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Commercial Gas Range Buying Guide

Commercial Gas Range Buying Guide

A good gas range is the center and the soul of a restaurant or commercial kitchen, and every kitchen is different.  Choosing the best unit to suit your specific needs can be a challenge, but if you keep a couple things in mind buying the range you need shouldn’t be hard.

BTUs and Gas Type

Commercial ranges vary in the heat output they produce, which is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units).  Depending on the cooking application and energy usage concerns, you may want to purchase a unit with a higher or lower BTU rating.

Higher BTU ranges are going to heat things faster, but at a higher rate of energy consumption.  A higher BTU rating also means quicker heat recovery times

Lower BTU rates will heat things more slowly, but more efficiently.  Lower BTU ratings mean a slower heat recovery time

Most gas ranges are outfitted for natural gas.  Natural gas is the most common gas type and chances are you are hooked up to natural gas.  LP gas or liquid propane is the gas you get if your range is connected to a propane tank, usually for rural locations or portable operations.

griddle and Charbroiler Add-On Options

Griddles are ideal for cooking multiple foods at once.  The large, flat metal plate that makes up the griddle distributes heat evenly over the entire surface.  Heat can be controlled either manually or thermostatically.  A grease trough allows for easy cleaning.

Charbroilers allow you to broil poultry, seafood, and meat quickly and effectively.  Most restaurants and commercial kitchens purchase a separate charbroiler unit, but combination range and charbroiler units can be special ordered.

Necessary Accessories

Casters allow you to move your commercial gas range quickly and easily for cleaning or rearranging.  Manufacturers charge a ridiculous fee for casters that come with their restaurant cooking equipment.  Instead, buy your casters separately and save a bundle.

Gas hose connector kits allow you to connect your new restaurant range to your kitchen’s gas source, whether it’s natural or LP gas.  Make sure you check the diameter of your range’s connection before ordering.

Don’t Forget Your Altitude!

If your commercial kitchen or restaurant is above 2,000 feet in elevation, you may need to have the gas valves on your new range adjusted.  Make sure you tell the manufacturer or vendor you’re buying from if you are located above 2,000 feet.

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Buy An Energy Efficient Steamer

Buy An Energy Efficient Steamer

Steamers are energy efficient and cook food quickly without nutrient loss

Commercial steamers use either circulated or pressurized hot steam to quickly cook food items.  Steamers are ideal for cooking rice, vegetables, fish, and shellfish.

Because food is cooked by circulating hot steam over it, most nutrients are retained, making steam cooked food appear more appetizing and taste better.

Food is also cooked much more quickly using a steamer.

There are different types of steamers using different methods to cook food.  Selecting the steamer that works for you depends on the specific situation in your commercial kitchen or restaurant.

Steamers also come in various sizes, and you need to take into account the volume you plan to handle with your steamer before purchasing one.

Types of Steamers

  • Pressureless – these steamers use a convection fan to circulate steam through the unit and cook food.  The circulating air cooks more evenly than a pressure steamer, though cooking times are longer.  A pressureless steamer door can also be opened during cooking to check or season food.
  • Pressure – pressure steamers cook food by letting steam pressure build in the unit as opposed to circulating it.  This cooks food faster but the door or lid of the unit cannot be opened while cooking because of the pressurized steam.

There are two types of pressure steamers: cabinet type and steam kettle models.

Cabinet type models look and operate mostly like a pressureless steamer except they use pressurized steam to cook food rather than a convection fan.

Countertop steam kettles operate like a residential pressure cooker.

Connection vs. Boilerless

Most countertop steamers are boilerless, meaning you add water to a built in reservoir in the bottom of the unit with its own heating element.

Connection steamers have a direct water line that comes in to the steamer from the building’s water source.  This steamer type can handle higher volumes but is harder to clean and maintain.

Both types should use only filtered water with a scale inhibitor to reduce cleaning and maintenance.  Using unfiltered water can also affect food taste.

Combi Ovens

Combi ovens can use steam, standard convection, or a combination of the two to cook food very quickly and efficiently.  Although combi ovens are very expensive, they can replace many other standard restaurant equipment pieces like fryers, holding and warming cabinets, and of course steamers and convection ovens.

Combi ovens also save space because they can replace other restaurant equipment.

Calculating Steamer Size

Steamers (excluding kettle steamers) come in 1, 2, 3, or 4 compartment sizes, with a one compartment unit capable of producing up to 200 meals per hour.  Combi ovens are most often used in high volume situations because they can cook food so quickly and offer multiple cooking options.

Maintenance and Operation Tips For Steamers

Some maintenance and operation tips for your commercial steamers:

  • Use filtered water with a scale inhibitor. A scale inhibitor removes minerals from tap water.  These minerals can build up in your steamer, requiring constant cleaning and performance problems.  Some models have an indicator light alerting you when they need to have buildup cleaned.  Unfiltered water can also affect the taste of food cooked in steamers.
  • Preheat steamers before cooking food. It usually takes at least 5 minutes for a steamer to heat up.
  • Season food after it has been cooked in a steamer for best taste results.
  • Use a perforated pan for vegetables and break up frozen vegetables so they cook evenly.

Steamers are a great addition to any commercial kitchen, and because they are much more energy efficient than other conventional cooking equipment like ranges, you can make up for the cost of purchasing a steamer through energy savings.

Factor in optimized food taste and quick cooking, and the reasons for buying a commercial steamer become very clear.

Check out more restaurant equipment.

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Restaurant Dishwasher: A Complete Buying Guide

Restaurant Dishwasher: A Complete Buying Guide

Undercounter dishwasher

Deciding on the right dishwasher for your restaurant or commercial kitchen depends on a few important factors, and it’s vital to get the right machine for the job.There are multiple types of dish machines depending on what you plan to wash and how much of it you plan to wash in a given day.

The most common restaurant dishwasher types are:

Undercounter – these dish machines are similar to residential models and can handle up to 35 racks per hour.  They usually use a built-in heating element to flash heat dishes and ware to 180 degrees Fahrenheit for sanitization.

Door Type – these washers are larger than undercounter models and can handle up to 150 racks per hour.  Door type washers are most commonly used in most restaurants.

They have a large door that opens and allows racks to be easily moved in and out.  Some models even have a conveyor that allows the constant processing of dish racks.

Restaurant Dishwasher: A Complete Buying Guide

Booster Heater

Booster Heaters – these stand-alone units pre-heat water to the NSF required 180 degrees Fahrenheit for proper sanitization.  They operate independently of the dish machine and insure that enough hot water is available for washing.

Booster heaters are typically used on large Conveyor or Flight dishwashers that process large volumes of dishes per hour.  Most undercounter and door type units have a built-in booster heater.

Check before you buy any dishwasher to see if you’ll need a booster heater or not.

Conveyor and Flight – these washers are for high volume applications like cafeterias or institutions and can process over 400 racks per hour.

High Temp vs. Low Temp

High temperature dishwashers:

  • Use heat to sanitize dishes and glassware
  • Must achieve 180 degrees Fahrenheit to meet NSF regulations
  • Use slightly more energy than a low temp dishwasher
  • Do not require the regular purchase of chemicals
  • Do not damage flatware and plastics
  • Is the most commonly used commercial dishwasher

Low temperature dishwashers:

  • Use a chemical bath to sanitize dishes and glassware
  • Are not as effective at removing grease
  • Are slightly more efficient than high temp models
  • Can damage flatware and plastics
  • Require you to purchase chemicals on a monthly basis

Some argue that the cost of chemicals for a low temp dishwasher is much less than the increased energy savings versus a high temp unit.

While this may be true, the main factor to consider when you are trying to decide between a low or high temp dishwasher is the damage to flatware, plastics, and dinnerware that might occur with a low temp model because of the sanitation chemicals used.

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Commercial Food Processors: Know What To Buy

Food processors and mixers have evolved considerably in the past decade to become more versatile and more powerful; meaning, they can satisfy a growing number of food preparation tasks in greater capacities.

A food processor has a central motor, usually self contained, that drives a shaft to which a blade or other cutting implement is affixed.

Food is either processed in a bowl for sauces, soups, or finely diced vegetables, or through a continuous feed chute that allows sliced or shredded vegetables to be ejected quickly into bins.

What to Look For When Purchasing a Food Processor

  • Be sure to size your new food processor to the task. If you overwork the processor by constantly pushing its capacity, you could shorten its lifespan and effectiveness. Manufacturers usually list this information for each model.
  • Some units have more than one bowl size, allowing you to change the capacity according to what you are processing.  This is especially useful if you have medium and small size processing tasks.
  • Variable speed units are more versatile and can handle foods of different densities.
  • Look for units that come with multiple attachments. The more attachments a unit has, the more food preparation tasks it can perform in your commercial kitchen or restaurant.
  • Safety features that prevent kitchen staff injury, especially with new or untrained help. The most common is an automatic shut-off feature.

Types of Food Processors

Commercial Food Processors: Know What To Buy

Robot Coupe R2B CLR

The most important factor in choosing the correct food processor is to select a machine that is right for the type and quantity of food you want to process.

  • For maximum versatility, a Blixer, or combination mixer and blender, is ideal, with emulsifying and liquefying options that can blend sauces and soups without too much aeration plus the normal chopping and grinding features of a food processor.
  • Bowl mixers chop or grind relatively small amounts of core ingredients like garlic, shallots, or basil.
  • Combination models feature a variety of cutting blades and can perform multiple tasks, such as slicing, shredding, kneading dough, and julienne, plus normal chopping and grinding functions.
  • Vegetable prep models have a continuous feed chute that allows you to chop, dice, shred, grate, or julienne large amounts of vegetables at a time.
  • Heavy duty floor blixers and food processors are designed for large operations and can mix, blend, or process up to 1,200 lbs. per hour.
  • Vertical cutter mixers feature a continuous feed chute and a large capacity stainless steel bowl, have a variety of blade attachments, and can process larger volumes than a standard bowl mixer.

Caring For Your Food Processor

Food processors should last seven to ten years if used and maintained properly.  Typically, a food processor does not require much maintenance, since the motor is usually a sealed unit.

However, a few basic steps can be taken to maximize your food processor’s life:

  • Wash food processor bowls, attachments, blades, covers, and pushers regularly.  Most are dishwasher safe.
  • Always use the food pusher that comes with your unit to guide food into the processor.  Not only is it unsafe to use other objects or hands, but damage to the unit could also result.
  • Don’t overload the machine. It’s important to size the processor according to the types and quantities of foods you wish to process.  Too small of a machine or one without enough horsepower for more dense foods will not last as long or work as efficiently as a larger one.
  • Blades and attachments become dull over time and should be replaced.

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A 4.2 HP Vita-Mix Blender!?

Apparently sometime last year an executive at Vita-Mix walked into the engineering department with a brick and said “I’d like to blend this”. What was created from that moment, was the most powerful blender on the market, the Vita-Mix XL.

I got the chance to see this blender in action at the NAFEM show a couple of weeks ago. The Vita-Mix booth had the XL front and center along with some chefs doing menu demonstrations and then passing out the results.

A 4.2 HP Vita Mix Blender!?

The Vita-Mix XL in action at the NAFEM show.

It was pretty amazing the things this blender can do.  At one point a pico de gallo was made, handed out to the crowd and then with the flick of the switch turned into a puree almost instantly. You could visibly see the chef’s enjoyment over using such a powerful piece of kitchen equipment.

Up until now, if you needed a food blender most likely you would be shopping for a Waring CB15 or Vita-Mix Vita Prep which are significantly less expensive than the Vita-Mix XL. So what are you getting for that extra dough?

  • Larger capacity: The XL features a true 1.5 gallon container as opposed to a 1 gallon container. The way this container was designed allows for it to actually hold a full 1.5 gallons. Also included is a 64 oz container for smaller batches.
  • Horse Power: 4.2 peak HP. For comparison, that’s most likely more than your kid’s go-cart.
  • Control: Features include a smooth variable speed control, a pulse function and pre-programmed timed cycles that allow you to set programs for your various menu items.
  • Food Safety: The clear copolyester container is BPA free.

In addition to all the usual features and benefits talk, the Vita-Mix XL is just plain cool. Walking into the kitchen everyday and seeing this monster of a blender is sure to put a smile on any chef’s face and cutting down on prep time is certain to make any owner happy. So happy in fact, he or she might let you take it home at night to whip up some margaritas for you and your friends.

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Why Water Filtration Is Essential In Your Restaurant

Why Water Filtration Is Essential In Your RestaurantWater filtration systems provide two key benefits for your commercial kitchen or restaurant: restaurant equipment maintenance and breakdown is reduced by as much as 75% Beverages and ice tastes (and smells) better for customers. Restaurant equipment that use water like ice machines, coffee and espresso makers, steamers, and dishwashers can all benefit from a water filtration system.

Mineral deposits (also known as “scale”) build up in these machines, causing maintenance problems and breakdowns.  Water filtration systems with scale inhibitors prevent the buildup of scale as well as filter the water in the commercial kitchen equipment you use every day. Water filters with scale inhibitors are particularly beneficial for ice machines, as ice will appear clearer and break up easier than non-filtered ice, not to mention taste better to the customer.

Water filtration removes:

  • Chemicals
  • Sediment
  • Minerals
  • Organic matter

The presence of these elements in your commercial kitchen or restaurant’s water affects water taste and odor and increase the likelihood of maintenance problems or equipment breakdown.

Types of Water Filters

Not all water filters and water filtration systems are the same. Some water filtration systems feature a drop-in replacement cartridge whereas others are screwed into the filter head. Some water filters need to be activated by cycling water through them for a period of time before use.  Other types allow you to simply drop in the cartridge and put it to work right away.

Some systems require multiple filter cartridges, especially for higher volume applications whereas others, most notably Cuno, have single cartridge systems for all capacities, saving space and money since you only have to purchase one replacement cartridge at a time.

When To Replace Your Water Filter

It’s probably time to replace your water filter cartridge if:

  • Water pressure drops significantly.  Many water filtration systems have a PSI (pounds per square inch) indicator needle.  If that needle is in the red or below 30 PSI, replace your filter
  • The water in your restaurant or commercial kitchen tastes or smells funny
  • Mineral deposits or “scale” start building up in your restaurant equipment
  • More than six months have passed since the last time you replaced the filter

The best way to avoid problems with your water filtration system is to replace filters every six months. If your water filter cartridge is clogging or going bad in less than six months, you may need a pre filter for your water filtration system. A pre filter removes larger organic matter and sediment before it reaches your main filter, improving the main filter’s lifespan and effectiveness. Different geographic areas have different water qualities, but in general if your area has especially “hard” water (it contains lots of minerals), has a lot of sediment or debris, algae, or other organic matter problems, installing a pre filter is a good idea. Wherever your restaurant is, you should have a robust water filtration system in place.  It’s good for your equipment, your product, and your customers.  There’s not three more compelling reasons for a restaurateur out there.

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When It Comes To Equipment Repair, Be Prepared

In Kevin Loving’s last post he talked about how keeping a basic tool kit handy in your restaurant will make your life as an operator or manager alot easier. It’s almost certain you will use at least one of these tools everyday on the job. I spent over 5 years on the phones selling replacement parts to restaurants and at least half the times I asked a manger to measure something they either didn’t have a tape measure or didn’t know where it was. So if you haven’t started building your tool kit, now is as great a time as ever. That being said, you should also keep in mind having the tools is only half the battle when it comes to restaurant equipment maintenance.

When It Comes To Equipment Repair, Be Prepared

Keep your burners lit!

Another conversation I had again and again with restaurant managers was the frantic Friday night call. I’m sure you know that call, many of you have probably made a few of them. That’s the phone call to your parts supplier at about 4:30 PM on a Friday night right before they are about to close. You’re in a panic, your fryer is down and weekends in your bar are the busiest times for you. Long story short, without a fryer you can’t serve all those wings and mozzarella sticks so you end up paying $80 in shipping to have a thermopile delivered on Saturday. Sure would have been a lot easier to have a spare thermopile in your office huh? By now you should see what I’m getting at. Maybe while you’re filling that tool box it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep some critical replacement parts on hand as well. Here’s some to consider:

  1. Thermostats – keep a spare on hand for all your cooking equipment from fryers to ovens. An infinite control for your countertop warmers would be handy as well, along with some replacement dials.
  2. Burner Valves – these should be a no brainer as they are inexpensive. You’ll find them in range tops, broilers and some griddles. You might as well have some extra knobs for these too so you don’t need to use pliers all weekend to turn on your range.
  3. Elements - you can find these all around your kitchen. Need a hint? Check your soup warmers, steam tables, cheesemelters and the heat strips on your line. If you have a dishwasher that uses a booster heater it’s critical to have a couple of extras on hand.
  4. High Limits – these are critical for your fryer, some warmers and your dishwasher’s booster heater. Have a coffee maker? There’s a little one in there too.
  5. Switches – there’s at least one on much of your equipment. Think convection ovens, steamers, coffee makers and warmers.
  6. Pilots – these comprise of  some pilot tubing and a pilot head. Some of these come together in a complete assembly. There are many different pilot assemblies so get the ones specific to your model. You can also keep some generic 18″ pilot assemblies on hand to use in a pinch.
  7. Ignitors – many times along with your pilot comes an ignitor. This is dependent on the type of equipment as the parts range from a push button spark ignitor to a flame sensor and ignition module.
  8. Gas Valves – there’s a variety of these as well. Depending on the equipment you can have a combination valve, a solenoid valve or any variety of safety valve.

You might need many of these or just a few. It depends on the size of your restaurant and how much equipment you have.  Don’t feel like you need to get every possible part there is either. To start, determine which of your equipment you really can’t live without and get the critical parts for those.

A perfect example is a national chain I dealt with for years.  They served biscuits with almost every breakfast, lunch and dinner they sold.  If their proofer went down nobody was having biscuits and that was a signature part of their meals. I’d say that the proofer was a critical part of their daily business wouldn’t you? I managed to convince quite a few of the area managers to keep an extra thermostat, power switch and a humidity switch on hand just in case. Believe me when I tell you they were very happy that they did.

So go ahead and compliment that set of tools with some common equipment replacement parts.  It’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about and you might just save yourself on some expedited shipping charges or an expensive weekend service call.  Next time I’ll go over some parts that are important to have around for fixing things other than kitchen equipment.

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