Tags Posts tagged with "Kitchen Equipment"

Kitchen Equipment

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A good gas range is the heart and soul of a food truck kitchen, and every food truck seems to have different requirements for their menus. Choosing the best unit to suit your specific needs can be a challenge. This guide is intended to help you select the perfect range for your food truck business.

food truck commercial range

Construction and Size

Commercial kitchens come in an many sizes and shapes, and each one has different commercial range needs depending on what is cooked and in what volume on a daily basis. That’s why Tundra offers a variety of gas range sizes and burner and oven options, allowing you to customize your restaurant range according to your needs.

  • The most common range dimensions are 24″, 36″, 48″, 60″, and 72″
  • The most common configurations are 4, 6, 8, or 10 burners
  • Options: griddle or charbroiler; standard oven, convection oven, or cabinet base

BTUs and Gas Type

Commercial ranges vary in the heat output they produce, which is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). Depending on your cooking application and energy usage concerns, you may want to purchase a unit with a higher or lower BTU rating.

  • Higher BTU rates are going to heat things faster, but at a higher rate of energy consumption. A higher BTU rating also means quicker heat recovery times
  • Lower BTU rates will heat things more slowly, but more efficiently. Lower BTU ratings mean a slower heat recovery time.

Standard vs. Convection Ovens

Standard gas ovens:

  • Create heat using a central burner
  • Heat is distributed through a baffle
  • Heat and cook more slowly than a convection oven

Convection ovens:

  • Employ a fan to distribute heat
  • Are more efficient than a standard oven and cook food faster
  • Cook food more evenly because of the constant circulation of heat

Lock it Down

Casters allow you to move your range quickly and easily for cleaning or rearranging, just make sure if you purchase a range with casters, that they come with locking mechanisms. Nothing will ruin your day more than your new range rolling around the back of the truck the first time you make a hard turn.

Don’t Forget Your Altitude

If you operate your food truck above 2,000 feet above sea level, in most cases you will need to have the gas valves on your new range adjusted.

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Just because you know how to use a chef’s knife, doesn’t mean you necessarily know how to buy one. Learning your knife skills is an important milestone in culinary development, but a question many novice food truck chefs walk away with is, “how do I select a chef’s knife of my own?” And this question comes with well-deserved consideration. Let’s take a look at how to find the best chef’s knife for you.

chef's knife

The Anatomy of a Chef’s Knife

In order to start the search for a sound chef’s knife to use in your food truck kitchen, it’s important to first understand the anatomy of a knife. Knowing these basics will equip you to make an educated decision on your first cutlery investment. The most important components of a chef knife’s anatomy include the edge, heel, bolster, handle and spine.

Bolster: Bolsters (also known as the collar, shoulder or shank) are only found on forged cutlery and are a large part of what makes the balance and weight of forged cutlery so different from stamped cutlery. Bolsters are often preferred as they can be used as protection for fingers when gripping the knife. The right style for you completely depends on your grip and how your hand feels comfortable. Many chefs find that the bolster adds stability.

Edge: The edge of the knife is the sharp part of the blade. Take notice of how the blade runs from the heel to the tip, this is called the line of the blade. If there is a slight curve from the heel, the knife will be easier to rock back and forth when mincing or chopping. The blade should be sharp straight out of the box, and kept sharp in order to maintain performance.

Handle: The best handle for you will be the one that feels the most comfortable and secure. When you pick up a knife the shape of the handle should feel natural in your hand and should not bring any strain or feel slippery  When you hold the knife down to a cutting board, you should be able to slice, chop and rock the knife back and forth without your knuckles contacting the cutting board.

Heel: Unless it’s a Japanese style chef’s knife, the heel is the thickest and broadest area of the edge. The heel is perfect for all tasks that require more force, such as cutting through tendons or cracking open the hard outer shell of a melon or winter squash. A good heel will allow a steady rocking movement with the knife and will not stop suddenly or rock too far backward when mincing or chopping.

Spine: This is the top portion of the blade and may have a squared edge. Avoid knives that do not taper at the tip of the knife’s spine. Thick tips are difficult to work with and cannot assist with piercing food or cutting very small portions.

What to Look For in a Chef’s Knife

The list of characteristics to pay attention to when trying out knives is short, but important. It will pay off in your long-term investment to give special attention to how the knife feels as you try it out. It should feel comfortable, like a natural extension of your hand.

Balance: The balance of a knife is just as important as the weight and size. Balance refers to how the weight of the knife feels when it’s held in your hand. If the weight of the knife keels overtly towards the blade or if the weight falls back into the handle, the balance may not be right for you. The knife should feel evenly stable when held, as if it were an extension of your own hand.

When purchasing your first chef’s knife for your food truck kitchen, keep in mind that finding the right one is a personal decision.

Size: An 8-inch knife is a good standard size to begin with. At this size, it’s easier to manipulate the knife for multiple functions including slicing, dicing, mincing and chopping. A 10-inch chef’s knife is for performing heavier jobs such as breaking down a chicken. A 6-inch knife is the easiest for small hands to manipulate, but may not hold up for larger items.

Weight: Ask a group of chefs which is better – a heavier or lighter chef’s knife -and you will receive a variety of answers. One answer that is consistent is that the ideal weight of your chef’s knife should suit your preference. Some chefs prefer the heft of heavier knives to help cut with force, while others find heavier knives fatiguing and enjoy the free-flowing movement of lighter designs. Experiment with a few different weights before settling on what to purchase for yourself.

How to Test a Chef’s Knife

In choosing a chef’s knife for your use in your food truck kitchen if possible, try using a few knives to:

  • Mince parsley
  • Dice an onion
  • Slice winter squash
  • Cut carrots into thin strips
  • Carve a melon

You can purchase a Chef’s Knife online or at a local cutlery dealer. Let us know what style and brand you pick up. If you have issues with your Chef’s Knife, share these problems in the comment section below.

 

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The size and types of equipment in your commercial and food truck kitchens will play major roles in determining the items you can include on your menu. The larger the kitchen and the wider the range of equipment, the more menu items you can offer.

Food truck kitchen

However, if you try to offer too large or complex a menu out of a tiny food truck kitchen (which can be done, though it isn’t easy) you may run into serious problems during busy times. Having proper stations set up in your kitchen will also help you and your staff from cross-contaminating menu items.

For example: If you choose not to install a fryer due to space limitations, then you shouldn’t add items like French fries, onion rings, and other fried foods to your menu, even if your customers continually ask for them. If you expect sandwiches or salads to play a prominent role on your menu, be sure you have enough room for a sandwich or salad station in one or both of your kitchens.

If you’re planning to use a concept that will have you making styles of food that require specialty kitchen equipment, be sure your truck or commercial kitchen has the space or ability to have it installed. Here are some of the styles of cuisine (and typical related equipment) that may require more than a flat-top grill, convection oven, or deep fat fryer in your equipment list.

For Chinese/Thai food:

  • Bamboo steamer
  • Rice cooker
  • Wok

For Greek/Middle Eastern food:

  • Gyro machine
  • Juice machine
  • For Hispanic food:
  • Cheese melter
  • Chip warmer
  • Salamander broiler

For Indian food:

  • Rice cooker
  • Tandoori oven

For Italian food:

  • Meat slicer
  • Pasta rollers
  • Pasta cookers
  • Pizza oven
  • Pizza prep table
  • Sandwich grill/press

You can find most of the preceding list of equipment online or at a local kitchen equipment supplier. If the equipment will be located on your truck, you’ll have to come up with the means to mount it to the truck for safety. In addition, if you’re retrofitting a truck that already has a generator installed in it, be sure it’ll be able to supply ample power for your additional equipment.

 

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In recent weeks, the readers have asked us to start compling information on the different types of equipment that can be found in mobile food units across the country. Because of this request we will start covering different areas of kitchen equipment found on many food trucks and carts.

In today’s article we will look at a wide range of warming and holding equipment. Due to the large number of food service equipment manufactures, we have found it difficult to compare specific units, however we do plan to add this type of information in future articles to help you select equipment based on quality and price.

If your mobile kitchen set up allows you to warm cold foods or keep recently cooked items at serving temperatures you’ll need the right equipment to ensure proper food safety. Please keep in mind that warming and heated holding equipment isn’t solely for maintaining food temperature, but can also be used to keep your mobile cuisine fresh for your customers.

Uses for Warming and Holding equipment

  • Holding items with long cook times, such as stews or potatoes. These items can be placed in the holding equipment while hot for service.
  • Warming or reheating foods such as breads, pastries and soups.
  • Heating plates and bowls.

Please note:

  • Warming and holding equipment should not be used to reheat large, cold, perishable items such as whole birds or big pieces of beef because they spend too much time in the temperature danger zone.
  • Hot foods usually need to be held at 140°F or above for safety. That often requires top and bottom heat to surround the food.
  • Equipment labeled with NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) approval can be assured to maintain safe food holding temperatures.

Dry or Moist Heat?

Warming and holding equipment use both dry and wet heat. Think about the different food items you’ll be storing in the equipment and make a decision based on your mobile kitchen’s specific needs.

Dry Heat Equipment

Dry heat equipment works similar to standard ovens, either thermostatically or manually. It tends to use less energy than moist heat, although it heats less quickly. Because your food truck is constantly on the move, dry heat holding and warming equipment may be a better option for mobile food vendors because there is no risk of spillage.

  • Holding items with long cook times, such as stews or potatoes. These items can be placed in the holding equipment while hot for service.
  • Warming or reheating foods such as breads, pastries and soups.

Moist Heat Equipment

Moist heat comes from humidifiers in the equipment that release a small amount of moisture into the holding area. They prevent items from drying out without making the food soggy. Moist heat tends to use more energy, but heats up faster.

  • Works well for any type of product.
  • Items high in moisture or fat may not do as well in a moist heat environment.
  • Humidifiers vary from a built-in water trough to automatic atmospheric controls.
  • Water trough humidifiers allow water vapors to be released in the cabinet providing moisture.
  • More sophisticated humidifiers have atmospheric and temperature controls so you can adjust the amount of moisture and heat for different products.

Choosing between moist and warm heat equipment

Warming and holding equipment has a variety of products for your needs. You should decide on the equipment  you need based on the types of food you’ll be warming or holding before making a purchase.

Heated Merchandisers and Cabinets

Heated Merchandisers and Cabinets – also known as snack warmers - are units with almost universal heating and merchandising application. They are containers available in various sizes with heating sources which sit on countertops displaying food to customers.

Full Service Heated Merchandisers

  • These heated Cabinets designed to hold pizzas sometimes have turning pizza trays.
  • These units keep products uniformly warm by using both bottom and top heat.
  • It is important that all your snack warmers are easy to clean as they may be seen by customers often and the product they contain should be appetizing.
  • There is a range of accessories for your snack warmer that you may find necessary to purchase including tray slides, sneeze guards and temperature displays.

Soup Merchandisers

  • Keep soup warm.
  • Many merchandisers come with self-leveling dispensers for disposable cups and bowls.

Drawer Warmers

Drawer warmers are great for holding food, but not for display. These are usually cabinets or drawers that work well in a food truck because they are smaller in size and don’t take up valuable countertop space.

Drawer warmers have a wide variety of uses from holding hot meals with lids for banquet serving to holding bread rolls or similar foods. They can have separate controls for multiple drawers, allowing a user to store various items at different temperatures and humidity levels.

Countertop Food Warmers

Food warmers are traditionally used to serve hot food in a self-serve environment, such as a buffet. Some are tailored to specific products while others are all-purpose. Food warmers can hold hotel sized pans for solid foods or soup style dishes for liquid foods. They are available with electric hook-ups, which reduce mobility, but increase safety.

Soup kettles and food warmers should be used to bring precooked foods up to a safe warming temperature, but you cannot cook raw food in them.

Overhead Warmers

Overhead warmers are best used to keep food warm for a short period of time. They generally have toggle switches that simply turn them on and off or allow you to go from low to high heat; therefore you won’t have much control over the temperature.

Heat Lamps

Heat lamps – also known as bulb warmers – use an infrared bulb, a heated metallic rod or a heat panel. The traditional glass or quartz bulb heat lamps have the advantage of putting out some light in addition to heat. Typically, bulbs are used for spot warming of individual pans of food and therefore work well in buffet or self-service scenarios. The disadvantage to bulbs, besides warming only one spot, is they tend to break easily.

We hope you found this article informative in selecting warming equipment for your food truck or cart. If you have any additional details on this equipment, please share them in the comments section below.

 

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