Finding the right equipment for large batch cooking is essential to many kitchens in hospitals and long term care facilities. Here is a comprehensive list of the five essential equipment choices for effective food service in healthcare settings.
1. Blast Chillers
Blast chillers and shock freezers provide the ability to operate a cook and chill system for commercial kitchens serving a higher-volume of customers at varying times. Both blast chillers and shock freezers provide the capability of rapidly bringing hot foods down to a safe temperature for cold-holding. Blast chillers bring cooked foods down to below 40°F and shock freezers bring cooked foods down to about 0°F within a set amount of time.
Both blast chillers and shock freezers assist in extending the shelf life of cooked products and reduce labor costs by allowing large batches of food to be prepared at one time and held for future heat-and-serve style cooking.
2. Steam Kettles
Steam kettles enable food service operators in healthcare settings to make large batches of sauces and soups at one time. With soup being a main staple in many long term care facilities and hospitals, a steam kettle can prove itself indispensable, but selecting the right one is imperative.
The range of sizes in steam kettles varies from under one gallon to 250 gallons in capacity. It is important to note that the size of a steam kettle actually indicates about 75 percent of what it can actually produce. For proper planning consider this scenario: If a facility needs 60 gallons of soup per day, it is necessary to purchase a steam kettle at least 25 percent larger than 60 gallons, or 80 gallons.
Steam kettles are available as tilt or stationary units. Tilt models allow operators to tilt the steam kettle over to dispense the finished product. The tilting units also provide easier access for cleaning. Stationary steam kettles are designed with a draw-off valve installed in the bottom to drain the finished product when ready. When purchasing a stationary kettle, consider the texture of your recipes and select a steam kettle with a wide enough draw-off valve for your ingredients to pass through.
The Southbend 100 gallon Tilting Electric Steam Kettle is efficient, durable and can be tilted and locked at 105° for easy-to-reach cleaning. Made out of stainless steel this steamer has a low water cut-off valve for increased safety in the workplace.
3. Combi Ovens
Combi ovens provide convenience for busy kitchens with large batch cooking duties. A combi oven can steam, boil, bake, poach, grill or fry recipes all within one unit.
Healthcare facility kitchens will find the programmable controls as one of the combi oven’s biggest benefits. Operators can create and save settings for various recipes. This programming capability enables busy chefs to place an item into the oven, press a button and carry on with other tasks.
Combi ovens are also known for incredible efficiency. For kitchens closely watching the bottom line, these ovens produce large quantities of food without overheating the utility bill.
We recommend: The Cleveland Range 41” Gas-Fired Boilerless Combi Oven-Steamer has a sleek design that includes a “disappearing door” that helps create more space for small kitchen spaces. This oven also features memory space for 250 recipe programs.
4. The Tilt Skillet
Also called a braising pan, is a versatile addition to kitchens producing large batches of pan fried, steamed, braised or roasted foods as well as recipes prepared on griddles.
Tilt skillets have flat bottoms and high sides, allowing it to perform many tasks within one piece of equipment.
When purchasing a tilt skillet for your healthcare facility’s kitchen, consider the unit’s total capacity. If you will be using the tilt skillet for boiling or simmering, the total gallon size will only hold about 75 percent of your finished product. If you will be using the tilt for roasting, griddle top cooking or other non-liquid applications, consider the overall area of the bottom surface. If you will be using the tilt skillet for all of its available applications, purchase a unit that has the gallon capacity and bottom surface area needed for all of your recipes.
We recommend: The Southbend 30 Gallon Stainless Steel Electric Tilting Skillet. This tilting skillet features easy-to-clean and durable 10 gauge stainless steel as well as thermostatic temperature controls for precise heating with quick recovery times and even heat distribution.
5. The Convection Oven
Convection ovens offer a “no-brainer” approach to large batch cooking. With set and forget programmable controls, operators can bake delicate items like pastry recipes, evenly browned loaves of bread and large cuts of roasted meat or whole birds without constantly checking or rotating pans and trays. Convection ovens also feature a cook and hold program for slow-roasting meat overnight.
Like all other large batch cooking equipment, consider the overall capacity of a convection oven before selecting the right unit for your kitchen. Convection ovens are available in sizes ranging from countertop, half-size, full-size and bakery depth. A busy hospital or long-term care facility’s kitchen would best utilize a full-size convection oven. Full-size units can make over or under 250 servings per meal and have the capacity to hold 10 to 26 18”x26” full-size sheet pans. Most models are 36” to 42” wide and have a depth of 36” to 40”.
We recommend: The Vulcan-Hart 40” Electric Convection Oven for its large capacity within a sleek and durable unit that can fit into tight spaces. This convection oven has two chambers, four doors and can hold 22 full-size pans and 44 half-size pans.