In recent weeks, the readers have asked us to start compiling 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 units. 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 Units

  • 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 units 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

There are a variety of warming and holding units available 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 – 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 and holding units for your food truck or cart. If you have any additional details on this equipment, please share them in the comments section below or on social media. Facebook | Twitter