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Get updates on great restaurant equipment and supplies that are must-haves in any restaurant or commercial kitchen.

A Review of My Favorite Pocket Thermometer

A Review of My Favorite 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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Color Code Your Food Safety Program

Color Code Your Food Safety ProgramBacteria, 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 Code Your Food Safety Program

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

The Poseidon: The New God of Digital Portion Scales

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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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.

How to Remove Hot Used Fryer Oil Safely

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.

How to Remove Hot Used Fryer Oil Safely

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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Lincoln Smallwares: A Little Cookware For Everyone

Lincoln/Redco is a well recognized company within the food service industry.  In case you haven’t heard of them, they produce a variety of food prep equipment and commercial cookware.  Lincoln cookware has been in production in one form or another since the early 1900s.  Every chef is pretty particular about his or her cookware, which is understandable since these are the tools you use in the kitchen every day to ply your trade.

The nice thing about Lincoln is that the variety of their cookware lines has something for every taste and preference.  At the risk of sounding like a salesman (probably too late…), I’d like to take a minute to outline the different cookware products offered by Lincoln.  Again, there’s something for everyone here, from practical, durable standard cookware all the way up to high end, high performance stainless steel for the discerning perfectionist.

Lincoln Smallwares: A Little Cookware For Everyone

Arkadia®: This aluminum cookware is good, standard cookware without the frills and without the expense of other lines.  If you’re on a budget and looking for a good value, Arkadia® is the line for you.

Lincoln Smallwares: A Little Cookware For Everyone

Lincoln Wear-Ever®: The Wear-Ever® line was registered in 1904 and has been a well-known name in aluminum cookware for over a century.  There are also four variations on the Wear-Ever line for specialized cooking needs:

  • Natural Finish® – The name says it all: natural aluminum cookware.
  • EverSmooth® – Rivetless cookware that eliminates those annoying buttons on the inside of any pot or pan that are hard to clean.
  • CeramiGuard® – Ceramic non-stick cookware that is much more scratch and wear resistant than traditional non-stick cookware.
  • HardCoat® – Anodized black surface for high heat and heavy use applications.

These Wear-Ever® features are also combined on a lot of Lincoln’s cookware, like EverSmooth® CeramiGuard® fry pans, etc.

Lincoln also has two lines of stainless steel cookware:

Lincoln Smallwares: A Little Cookware For Everyone

Optio™ cookware is bottom-clad with aluminum for quick heat distribution.  This line is more affordable than most stainless cookware but still durable enough for any commercial application.

Lincoln Smallwares: A Little Cookware For Everyone

Centurion® stainless steel cookware is top-of-the-line, 18/10 stainless cookware with bottom-clad aluminum for quick heating.

So that’s what’s available from Lincoln Smallwares.  All in all, most people in the industry agree this is pretty good cookware, and you’ve got quite a few choices to fit the specific requirements of your commercial kitchen.

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Crocs Work Shoes: Same Function, More Style

Crocs Work Shoes: Same Function, More StyleFinding a good pair of comfortable black shoes for restaurant workers who are on their feet all day can be a challenge.  Crocs shoes are known for their durability, comfort, and great traction on even the greasiest kitchen floor.  And when Crocs came out with some stylish interpretations of their classic shoe, the food service industry snapped to attention.

The Crocs Bistro, Saffron, and Ginger put a stylish stamp on work shoes for restaurant professionals – but what really got the attention were the great features found in every pair. Crocs’ patented Croslite material is used to make all Crocs shoes for the food service industry, and is antimicrobial, odor resistant, and molds to the shape of your foot for a personalized fit. Crocs work shoes feature enhanced arch support and a closed-toe design, balancing comfort and safety perfectly.

Now Crocs has followed up the success of these earlier models with some great new designs, again giving food service some great options when it comes to finding a functional yet stylish shoe:Crocs Work Shoes: Same Function, More Style the Crocs Amaretto, Barista, and Alice all  represent a new innovation in work shoes for anyone who works in a restaurant.  This stylish shoe can be worn in even the most formal dining room yet is as comfortable as any other Crocs work shoe.  The leather upper and custom fit lace-up closure are perfect for anyone wanting a stylish fit.

Comfort means a Croslite footbed that relieves pressure on feet, legs, and back.  Crocs Lock tread means these work shoes are slip resistant in any situation, especially wet floor in restaurant kitchens.

If you’re a food service professional, do right by your feet and get some stylin’ Crocs today.  If you’re a manager or an owner, do right by your employees and get them outfitted!

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Two Levels Of Oven Mitt

Maintaining a safe work environment for your kitchen staff is always one of your priorities.  One of the most common injuries besides knife cuts is probably burns from hot cookware or hot surfaces on cooking equipment.

The problem with garden variety oven mitts is they aren’t NSF certified, which means they can become mediums for transmitting food borne illnesses to your employees and customers.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s just an oven mitt, right?  As long as nobody gets burned while wearing it, what’s the big deal?

Companies like Tucker BurnGuard have taken the oven mitt to a whole new level, and the results are pretty impressive.  Tucker gloves are NSF certified for personal and food safety, and different Tucker gloves are specialized for specific tasks in your commercial kitchen.

Two Levels Of Oven Mitt

The Tucker Steam Glove

The Steam Glove protects in wet or oily jobs up to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.  These gloves also feature a SteamGuard material that protects the wearer from hot vapor and water.  They are of course waterproof and have a rough texture for easy gripping in wet conditions.

Two Levels Of Oven Mitt

The Tucker SiliGlove

The SiliGlove is a silicone glove with heat protection up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  The removable liner can be dishwasher cleaned and the glove itself is anti-bacterial.  These three-finger gloves are 18” long and offer full heat protection plus superior food safety.

Two Levels Of Oven Mitt

The Tucker Quick Klean Mitt

Quick Klean mitts are the ultimate combination of heat protection and food safety.  Standard cotton gloves get wet and grimy and can transmit bacteria.  These mitts are easily cleaned and have removable liner that can also be cleaned for maximum sanitation.

Buying Tucker oven mitts for your restaurant is going to be more expensive than buying standard cotton ones.  However, the improvements in staff safety and food safety can make up the difference between a cheapie and a Tucker mitt.  There’s also something to be said about the durability of a well made mitt.  These Tucker mitts probably last through two or three life cycles of regular cotton mitts.

How has your experience been with Tucker oven mitts?  Is the price worth the quality?  Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Two Products That Will Really Help Your Food Safety Efforts

I want to talk about some products that can really help your food safety efforts:

1.  Stainless steel 1/6 pans for your prep table coolers. Stainless is a much better conductor  than plastic, so Two Products That Will Really Help Your Food Safety Effortskeep your foods in them and it will help you avoid critical cold holding violations from the health department.  Additionally, do the following:

  • Ensure that foods are 41 F or below BEFORE placing them in cold holding units.  These types of coolers are designed to hold cold foods, not to cool them.
  • Do not overfill inserts.  Mounding foods is a near guarantee that the top portion rises in temperature.
  • Keep the pivot lid closed during slow periods.  I regularly see open lids during afternoon slow periods, and foods are warming up unnecessarily.

2.  Additional epoxy wire shelving for your walk-in coolers. I often observe shelves in walk-ins with considerable unused vertical space between the shelves.  In a walk-in, this is wasted space that you can easily reclaim for the one time expense of adding shelving.  And if you’re going to buy new shelving, make sure it’s epoxy coated.  This prevents rust from forming and keeps your shelves clean.

Two Products That Will Really Help Your Food Safety EffortsThink about these examples:

  • If you normally cool foods in several 2” pans, then install shelves close enough for the pans to slide in side by side.Two Products That Will Really Help Your Food Safety Efforts
  • If you store vegetables in 6” food storage boxes, then install your shelves close enough for them to slide them in side by side:  Two Products That Will Really Help Your Food Safety Efforts

I hope you are visualizing your walk-in cooler and considering how you can maximize your space.  Installing extra shelving eliminates the tendency to stack containers and will ensure airflow around each container.

Just so you know, this is not just a theory to me … I have customers who have successfully done this, solving longstanding cooling and cold holding problems in their walk-in coolers.

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Hoshizaki Ice Machines: The Preferred Choice

Over 60 years, Hoshizaki has built a reputation across the globe for quality, design, and performance.  Since 1986, Hoshizaki’s plant in Peachtree City, GA has supplied the U.S. market with domestically produced ice makers and bins. As one of the largest producers of commercial ice machines worldwide, Hoshizaki understands that quality, durability, and performance are the keystones to customer satisfaction.

Food service industry professionals recognize Hoshizaki for their commitment to these prinicipals by buying Hoshi ice machines again and again, and they have selected the company for various awards, including “Best In Class” in FE&S Magazine.

Hoshizaki Ice Machines: The Preferred Choice

Cuber ice machines are the standard in food service.  Hoshi builds a variety of capacities, with optional stackable bins and air, water, or remote condenser cooled.

Hoshizaki Ice Machines: The Preferred Choice

Nugget ice machines are a consumer favorite because the porous ice is chewable and it soaks up the flavors of the beverage.  Hoshi makes an air, water, and remote condenser cooled version of their nugget ice machine.

Hoshizaki Ice Machines: The Preferred Choice

Flake ice machines make ice perfect for salad bars and fresh fish or meat displays.  You can also get air, water, and remote condenser cooled versions of this flaker ice machine.

Hoshizaki Ice Machines: The Preferred Choice

As with all ice machines, you should have a water filtration system to prevent breakdowns and reduce maintenance.  Hoshizaki makes their own water filter systems for their ice machines.  Usually, for warranty reasons, it’s best to use the water filter system recommended by the manufacturer, which of course is the one they make.

Hoshi also makes sushi cases and ice dispensers.

Hoshizaki Ice Machines: The Preferred Choice

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Handle Bulk Vegetable Oil The Smart Spout Way

Handle Bulk Vegetable Oil The Smart Spout WayIf you’ve got a restaurant, you probably deal with a lot of oil.  Between changing the oil in fryers, making dressings and sauces, and cooking on the line, the only person moving more oil in the neighborhood is the local mechanic.  And, like any restaurateur, you probably buy the stuff in bulk containers so that it’s a little easier to handle and a little cheaper to buy.  And we all know how annoying those bulk containers can be to handle.  They’re, well, bulky.

The Smart Spout is exactly what it sounds like: a smart idea that makes a restaurateur’s daily life a little easier.  It’s simple, functional, and easy to use.  What does the smart spout do?  It allows you to pour bulk fryer or vegetable oil easily without spilling.  Simple as that.  Anyone who has stepped on oil on the floor in a commercial kitchen can attest to the dangers even a small spill can create.

The Smart Spout fits 1, 17.5, and 35 gallon bulk oil containers.  It swivels so that oil can pour freely in any direction.  It comes in red and green so you can tell fryer oil from ingredient oil.  It’s washable, sealable, and reusable.

The Smart Spout reminds me of old gasoline cans.  20 years ago they had a screw cap and that was it.  Then somebody got smart and invented a pour spout so you didn’t spill gas everywhere, which is both costly and dangerous.  Now every Jerry-can in the world has a spout.

I don’t know if every bulk vegetable oil container in the world will have a spout one day, but they should, for the very same reasons every gas can now has one.  If you deal with those bulk oil containers, make your life a little easier.

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