What is in this article?:
- How to buy holding and serving equipment
- Considerations for holding units
Just about every restaurant needs to hold food for some time before it’s served to customers. Here are some equipment options that will ensure that the food you hold will be preserved at the highest levels.
Using heated holding units and serving cases that offer moisturized heat in a humidity-controlled cabinet should be considered for many food items.
If you have a buffet, serve large parties, cater events, or just cook in batches before serving, you need to use the right equipment for the tasks. The key to food holding is more than just keeping it cold or applying heat to keep hot food hot. Let’s take a look at several types of equipment and some features you should have to help you hold and serve food efficiently.
The cold pan is a common and basic holding and serving item. The pan’s most important function is to keep food cold at safe serving temperatures. Some pans use just an insulated bin for holding ice, while others are mechanically refrigerated. Sanitation guidelines require open-top refrigerated units to hold all areas of the product at no more than 41ºF. The required temperature includes all surfaces of the product, meaning cold air has to be introduced above and under the food. Look for the NSF 7 label on the equipment you buy so you’ll comply.
There are also ways to address a cold-side food display. Many operations are finding the European-style cold-air units give a more upscale and less institutional look for self-serve situations. Cold-air buffet units allow you to display food out in the open without having to hide your food presentation inside a refrigerated well. These counter units introduce forced air gently blowing across the food to maintain temperature. The refrigerated air blowers are usually horizontal slots rising slightly above the counter at the rear of the unit. An air intake hidden near the counter front keeps the airflow rolling over food product in the depressed space between. These units can be designed with very little stainless steel visible for a non-institutional look.
Another type of open cold-serving unit is the frost top. A frost top is a countertop surface chilled from below that creates a frosty surface for platters, bowls and crocks of foods. The frost surface is usually raised an inch or two above the counter and has a gully around the perimeter to catch condensate. It’s important to note that in many locations the frost top is not permitted for holding perishable food for serving. The frost top is great for displays and foods that don’t spoil, however.
Keeping Food Hot. On the hot food side, most operations have gotten away from the old steam table or typical hot food well except for limited back of house use. For display there are heated plates made of tiles, ceramic, stone or metal that allows the use of a variety of different serving vessels to be used and displayed attractively. Hot plates are available in a variety of sizes. Induction is becoming a popular alternative to traditional heated surfaces.
Induction has become widely used in restaurants for a precise even heat. These units are generally 12 to 14-inch square countertop or in-counter devices. Heating is instantaneous and can be regulated by output control buttons. In addition to being superfast, induction units are also super efficient as nearly all of the electrical energy consumed is converted to heat inside the pan.