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 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.
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