Keeping Food Warm

By | September 14th, 2016

While there are many universal foodservice needs, clubs are unique in their menu diversity, so choosing the right cabinet for your property is no small feat.

It’s rarely possible to cook every component of every member’s meal to order. So most clubs rely on hot-holding equipment, to alleviate both food-safety and food-quality concerns.HCUA11

Before buying, it’s important to find the right piece of equipment for your property. The many variables that should be considered during the selection process include configuration, capacity, application, volume, mobility requirements, material construction (stainless steel, aluminum, etc.), and long- and short-term needs.

While there are many universal foodservice needs, clubs are unique in their menu diversity, so choosing the right cabinet for your property is no small feat.

There are three main types of heated cabinets to consider:

  • Convected warmers use dry forced air inside the warming chamber. They are ideal for fried, battered or breaded foods.
  • Radiant heat systems maintain the internal temperature of the chamber through heated panels located in the side walls of the cabinet. The internal atmosphere is semi-moist as the equipment captures the moisture that comes from the food and maintains it within the cabinet.
  • Humidity control systems have a separate humidity source, so these pieces of equipment are able to balance the environment around the food and ensure that the natural juices stay in the product. (This same cabinet can also be run dry.)

“Humidity control systems are popular with club chefs, because there is a need to hold many different types of food for many different occasions,” says the Business Development Manager and Corporate Chef of one manufacturer. “For a chef who needs a lot of flexibility, humidity control is the way to go.”

This type of cabinet can hold either a mini-beef Wellington appetizer with a puff pastry that needs to stay crisp, or a rotisserie chicken that needs to stay moist. It can also proof yeast-raised doughs.

According to the manufacturer, the price difference between this type of cabinet and one without humidity control isn’t all that substantial. In fact, it’s only a couple hundred dollars.

“It comes down to buying the right piece of equipment for your menu mix,” says the chef.  The lifecycle on most heated cabinets when they are well-maintained, he adds, averages between 10 and 15 years. “We tell our customers that this piece of equipment will likely last longer than the next car they buy,” he says.

Here are some additional things club chefs should consider before buying heating and holding cabinets:

The wheels or castors should be high-quality, with sealed bearings, so the castors will be protected when the floor beneath the cabinet is hosed down.

Foot locks are critical for clubs that will use the cart in a variety of places on property.

When shopping for full-size cabinets, Dutch-door systems are helpful, to avoid having to open the entire door and losing all the heat.

Simple straightforward controls are useful, so anyone who needs to operate the cabinet can easily do so. (Also, it’s helpful to be able to see the time and temperature from across the kitchen. Most cabinets have LED functions for this purpose.)

“Chefs need to evaluate their property’s voltage capability to make sure they have the proper amp-service standards,” says the manufacturer’s Corporate Chef, noting that 15-amp service is available on some cabinets. “The biggest challenge for clubs when looking to buy hot-holding equipment is the capital budget. It’s not the sexiest purchase, so members don’t always see the value it will provide.”

He recommends that clubs budget for at least one of these types of capital expense each year, and if they need multiple cabinets, to purchase one each year until they have what they need.

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