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Learn how to buy the right restaurant equipment and supplies right here.

A Review of My Favorite Pocket Thermometer

Comark Pocket ThermometerAbove is an image of my favorite thermometer for everyday food service use, the COMARK PDT-300.

Here is why:

  1. It is NSF approved and meets the Colorado requirement for a thin probe thermometer to measure the temperatures of thin foods such as patties, fillets, etc.
  2. It reads quickly, in just a few seconds.
  3. It is reliable and durable, withstanding drops and continual use.
  4. The battery just keeps going…mine typically lasts about a year, and you can imagine how often I use my thermometer.
  5. Performing an ice water calibration is simple and takes less than one minute.
  6. The price is unbeatable…less than $20 at Tundra Specialties.

One question that frequently arises is where to place the thermometer when taking the temperature of food.  That is best answered by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in Annex 5 of the 2009 FDA Model Food Code:

The geometric center or thickest part of a product are the points of measurement of product temperature particularly when measuring critical limits for cooking.
The geometric center of a product is usually the point of measurement of product temperature particularly when measuring the critical limit for cold holding.

As a former health department food safety manager, I’ve used many types over the years, and in my opinion, it’s the best for the money for everyday food service use.  I regularly demonstrate it to my customers, and they invariably ask me where to buy one – the answer is easy; I tell them Tundra Specialties.

My name is Jim Austin and since 2001 I’ve been a food safety consultant in private practice, based in Denver, Colorado. I am a former Colorado local health department manager who was responsible for the food inspection program. I know how the world of government regulation really works, and I enjoy helping my customers deal confidently with the health department and protect their business interests.

For a free initial consultation, please contact me:

Colorado Restaurant Consulting

303-728-4878

jim@coloradorestaurantconsulting.com

http://www.coloradorestaurantconsulting.com/

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Commercial Coffee Brewing Equipment: Serve Great Coffee Every Time

Not all brewing equipment is created equal, and the success of your quest for a great cup of coffee can largely rest on the type of brewing equipment you use.  When investing in new coffee equipment, it’s also vitally important to purchase a brewer that can handle your weekly volume.

For more info on how to brew a great cup of coffee, and why your restaurant should invest in great coffee, read my previous post.

For Low Volume (0-15 lbs. of coffee per week)A Pourover Coffee MachinePourovers.  This is your standard coffee brewer and it works just like the one at home.  Water is poured manually into a tank inside the machine, heated, then poured over the coffee bed to brew coffee.  Time, temperature, and water quality can all be hard to control with a pourover, especially as the unit ages.

An Automatic Coffee Machine

Automatic coffee machines.  An automatic unit has a direct water line for faster brewing.  It’s also easier to filter water on a direct line to ensure coffee quality.

A Standard DecanterDecanters vs. Airpots.  Low volume coffee machines dispense brewed coffee into either a decanter (your standard restaurant coffee pot) or an airpot (what you usually see at Starbucks or a hotel’s continental breakfast).  Decanters usually sit on a low-heat warmer to maintain temperature.  The problem is that over A Glass Lined Airpottime this degrades the coffee’s taste.  Airpots, on the other hand, are not heated but can retain the temperature at which the coffee was brewed for a few hours without degrading the flavor.  Airpots also limit coffee’s contact with oxygen, which reacts with elements in coffee and causes an acidic or bitter flavor.
For Medium Volume (15-50 lbs. of coffee per week)

A Satellite Coffee Machine

Satellite coffee brewers.  A satellite brewer has digital controls that allow you to manage all the elements of the brewing process and dispense coffee into an insulated holder that can be filled and moved to various locations around the restaurant like server stations and back bar counters.

For High Volume (50+ lbs. of coffee per week)

An Urn Type Coffee Machine

Urn type coffee machines.  An urn type coffee machine can produce large amounts of quality coffee quickly and easily.  These units require a lot of up-front investment, but if you are serving large amounts of coffee, there’s really no other way to go.  Urn type machines are automatic and digitally controlled.

No matter what kind of restaurant you have, serving quality coffee can create great sales and upselling opportunities.  Take the time to experiment with the right combination of equipment and brewing elements until you find a combination that truly gives your business a better cup of coffee.  The results of your investment of time and money will be happy customers and (hopefully!) a fatter bottom line.

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Color Code Your Food Safety Program

Color Coded Cutting BoardsBacteria, contaminants, and pathogens are all the enemies of your restaurant’s kitchen.  It’s a battle you fight every day.  The first line of defense is controlling the growth of pathogens that could make your customers sick.  That is best accomplished through a robust HACCP program.  Unfortunately, as effective as HACCP is at controlling pathogen growth through temperature management, there are many other areas where contamination can occur.

The most obvious is through food preparation equipment and utensils.  Food processors, mixers, and slicers all need to be cleaned regularly with an approved sanitizer to prevent cross contamination.  As for utensils, cutting boards and knives are probably the two most likely candidates for cross contamination, and it’s very important to your food safety program that you make sure different types of food are not coming in contact with each other through the use of the same utensils.

As you know, that’s easier said than done in a busy kitchen.  Serving food on time is the number one priority, and, especially during the rush, your line isn’t always thinking about cross contamination first, no matter how much you train them.

Raw protein products like beef, poultry, and fish typically go with red cutting boards or knives.  Raw vegetables go with green, and other food types go on white.  Many restaurants will also separate poultry from other proteins and assign them to yellow utensils.Color Coded Kitchen Knives

The added bonus of using color coded food prep utensils is that you also prevent taste contamination.  No one wants the juices left over from a T-Bone mixed with their chicken breast in a white wine sauce.  Potential allergens are also effectively separated when you assign specific foods to certain colors.  Shellfish is one of the most common culprits; many people can become violently ill if their food is in even passing contact with any kind of shellfish.

Finally, color coded labels can help your staff select the right product to pull from the walk-in very quickly.  Most restaurants use a First In, First Out (FIFO) policy, which is effective at prioritizing the oldest product for first use on any given day.  Color coded labels (e.g. red for “use now,” green for “just arrived off the truck,” and yellow for “use soon”) make sure you minimize spoilage and use your inventory in a safe but intelligent way.

Even in the sometimes chaotic atmosphere of a busy kitchen at the peak of the dinner rush, clear color codes can help staff maintain a high food safety standard that will keep your customers safe and coming back to your restaurant for more.  This is especially important in an industry where employee turnover rates are so high.  A simple color code system means new hires can plug into the team quickly without you having to worry about food safety being compromised.  Color coding your food preparation process will make your kitchen run more efficiently and safely, which means you’ll have more time to take care of what’s really important: your customers.

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The Poseidon: The New God of Digital Portion Scales

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The Poseidon portion scale: Submersible. Self-calibrating. Wow.

Edlund has long been known for their tough, durable kitchen equipment.  The Edlund “Old Reliable” manual can opener has been a kitchen standard in thousands of restaurants for years.  And Edlund portion scales have long been favored for their toughness and accuracy.

Luckily, Edlund hasn’t decided to sit back on their laurels.  The new Poseidon portion scale represents the forward thinking of a venerable old company.

The best part about the Poseidon is that this scale is waterproof and fully submersible.  That means you can use it, wash it off, and use it again.  Finally, you can get the accuracy of a digital scale without having to worry about the messiness of your busy kitchen.

I have even heard reports of restaurateurs running the Poseidon through the dishwasher to clean it, although this isn’t recommended by Edlund.

The best part about this digital scale is that the submersible feature isn’t the best part.  The best part about this scale is its revolutionary self-calibrating feature.  Used to be a digital portion scale had to be sent back to the manufacturer to be recalibrated.

Well, no more.  The Poseidon can be flipped upside down, where it automatically weighs itself and recalibrates accordingly.  Combine this smart feature with a stainless steel body, and you’ve got a tough instrument with a lot of accuracy.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

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Restaurant Equipment: 4 Factors For Calculating Total Cost Of Ownership

There’s always a significant amount of cost involved whenever you buy a new piece of restaurant equipment.  Those costs only continue as that equipment ages in your restaurant – from energy use to repairs, the consequences of new equipment will be around for a long time after you’ve written the check to purchase.

Of course, restaurant equipment makes you money as well.  Without that fryer or reach-in refrigerator or griddle, you wouldn’t be able to prepare your product for your customers.  But understanding the total cost of a piece of equipment over its lifespan has been ignored all too often in the food service industry for years.

Many chains have started doing a Total Cost Of Ownership analysis for equipment because they buy large numbers of the same type of equipment all at once.  A faulty or inefficient piece of equipment can mean thousands of dollars in extra expenses for the chain over the lifespan of the piece, and conducting a cost analysis beforehand helps avoid problems down the road.

By and large, most independent operators do not undertake the complicated task of calculating total cost – usually because the information or the know-how necessary to make an accurate calculation isn’t available.

That doesn’t mean independents and smaller chains can’t benefit from a cost analysis before they buy new restaurant equipment.  Here’s a quick guide to help you get started on your own cost analysis before you buy your next piece of equipment.
Calculate Ice Machine Capacity
Capacity. The larger the piece of equipment, the more volume it can handle.  The trade-off here is that larger equipment also uses more energy, which means higher operating expenses.  That’s fine if you’re using that capacity to generate revenue, but one of the biggest traps smaller operations fall into is buying too much capacity or not enough capacity.

Let’s use an ice machine as an example.  A large air cooled ice machine with a 1,000 pound ice bin will use a significant amount of energy every day, translating into hundreds of dollars of electricity expenses every month.  That’s perfectly fine if you’re coming close to emptying that bin every day to keep your bar stocked and your kitchen well supplies with ice.  But if you’re barely putting a dent in that ice, even during your busiest periods, then you’ve got a two-fold problem: first, you’re paying to make ice you don’t use, and second, you’re adding labor costs to your budget because now you’ve got to clean all that unused ice out of the bin regularly to prevent the buildup of bacteria and other pathogens.

On the other hand, if your ice machine is too small, you risk shortening its lifespan because the unit never gets a break as it tries to keep pace with demand, not to mention the inconvenience to your staff and your customers that comes with an ice shortage.

In general, you want to size new equipment capacity based upon your best estimate of growth over the course of the unit’s life.  A good ice machine should last about 10 years.  Hopefully in 10 years your business has expanded and needs more ice.  That means you need to buy more ice capacity initially to accommodate future growth.
Of course, that means more energy expenses at first as you ramp up to full capacity, but down the road, one ice machine is more efficient than two.

Energy Efficiency. Unfortunately, energy usage information is very hard to come by when it comes to food service equipment.  The government run program Energy Star has begun to rate more and more restaurant equipment, so before you buy, check there to see if you can get some energy usage information.Energy Star For Food Service Equipment

Energy use is a big one when calculating the total cost of a new piece of equipment.  Most equipment in your kitchen uses a lot of energy, so even the smallest differences in usage can translate into thousands of dollars in savings over the lifespan of the piece.

Try to collect energy use information from the different manufacturers as you’re shopping for a new piece of equipment.  Often more efficient units have a higher initial price because more efficient components are usually also more expensive.  However, paying 10% – 20% more for a unit that’s 30% more efficient means you’ll still be saving thousands of dollars over the entire lifespan of the unit.

It’s common practice in the food service industry to shop aggressively for the lowest price point.  While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with bargain hunting, an unintended consequence of this has been that many new units still employ older component technology that keeps the price low, even though those components can be significantly less efficient.

Keep in mind that sometimes, spending a little more up front can actually save you a lot of money down the road.

Stay tuned tomorrow as I explore two more areas where calculating the total cost of your restaurant equipment is important.  Click here to read the second installment of this article.

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Food Service Equipment: Getting Properly Stocked

A restaurant kitchen is alive with the hum and bustle of life and movement, and while nothing beats a good staff, stocking the right food service equipment can infinitely improve the efficiency and quality of your restaurant. No matter what type of restaurant you own or operate, you’ll need a massive amount of equipment on hand; ovens, ranges, processors, blenders, freezers, mixers, not to mention plates, knives, forks, chopsticks, etc, etc. In this article, we’ll take a closer at everything your restaurant needs to run as smooth as butter.

Food Service Equipment

One thing that any kitchen needs, whether it’s a smoothie bar or a sushi bar, is proper commercial refrigeration. You need a fridge to keep things cold, fresh, and legal. From walk-ins to reach-ins, do your research to ensure that you get a refrigerator that best suits the needs of your establishment.

Also, you’ll most likely need to make ice on site, so if you’re looking for your restaurant’s ideal commercial ice machine, take a look at these tips on the importance of the right ice machine.

All things start with prep, so you need to be sure that you’ve got the right tools to get any dish started. There are many specialized food prep machines which simplify anything from making pasta to sausages.

Nothing is worse than old, worn knives that waste your time inefficiently cutting, dicing and slicing, so be sure to have top quality cutlery on hand, and to sharpen or replace them frequently. Look over this cutlery Q & A to find the better blade for you.

Food Service EquipmentOr, you can walk away from the knife and find a new cutting strategy. Using a quality food processor is a multifaceted method to save time while providing consistency of quality. Processors do your slicing and dicing for you, so you needn’t spend time you don’t have choring away at it. Time is money, so don’t waste another minute doing what a food processor could do for you. Also take a peek here to know what processor to buy.

If your restaurant serves food, that food presumably needs to be cooked, so while looking for any or all sorts of cooking equipment, check out this guide to commercial cooking equipment, which includes options for ranges, ovens, steamers and griddles, to find what best suits your needs.

As the American obesity rate continues to grow so does the popularity of fried food, so depending upon your restaurant’s health-stance, you may want to invest in a commercial fryer. While certainly not healthy, fryers make food undeniably delicious, so don’t exclude this enticing addition.

Food Service EquipmentFrom water to wine, your restaurant will need to find a way to appropriately serve drinks, so consider whether you need a beverage dispenser, or frozen drink machine to make the job easier. Or to make anything from smoothies to mixed drinks, stock up with a blender.

After the dish is served, enjoyed and finished, you’re left to clean up the mess, so investing in a commercial dishwasher is essential for timely turn around.

So whether your restaurant is just starting up, revamping, or merely replacing old equipment, be sure to properly stock your food service equipment to ensure the best restaurant experience possible.

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The Importance of The Right Ice Machine

Maintaining any kind of restaurant requires ice, lots of ice, and the only way to meet your frosty needs is with the right commercial ice machine. If your restaurant is stuck with an excessively large ice machine, you may be spending extravagant costs to make ice you don’t need.

This is not only wasteful and inefficient, but it’s an unnecessary financial investment doomed to melt away. On the other side of the cube, an undersized icemaker can be equally disastrous; imagine unsatisfied customers with lukewarm drinks, and improperly chilled food that wilts alongside patron loyalty. Again, a potentially devastating expense to your business.
Commercial Ice Machines

Icemakers aren’t cheap, so when shopping for your perfect frozen-water machine you need to consider two things: production necessity and storage capacity. You need to ensure that you are making enough ice to meet the needs of your customers and your kitchen without wanton ice cube creation. In order to discover the perfect ice machine for your restaurant, use the following strategy to roughly determine your daily ice needs.

Within the restaurant, have approximately 1.8 lbs of ice per customer; with cocktails, keep 3 lbs ice on hand per expected patron whereas soft drinks require about 8 oz per 16 oz drink. Catering companies and cafeterias usually should have about a pound per person to keep meals ideally chilled. Using your restaurant capacity and average daily visitors, you should be able to calculate how much ice to create per day.

If your restaurant typically serves a hundred people a day and half of them drink cocktails then you should have 180 lbs of ice with an additional 300 lbs for cocktails for a total of 480 lbs of ice daily. Once you’ve ascertained your ideal ice creation quota, direct your attention towards which ice machine is right for you.

The most convenient and space conscious icemakers come with built-in storage bins, whose capacity range from 80 lbs to 1100 lbs so you can find the perfect fit for your icy needs. After calculating the right amount of ice for your restaurant, browse Tundra’s selection of restaurant ice machines.

Like a snowflake, not all ice is the same. It can come cubed, flaked or even in nuggets and the choice lies with you (although the right option is really just a matter of preference). While most restaurants opt for cubed ice, flakes or nuggets can work well with cocktails or soft drinks. Because of its smaller surface area, flake and nugget ice melts faster.

This can, however, be advantageous within the restaurant. Flake ice’s tendency to melt faster makes it a faster cooling agent, and makes it perfect for quickly chilling a drink or for temporarily housing fresh seafood or chicken. Nugget ice is the midway point between the other two and goes perfectly in cocktails or sodas because they cool drinks quickly without melting away too soon. You can find cube ice machines, flake ice machines and nugget ice machines all at Tundra.

Will the ice machine market as vast and mysterious as the Antarctic, make sure you learn what you need and how to meet those needs in your restaurant.

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Commercial Cooking Equipment

Whether you’re steaming, frying, charring, griddling or baking, eTundra.com is your number one source for quality commercial cooking equipment. While searching for new cooking equipment, it’s crucial to be energy efficient and financially conscientious, a surefire way to improve your restaurant and your finances.

Commercial Cooking EquipmentThe true centerpiece of any kitchen is a good restaurant range. Ranges come with a customizable amount of burners, the option of an attached oven and various additional accessories. When shopping for ranges, you should keep a couple things in mind. If you value speed over energy efficiency, you should look for a gas range with a higher BTU (British Thermal Units) because while it requires more energy, it heats up faster. A gas range with a lower BTU, on the other hand, will take longer to warm but will eat up less energy. Depending upon your restaurant’s criteria, you should consider which BTU level you want for your range. You can further customize your range by adding a griddle or charbroiler to make food prep even easier, or you can order them as separate units. And remember, altitude matters in a kitchen, so be sure to inform your manufacturer if your restaurant is located above 2,000 ft so that gas valves get properly tweaked.

If you’re looking to cook veggies, rice and fish in a Commercial Cooking Equipmenthealth conscious and nutrient rich way, you pretty much have to invest in a commercial steamer. Steamers don’t only make your food healthier, they cook it faster and even make your dishes more tasty. There are two main types of steamers; pressure steamers and pressureless steamers; and they have different functions within the kitchen. A pressure steamer is more time-efficient, allowing pressurized steam to build up to quickly cook what’s inside. One thing to keep in mind with a pressure steamer is that once you begin the steaming  process you cannot open the unit to check on or season what’s steaming inside. With a pressureless cooker, checking on food or seasoning is not an issue, as the steam is circulated using fans to cook food so there is no loss of prep time if you open the unit. Choosing the right steamer also means choosing the suitable number of steaming compartments (with each steaming compartment capable of making approximately 200 meals/hour). Depending upon restaurant capacity and output, you may want only 1 compartment or you may opt for 4.

A multi-purposed combination oven is ideal for those who want variety in their efficiency. Combinations use both steam, convection or a combination of both to produce meals quickly and in large quantity. If you’re shopping for a convection oven or a steamer, you may want to consider getting a combination oven to kill two birds with one stone. While combination ovens are an expensive addition to any kitchen, they eliminate the need for other equipment, saving you space and potentially money.

So whether you’re searching for a range, steamer or combination oven, Tundra has you covered with the lowest prices and highest value.

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How to Remove Hot Used Fryer Oil Safely

A commercial deep fryer is a vital piece of restaurant equipment in any kitchen.  But as anyone who has worked in a commercial kitchen knows, they can also be high maintenance when it comes to cleaning.  Changing the heating oil is a constant chore, especially in higher volume establishments, and while dirty oil means you’re using your fryer a lot, it also means it’s time to change out the oil.

Transporting hot deep fryer oil is probably not a very popular task for your kitchen staff.  Even more importantly, it can be a dangerous job.  The potential for skin burns is very high, and that’s a hazard and an expense you can ill afford.

A Standard Oil Transporter

The highest risk for injury doesn’t occur when emptying your fryer or transporting the oil to the waste oil container.  The highest risk is actually dumping the oil in the container, because that’s when a spill is most likely to occur.  A standard oil transporter is easy to fill, and provided it has casters like the one pictured above, is easy to move.  But lifting one full of oil and dumping it out safely can be very difficult.

A Shortening Shuttle Hot Oil Transporter

The Shortening Shuttle® is nice because, unlike a regular oil transporter, it’s easy to fill and move.  But the best part about the Shuttle® is how easy it is to empty into a standard 55-gallon waste oil container.  The top of the Shuttle® hooks onto the container, allowing your staff to lift the far end and easily dump the oil out.  All in all it’s a pretty well designed product, with convenience and safety in mind.

Assuming you use the deep fryer in your commercial kitchen pretty regularly, the investment in a safe transporter for spent heating oil is definitely worth it.  After all, one trip to the emergency room for burns is definitely more expensive than a lifetime of using the Shortening Shuttle®.

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Choosing Stick Mixers For Your Commercial Kitchen

How To Choose The Right Stick MixerA stick mixer is a hand-held, electronically powered device that allows chefs to mix large amounts of sauces, soups, and stews during preparation and cooking.  The motor connects to a long shaft with an attachment on the end that rotates at a high speed, making large-scale mixing projects manageable in a busy kitchen.

Stick mixers come in various sizes and types, and it’s very important to size the mixer you buy to the size of the task.  The smallest mixers have a 6 or 7 inch mixing shaft and are for small batches of lighter mixtures like sauces or batters.  On the other end, large stick mixers have up to a 21 inch shaft and can power through the heaviest soup or stew in a 25 – 50 gallon pot.

The most important factor to consider when selecting the right sized mixer is the length of the mixing shaft.  You want a mixer that can reach the bottom of the pot or mixing bowl you’re mixing in, otherwise ingredients will not be fully mixed.  The second factor you want to take into account is the wattage of the mixer’s motor.  Thick, heavy sauces, soups, and stews will burn out a smaller motor.  Stick mixer wattages usually run from about 350 watts all the way up to 650 watts or more.  The more powerful the mixer, the longer it can run and the heavier duty work it can handle.

A Combination Stick MixerStick mixers are made with either a single speed setting or variable speed settings.  Variable speed mixers are much more versatile.  Some mixers are also combination models, meaning they have a stick mixing attachment and a whisk attachment.  If you need a power whisk, these combo models are perfect for you.

Most mixers are immersion resistant, meaning the casing housing the electric motor can get pretty wet while working, but I wouldn’t recommend dropping the whole thing in a big stock pot.  Finally, some smaller mixers are cordless, which can be very convenient in some situations, although battery power can be higher maintenance.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Some mixers are easier to clean than others.  Those with a removable shaft make cleanup very easy because the shaft can be detached and cleaned separately from the motor.  Many of the heavier duty stick mixers have a permanent shaft, which makes cleanup a little harder but is worth the extra work when it comes to durability.A Bermixer Stick Mixer

When using a stick mixer, make sure you keep it from overheating.  Some mixers have an indicator light and automatic shutoff to prevent damage to the motor, but if you buy a model that doesn’t have a warning, make sure your staff knows how to prevent overheating.  The factors that cause a mixer to overheat vary depending on the thickness or heaviness of the mixture and the power of the mixer, but in general, let mixers cool every 15 minutes.  Also train staff to recognize the signs of mixer overheating, such as an extremely hot motor casing, a strange electrical smell, and a slowing of mixer blade rotation.

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