Orders come in hot and the food goes out fast. Chefs prep and cook, others wash dishes, and servers scramble for hot plates. A poorly designed kitchen can make an already-tough job feel next to impossible.
For restaurants, being able to maintain temperature is critical to the safety and quality of meals. Doing so requires special equipment that is designed to keep food warm without cooking it any further. As a restaurant owner, there are several pieces of warming equipment you can invest in, each with their own unique attributes and uses in the kitchen.
Below is a list of eight tools you can use to keep food warm for service:
Heating cabinets (also known as heated cabinets) are a staple in most restaurant kitchens due to their versatility. They can be used to keep almost any food item warm until it is ready to be served. Below are some additional benefits of heating cabinets:
- Heating cabinets offer moisture control so that flavor is maintained.
- They can store larger quantities of food making them ideal for buffet operations where food needs to be constantly replaced.
Similar to heating cabinets, steam tables are used to hold pre-cooked food at a specific temperature. The difference is that steam tables have serving trays making them ideal for buffet-style restaurants. Here some additional benefits of steam tables:
- Steam tables offer dry or moist heat.
- Ideal for holding dense food such as pasta and potatoes at temperature.
- Available with or without drains.
Cook and Hold Cabinet
A cook and hold cabinet allows you to cook and hold meals overnight for serving the next day. Most have precise controls that automatically lower the heat from a cooking temperature to a holding temperate once meals are prepared. When shopping for a cook and hold cabinet consider your available space in order to determine the configuration that best suits your needs. Some additional benefits of cook and hold cabinets include:
- Cuts down on meal prep times.
- Can hold up to 18 pans for larger meal preparations.
- Slow cooks at lower temperatures providing and moist tender final product.
Round warmers are designed to keep liquids at a consistent temperature. These are ideal for keeping soups, gravies, and hot fudge hot for long periods of time without burning them. While round warmers are primarily used for liquids they can also be used to heat up chilis and vegetables as well. Below are some additional benefits of round warmers:
- Easy to clean and maintain.
- Round warmers have automatic temperature controls that will adjust to any fluctuations in heat as to not burn the liquids.
- Available as countertop and drop-in units.
Heat lamps are used to keep food warm between the time it is plated to when it is served to customers. Countertop heat lamps are ideal for smaller portions as their heat only extends to what is directly underneath their bulb. Strip warmers are better suited for heating multiple meals at once as they can range anywhere 24 to 72 inches long. Some additional benefits of heat lamps:
- Offers dry heat for warming.
- Can also be equipped with reflectors that increase their heat output.
Tabletop warmers offer many of the same benefits as heating cabinets but are smaller and more easily maneuverable. These are ideal for caterers as they allow you to keep food warm when at an event. Below are some additional benefits of tabletop warmers:
- Tabletop warmers have simple dial control so that you can easily adjust temperature.
- These preheat within thirty-minutes which helps to cut down prep times.
Drawer warmers are commonly used to keep dinner rolls, baked potatoes, and tortillas warm due to the moisture controls they offer. That said, they can also be used to store meats and vegetables as well. Some additional benefits of cook and hold cabinets include:
- Drawer warmers come with single or multi-drawer options making them ideal for holding different foods safely during peak serving periods.
- Available as free standing or built in units.
For restaurants who cater events, having a transport cabinet is essential. Transportation cabinets maintain food temperatures while food is en route to a venue. Below are some additional benefits of transport cabinets:
- Provides transport capability when electricity is not available and products must retain temperature.
Choosing the right warming equipment is essential to the success of a restaurant operation. Using the information outlined above, you can ensure that you are able to provide the best quality product and service to customers.