Smaller catering operations might be tempted to make do with domestic cooking appliances, but this can prove to be a false economy. Amanda Marcus looks at professional light-duty equipment for caterers.
"Buy the right tools for the job" may sound obvious, but the advice can easily be overlooked when it comes to catering equipment. What's more, it's not just a good idea, it's essential. For a start, as Keith Warren, director of the Association of Catering Equipment Manufacturers & Importers (Cesa), points out, caterers must by law ensure that all their gas and electric appliances carry the CE mark - any accident involving non-compliant equipment leaves you, not the supplier, liable.
Warren also advises caterers not to be tempted to buy domestic equipment, which can be a false economy in the long run; most won't fulfil the fitness-for-purpose requirements that are a central concern of environmental health officers when inspecting a premises. Light equipment is an area, says Warren, where the temptation is strongest to buy domestic appliances - which might resemble a more expensive commercial counterpart, but can't match performance. His advice: don't do it.
Buying a toaster is a bit like buying a car, says Warren: does it look good, is it energy efficient and reliable, backed by guarantees and good service? With so many on the market to choose from, it's a good idea to think about average toast requirement per hour and whether one person will be dedicated to making toast. For large quantities of toast in short bursts, Cesa advises a conveyor or roller toaster. For a regular supply throughout the day, a conveyor or slot toaster will do the job.
To do more than one job, Dualit toasters now have new adjustable wide slots - flexible to suit your choice of bread. The new adjustable wide slots are spring-loaded, with a pressure-sensitive cage that will automatically adjust to the shape and size of the bread. Each slot opens wide enough to hold a sandwich cage, which now comes with an individual in-built drip tray, bought separately as an accessory, but supplied with all Combi models. The new adjustable wide slots are available in all Dualit toaster variations. Features include Selectable Slots, where only the slot in use will heat up, and the Proheat Element, which comes with a two-year guarantee.
Rowlett Rutland has a new Esprit toaster, which has a mix-and-match switch for waffles, bagels, buns or toast and a timer with audible alarm.
Many so-called time-saving devices take so long to get ready that it can be quicker to use a knife, according to Gilberts Food Equipment. It claims the same can't be said of its Nemco machines, which are designed to allow caterers to precision-cut using just one hand. The EasyCheeser, for example, produces hundreds of uniform cubes of cheese within seconds - simply place the cheese in the machine and pull down the cheese-cutting wires. Gilberts asserts that it's still time-efficient to use, even for small amounts. Similarly, the Easy Tomato Slicer is designed to cut mounds of tomatoes in seconds, but can be dismantled and cleaned within minutes. There's also an Easy Onion Slicer and Easy FryKutter in the range, all of which can sit on the side of the worktop.
Food mixer specialist Robot Coupe's new range has also been designed to save both time and effort in the kitchen. Its new stick blender, the MP600, for instance, can process up to 300 litres and it has a removable blade and foot for hygiene and easy maintenance. The company also has two new professional food processors on the market, the R211 and the R211 Ultra, for smaller establishments, independent pubs and restaurants. Light enough to be moved around the kitchen, they include 2mm slicing and grating discs as well as a vegetable preparation attachment. The R211 also has a continual-feed hopper.
Other manufacturers, such as IMC, have targeted the washing-up end of things. The company's new Pot Boy is a cleaning aid - a rotating electric brush guided by the operator which, it says, makes light work of stubborn deposits on pots and pans.
Theatre cooking front of house is an increasingly popular style of operation, particularly in foodcourts and contract operations, and Valera is extending its range of induction hobs to include five new table-top models, the 2.5kw manual-control and electronic-control models, and a commercial high-power Induction Wok Cooker specially shaped to accommodate a wok. Two 3.5kw versions are also available: one with an external temperature probe for precise temperature holding, 19 power settings and a built-in timer; and a wok cooker. Each of the new models has instant heat-up, a cooler cooking environment and 90% power efficiency.
In addition to its main catalogue, next month King UK is launching a new light- and medium-duty catering equipment brochure, which will include more than 300 products sourced from leading manufacturers. The new range includes Robot Coupe, Lincat, Rubbermaid, Valera, Rollergrill, EMH Fabrication and New Classics.
CAD (Commercial Appliance Distributors) is now offering a two-year commercial guarantee for its KitchenAid 5KSB5 blender. "The two-year guarantee is a testament to our confidence in the KitchenAid name," says Marcus Godfrey, CAD sales director. The 5KSB5 has a "slow-start" system to minimise splatter, and a control that automatically adjusts the power during the mix to maintain a consistent speed, ensuring thorough blending.
Terry Ashmore, Hobart product development manager, has some suggestions for those buying light equipment. Make sure:
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