles/grills can stand alone or be mounted on refrigerated bases or other pieces of equipment. Many are available with coated heating plates designed to offer a durable, non-stick surface, and adjustable height. A stainless-steel bull-nose front for knob protection and nickel-plated die-cast legs offer easy maintenance and dependable performance. Double-wall construction allows installation within 10 of a combustible surface when space is limited. Higher-end models feature a full-depth grease drawer with an anti-splash baffle. An enclosed grease drawer prevents seepage of cooking by-products into internal components. A stainless-steel griddle body can extend a unit's life and assist sanitation. A flame-failure safety device, stainless-steel legs and insulation all come standard on most models. Accessories can include cutting boards, plate shelves, belly bars, stainless-steel cabinets, insulator plates for mounting on refrigerated bases, stainless-steel rear and bottom panels, and electronic ignitions requiring a 120V connection.
Key Kitchen Applications: Grills/griddles prepare items ranging from breakfast eggs, omelets and pancakes to hot sandwiches and hamburgers. Cooking temperature ranges are typically from 150°F. to 450°F.
Sales Guidelines: When selling grills and griddles, probably the most important attribute to stress is that they are flexible. A key in selling this sort of equipment is determining an operation's volume and recommending a unit with a surface area to match. Along those lines, it is important to recommend a model with even heat distribution, since hot or cold spots can adversely affect product quality.
Maintenance Requirements: Cooking surfaces should be cleaned at about 150°F. to 175°F. Grease troughs must be emptied at least once a day. Connecting cables and controls must also be wiped down frequently. Cleaners work best when they are spread and left on plates for up to 10 minutes before scraping or wiping. All cleanser residue must be wiped off afterward; some chefs use vinegar or lemon juice for this. Electric grills can be cleaned with a griddle stone (alternately known as a brick) or pumice. A stone should be pulled in the same direction as the metal grain during cleaning. Steel wool will scratch a grill's surface and should be avoided. Using ice for faster cooling can warp metal plates, as can placing pans and kettles on top.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Grills/griddles have some built-in food safety features, such as a 30 to 60 splash guard along the back that keeps food from falling off the cooking surface and catches flying grease. Another is a trough designed to capture food particles and built-up grease. The material out of which a griddle's plate is constructed can affect cleaning, as well. For instance, chrome is easy to clean by using a scraper, water and chemical powder. Frozen food, however, tends to stick to cast iron, and is tougher to get off. Polished and cold-rolled steel are both easier to clean than cast iron.
Types: Commercial models generally fall into two categories: batch- and continuous-cooking units. Batch cookers are specified for operations serving high volumes of customers during specific time frames. These models employ a rotating drum that moves skewers around within a cooking cavity. Operations that hold food items throughout the day typically use continuous-cooking models, however. These are almost always vertical units, with skewers or baskets suspended in ascending tiers.
Capacities/Footprints: Sizes can range from 350 high 3 250 deep 3 240 wide for a countertop rotisserie to 750 high 3 310 deep 3 700 wide for high-volume batch machines. Most full-size models have skewers that can commonly hold 36 to 42 whole chickens.
Energy Source(s): Gas or electricity. Some gas models permit the use of woods to add additional flavor to food products, as well as charcoal. Heat emanates from infrared sources or the circulation of warmed air. Some units are designed to generate heat from above, others from below. A few models utilize impinging skewers with built-in heating elements to cook foods.
Manufacturing Method: Rotisserie cabinets vary when it comes to construction. Most feature a galvanized sheet-metal body sheathed inside and out with stainless steel. Doors are also available in different formats, ranging from single, front-pivoting designs to double closures. Other models are completely open. Some doors are made wholly of glass, others have windows. Some makers coat cabinet fronts in anodized metals. Some rotisseries feature a curved glass design and can roast and automatically hold products for customer viewing in FOH settings.
Standard Features: A small electric motor rotates the product spits as moist, hot air circulates around foods and through a rotisserie's cavity. Popular accessories include heavy-duty spits and baskets to hold fish or vegetables. Hinged, tempered glass doors for open viewing have moved to the forefront as exhibition cooking has proliferated. Many rotisseries also include warming cabinets to hold finished products.
New Features/Technology/Options: Recently released options include programmable controls with multiple cooking-program settings, automatic cleaning programs, adjustable legs, mirrored door glass and internal product temperature probes. Also available is a software option that can interface with a Windows-based PC to create HACCP documentation and enable computer-controlled kitchen management capability.
Key Kitchen Applications: Rotisseries are used in both the back and front of the house to roast skewered meats and poultry (usually whole chickens), as well as fish and vegetables. Some operators also use them to prepare barbecued items such as ribs or sausages.
Sales Guidelines: DSRs should inform their customers that rotisseries, with their moving parts and dramatic cooking action, are proven food-marketing tools and are, therefore, popular for front-of-the-house applications. Should a customer purchase a rotisserie for this purpose, a salesperson would be well-served to direct them to models that cook products most rapidly and are decorated with eye-catching conceptually thematic exteriors.
Maintenance Requirements: Gas models have the most stringent ventilation hood requirements. Electric models must, of course, also be vented properly. Drip pans, spits and drains should be easily removable without tools.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Enamel coatings can make cleanup of food stains and grease easier and quicker. Drip trays must be sanitized and grease traps drained often. Models with heated cabinets are designed to withstand caustic cleaners, carbonization and corrosive fats, but damage can nonetheless result. Some high-end models offer a cavity self-cleaning function that can minimize labor requirements.
Types: Commercial microwave ovens can differ significantly from their home-use counterparts in terms of durability, technology, controls and capacity. Some newer commercial oven models effectively combine microwaves with controlled delivery of steam or convection options.
Capacities/Footprints: Cabinet sizes on most commercial models range from 130 to 250 wide, 160 to 250 deep and 130 to 190 high. Larger-sized cavities can hold a pair of dinner plates or 100 3 120 pans.
Energy Source(s): Smaller microwaves operate on 120 volts; larger, heavy-duty ovens require 208 to 240 volts. Microwaves' power output is measured in watts. Most low-volume operations will receive enough performance from a 700-watt oven. Busier outlets are more likely to require 1,400- to 2,700-watt ovens.
Manufacturing Method: Stainless steel is the typical material for cases. Adjustable legs are commonly chrome-plated and powder-coated handles are a popular feature.
Standard Features: These include programmable memory pad selectors, multiple-portion touch pads, manual operation capabilities, a cycle counter to track oven usage, electronic timers with digital displays, see-through doors and lighted cavities. Most microwave ovens come equipped with an automatic shut-off device to prevent overheating. Doors are required to have two independent but interlocking systems that automatically shut off oven operations when a door is ajar. Doors also come with seals and absorbers to eliminate the chance of radiation leakage.
New Features/Technology/Options: One new option is a communication port that allows operators to access their microwaves via computer to update menu selections or change product information. Some manufacturers also now offer starter kits that include pressware plates, a Teflon mesh screen, baker's paper, an oven guard and oven cleaner.
Prime Functions: Microwave ovens are used to cook, defrost, self-steam and reheat foods. They are mostly used in concert with other types of cooking equipment to speed production and help keep ambient kitchen temperatures low.
Key Kitchen Applications: Microwaves are most often used in operations ranging from taverns and casual-theme units to banquet and room/patient service programs to defrost and rapidly reheat foods. Microwaves are also used in C-stores to prepare frozen packaged products for immediate consumption.
Sales Guidelines: DSRs should inform customers that microwave ovens are not required to operate under hoods. In addition, warranties on microwaves vary greatly from unit to unit, so salespeople should be sure to ascertain the type of coverage customers need for the microwaves they are considering purchasing.
Maintenance Requirements: Microwave ovens should never be turned on while empty, since a product is needed to absorb emitted energy. Spattered food left uncleaned will place a strain on an oven's heating element. This will almost certainly disable a unit or shorten its use-life. Seals and absorbers on doors that prevent leakage of potentially harmful radiation should be regularly checked and maintained.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Use of a food thermometer or an oven's temperature probe to verify that foods have reached their safe temperatures is recommended.
Types: There are many varieties of ovens and, among them all, conventional (or range), convection, impinger and deck (or stack) units (including pizza models) are among the most widely used. The conventional or range oven, so named because it sits beneath a range top, is a workhorse in many kitchens. It is built to roast, bake and (sometimes) to hold foods. Convection ovens use fans to circulate heated air around a cooking cavity, helping foods bake or roast as much as 35% faster than conventional ovens. This is because circulating hot air reduces the cooler boundary layer at foods' surfaces, allowing quicker heat penetration. Impinger ovens rely on a conveyor belt to transport foods through a cooking cavity where hot air may be blown onto products that are cooked with upper and lower heat sources. This method of production allows evenly cooked food to be produced in a continuous flow rather than in batches. A deck or stack oven is simply one that includes multiple cavities and controls, with two or three heated cavities stacked one on top of the other. A pizza oven is basically a stack oven set for higher-than-ordinary temperatures ranging between 300°F. and 700°F.
Capacities/Footprints: Range ovens commonly can accommodate standard-size sheet pans on one or more adjustable racks. A single convection oven can sit in a footprint as small as 10-sq.-ft. and can be double-stacked for increased productivity and space savings. Decks in a stack oven are generally 80 or 120 tall, depending on their function.
Energy Source(s): Range ovens can be powered by gas or electricity. Most gas range ovens are built with a capacity of 40,000 Btu. Electric models utilize from 1,200 to 5,000 watts each hour. Convection ovens can also be ordered in gas or electric formats. Pizza ovens run on just over 80,000 Btu per deck per hour (gas models) or slightly more than 7 Kw (electric models).
Manufacturing Method: Range ovens, in general, feature double-wall, heavy-gauge construction. This works to distribute heat evenly. Insulation is critical to maintaining heat; most makers recommend at least 20 of rock-wool insulation. Convection ovens come in three standard sizes: full, which means cavity dimensions are designed to accommodate a standard 180 3 260 sheet pan; bakery depth, which can hold a standard sheet pan in either direction; and half-size, whose cavity can hold a half-size sheet pan. The decks in deck ovens are made of ceramic or stainless steel, with the former often lauded for especially good heat distribution. Not surprisingly, insulation plays a greater role in ovens that are stacked. Hence, the thickness of the insulation is commonly doubled. Electric deck ovens have two sets of heating elements, one on the top for broiling and another on the bottom for baking. Each element usually has a separate heat switch. Each deck in a pizza oven, which is also referred to as a hearth, is comprised of two 10-thick ceramic pieces or one 10 piece of steel. Pizza oven decks are also lower, in the 70 to 80 range.
Standard Features: Often purchased are synchronized doors that are fully insulated and feature "cool to the touch" handles. Other features widely being offered as standard include stainless-steel door seals; double-pane thermal glass windows; two-speed fans with high and low settings; interior lights; porcelain interiors with multi-position, removable rack guides; and rotary controls, including cool-down functions and continuous-ring timers. Some deck oven makers offer steel decks available for baking, cooking and roasting and individually controlled sections for cooking various items at different temperatures. Oven doors typically open flush with a deck for easy loading and unloading of foods. Full-size convection ovens can come with single or double (French-style) doors. Double-door ovens are available in independent (doors open separately) and dependent (both doors must be opened together) models. Door windows are optional, as are interior lights. Large, full-size doors mean easy access to cooking chambers, while a sizable cooking area can accommodate items such as large bread loaves and roasts. Programmable controls permit staffers to pick pre-set time and temperature programs. Rack timers allow cooks to load a range of items requiring different cook times simultaneously while ensuring that they will know when each must be removed. Half-size convection ovens accommodate up to four half-size sheet pans. Impinger ovens come in countertop models, as well as freestanding varieties that can be stacked.
New Features/Technology/Options: The list of relatively new options for conventional ovens is long and includes heat-treated glass doors, adjustable casters, side-mounted controls, more accurate infinite-heat controls and insulated handles. Some manufacturers include two-speed motors with their control packages. This provides operators with the enhanced flexibility of a high-speed air flow when preparing normal items and a low-speed option for more delicate products. Some pizza oven models have done away with doors in favor of an air curtain to retain heat. The amount of insulation can also be custom-ordered. New impinger models offer two cooking chambers, one above another, in a single unit.
Key Kitchen Applications: Range ovens provide a large-volume, dry-heat cooking process most foodservice operations depend on. Deck ovens are usually found in operations in which space is limited and production needs are great.
Sales Guidelines: Given the many different types of ovens available, the most important role for DSRs selling this type of equipment is helping to determine which type of unit is most suitable for a particular operation's needs. Operators seeking an oven primarily to execute baking applications, for example, should be strongly advised to select models that can add moisture/humidity during a cooking cycle.
Maintenance Requirements: Gas and electric deck ovens each come with flue vents in the rear that must be maintained. With convection ovens, maintenance challenges can come from solid-state touch-pad controls, since employees may use too-long fingernails or even sharp implements they happen to be holding at the moment to punch numbers into the keyboard. Thus, penetration of the keypad is a frequent problem. Caustic cleaners such as scouring powders should not be used to clean the inside of a convection oven. Such cleaners are tough to remove, and their buildup will eventually damage an oven. Instead, staff should use a mild detergent on the exterior. Caustics can't do any damage on the outside, of course, but can mar an oven's appearance.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Primary among features operators look for in ovens is ease of cleaning. This is attained through easy-to-remove shelves and shelf supports that require no tools for adjustments. Shelves should be removed daily for cleaning with warm water and a mild detergent. The types of products being prepared in an oven will help determine how often the doors need to be cleaned. For example, foods that tend to splatter and spill over, such as fruit pies, tomato sauces and roasted meats, naturally require more attention than, say, cookies. To eliminate lingering odors, staff should set a unit at 500°F. and allow it to bake with no products inside for 30 to 45 minutes.
Types: Restaurant (or café) ranges are designed for light duty. Heavy-duty ranges are similar, but constructed of sturdier materials to stand up to higher volumes and heavier pots and pans. Heavy-duty models can also be configured and customized as island suites. A variety of specialty ranges - tabletop, stockpot, Chinese, taco - are custom models created for specific applications.
Capacities/Footprints: Most range makers market their units in three sizes: 240, 480 and 600. Not surprisingly, restaurant ranges are smaller (240 to 720) than their heavy-duty counterparts (320 to 360 per section). Many models come with 60 adjustable legs to ensure a level stance.
Energy Source(s): Electric and gas models offer different burners. Gas models have open burners. Electric units come with tubular metal elements that hold resistance wires. These are covered with protective hot tops or French plates. Models are routinely available in 208V, 240V or optional 480V.
Manufacturing Method: Most manufacturers construct ranges of steel or stainless steel, often 16 gauge. Some models also feature enameled surfaces for enhanced appearance.
Standard Features: Ranges are available with no, one or two ovens underneath. The size of the oven(s) is usually based on that of baking sheets (180 3 260). Heavy-duty models are constructed in sections and, so, can also be referred to as sectional or modular ranges. They typically come with two to six burners, while restaurant models can have 10 to 12. Some models are available with individual, lift-off, polished steel-top grates and variable-size, multi-point gas connections. Others offer a stainless-steel front, sides and stub back. This array of options and designs makes ranges flexible enough to offer features like a variety of cooktops, overhead salamander broilers and fryer units. The four most common varieties of ranges are open-burner, hot tops, griddle tops and graduated hot tops. A fifth type of top, a French hot plate, is offered mostly on electric ranges.
New Features/Technology/Options: In some units, components are now removable for easy cleaning, the burner box can be insulated for maximum efficiency and heavy-duty baffles specified to help ensure an even heat flow. Many models are available with open-top or step-up burners, a full-width or graduated hot top and/or a full-width griddle or charbroiler. Other options include a variety of sizes of shelving (some newer models offer a stainless-steel tubular high shelf or double-high shelf), a salamander broiler or cheese-melter. A rearward-extending flue riser is also available to increase the overall depth of a range to match an existing cooking battery. New accessories include flex hoses with quick disconnects, a gas pressure regulator and additional oven racks.
Key Kitchen Applications: A range top is almost always the most used piece of equipment in any kitchen. With it, cooks boil, simmer, deep-fry, sauté, braise and hot-hold foods.
Sales Guidelines: If customers' programs call for the use of large stockpots (as opposed to fry pans) as primary cooking vessels, they will be best served by a unit with heavy-duty grates. Some newer ranges coming to market are equipped with refrigerated bases, and end-users need to know that self-contained and remote refrigeration packages are available.
Maintenance Requirements: A rear flue is crucial for venting heat and combustion by-products from the oven and from under griddles and hot tops. Without it, combustion could be incomplete because of the lack of fresh oxygen. Ordinary grime can be cleaned with soap, water and a cloth, sponge or fiber brush. For baked-on food, a paste made of water and ammonia, magnesium oxide, powdered pumice or French chalk should be rubbed on with a scouring pad or stainless-steel wool. Cleaning with wire brushes, files and steel scrapers should be avoided.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Most range models come with a drip pan below the burners to snare spills and grease that should be removed as soon as possible. If heavy pots and pans are to be used, unit managers should be sure to check that the construction of burners and legs will be sufficient to support the loads. Induction range tops have been praised for being easier to keep clean than other types, since moist cloths can be used to wipe off cooking surfaces.
Steamers & Combi Ovens
Types: The three major models of steamers are pressure, pressureless (convection) and connectionless. The first utilizes from 5 to 15 lbs. of pressure per square inch (PSI) and cooks at 228°F. to 250°F. Generally speaking, low-pressure steaming units offer lower operating cost and higher productivity than pressureless units when preparing single items. Pressureless steamers cook at 0 PSI and 212°F. Heat is transferred via the convection of steam. Unlike pressure cookers, pressureless steamers put steam in direct contact with food products. Another difference is that pressureless steamers' doors can be opened to check or season food at any time. These units are generally smaller, and cook more slowly than pressure steamers. Connectionless units are most often used by small- and medium-sized operations that lack water utilities or drains. Cook times are longer, but utility costs are lower. Combi ovens can run on either gas or electricity.
Capacities/Footprints: Combi ovens can actually save kitchen space by combining the functions of two (or more) pieces of equipment into one. Countertop and small floor-model steamers work well in lower-volume foodservice facilities. Large floor-model units are designed for high-volume operations. Smaller steamer models will utilize 120 3 200 3 21/20 steam pans. Most larger units will accept both 120 3 200 3 21/20 steam pans and 180 3 260 sheet pans. As for the number of compartments needed, the rule of thumb is this: One to 200 meals per hour requires a single 1-compartment steamer. For 200 to 400 meals per hour, a single 2-compartment unit will be required. Operations producing from 400 to 600 meals per hour will need one 3-compartment unit. And, to prepare 600 to 800 meals per hour, operators need either one 4-compartment or two 2-compartment units.
Energy Source(s): Combi ovens that run on electricity require 9.5 Kw for smaller, countertop units and as much as 72 Kw for larger models. Gas units, all floor models, range in Btu requirements from 88,000 to more than 200,000.
Standard Features: Some combi models offer a wide variety of programming options to control both cooking temperatures and humidity levels for specific products. The majority of combi oven models, however, come equipped with a trio of standard settings. One is fan-forced pressureless steam. This provides a cooking environment best for vegetable dishes, seafood and other delicate items. It is also the proper setting for reheating prepared foods, since it will not dry them out. The second basic setting is combination-mode. This blends steam with forced-air convection, providing moist heat for baking crusty rolls and breads and a large number of pastries. Since the steam helps to maintain moisture content and product size, it is also used for roasting meats. The third setting is straight-convection. This is used mostly for dry-heat cooking of menu items such as pizza, cookies and cakes. Some manufacturers offer as many as seven settings: high-speed convection, low-speed convection, high-speed convection with moisture, low-speed convection with moisture, high-temperature steam, low-temperature steam and hold.
One recent design features powerful internal blowers that increase the velocity of the steam for faster cook times. Some double-stack units offer a pair of steam generators that provide energy and water savings during slower times by giving operators the ability to operate only one generator at a time.
New Features/Technology/Options: New on the market are instant steam standby controls. Another new steamer feature is a light signal that lets operators know when it is time to delime. Some units offer a 140° to 500° thermostat range, as well as a stainless-steel spray hose and a user-friendly controls interface.
Prime Functions: A combi oven provides three cooking modes: steam, hot air and combi cooking, which melds hot air with steam. The moisture maintains flavor and nutrients in food products, while the hot air speeds cooking. Temperatures can range from 85°F. (gentle steaming) to 575°F. (searing and high-speed baking). Combi ovens can also be used to replace holding units, proofers or slow cookers when used at low-heat settings.
Key Kitchen Applications: Combi ovens can quickly and efficiently prepare food items ranging from roasted meats and vegetables to puff pastries. They are also used to thaw and blanch.
Sales Guidelines: Much of the appeal of combi ovens lies in the fact that they can cook three different ways. DSRs should inform operators that such a cooker, therefore, can lower the overall cost of their equipment package. Salespeople must be sure, however, that an operation would not need to cook in those different ways at the same time after purchasing a single unit. By helping foods retain moisture, steamers reduce the shrinkage of certain items. This, in turn, lowers food costs by increasing yield.
Maintenance Requirements: Operators should devise and follow a regular cleaning schedule for all equipment, but especially those that use water and/or steam. Water deposits and/or scale build up constantly on steam generator walls, heating elements and water probes. How fast these deposits form depends on the amount of use and hardness of the water being used by the equipment. One obvious solution is to filter an operation's water and there are many types of filters, including carbon and UV, as well as activated carbon, which removes particulants and kills viruses. A stainless-steel liner in a convection steamer's cooking compartment provides superior rust prevention. Other helpful features are a coved corner liner for easy cleaning, heavy-duty commercial plumbing components and heavy-duty "slammable" doors (with warranty). An auto-steam generator blowdown can also reduce mineral buildup. A separate cold water condenser for each steamer compartment can help to reduce the expense of filtered water. Another effective though more labor-intensive approach is constant preventive maintenance, which can go a long way toward eliminating clogs in water lines and tanks and equipment malfunctions.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Steamers' stainless-steel walls are generally easy to clean. Unit staff should start by applying a degreasing spray and follow by running the equipment on steam mode to loosen stuck-on particles. Staffers should open the machine's doors during cooling, and scrub them only with soft brushes. They should also use a clean, dry cloth to wipe down the exterior. An easy-access, front-mounted deliming port allows operators to reduce scale and buildup without tools or service calls.