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May 01, 2018

Cafeteria Steam Table Buying Guide

Steam tables are a great way to entice your customers to your food; a good quality and well arranged steam table can impact the customer confidence which will lead to business growth. Managers need to be aware of how well the steam tables are maintained and presented each day. But what are steam tables and which are the best ones to order for your cafeteria?

The market has grown because of the popularity of steam tables, and thus, there are a number of styles to choose from to fit your budget and culinary needs.

What are steam tables?

Steam tables are equipment used by restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, buffet, and anyone when it comes to presenting delicious food to a hungry crowd with an intention of maintaining its hot temperature. The steam tables are made to hold food at its serving temperatures throughout the entire meal service by way of dry or moist heating, depending on if the water being used or not used is above the heat source or in the pan. The market has grown because of the popularity of steam tables, and thus, there are a number of styles to choose from to fit your budget and culinary needs.

Electric and gas steam tables

When purchasing a steam table, you will decide whether you want an electric or a gas unit. One option is not better than the other, you will only need to consider the features you are looking for and where you will use your steam table.

When you look at gas powered tables, they are easier to heat up and they have a less chance of malfunction because of their simple design. You can either use liquid propane or natural gas. On the other hand, electric powered tables heat up after a while, but they are more efficient in energy consumptions, and they are also easy to use because of their more precise controls in temperature. There are electric tables that use NEMA plugs, while there are those that are hard-wired; although these options are decided upon when you are buying a table.

Where you will be working from will help you decide on whether to go for a gas or an electric steam table. You also need to know that use of gas will raise the kitchen temperatures, while electric units will not raise the dining or kitchen temperatures.

If you plan to set up in one location, then hardwired or natural gas electric units are a good option. However, if you plan on being mobile, then you need a portable unit. An electric steam table that has castors is going to make your operation more efficient. This is a great option for breakfast bars where you will need to store your table and take it out for use on the next morning. Gas steam tables are designed to be immobile; but for outdoor catering events and other applications, casters can be mounted on the propane-powered units.

Additionally, these are not the only types of steamers, there are countertop steamers and commercial steamers available for purchase.

Benefits and drawbacks of steam tables

Electric vs gas

When using a gas steamer, you are forced to put it where the gas hookup is located. With an electric steamer, you are limited to the placement of the steamer because you can plug it into any outlet provided it has the right voltage. The primary drawback of the electric steamer that we have mentioned is that it is slower compared to the gas models.

Countertop steamers

A countertop steamer is handy in that it is electric and it can be placed on any countertop, which makes it convenient to use anywhere. If you want to serve large quantities of food, you will have to go for a larger steamer option.

Gas steam tables vs. electric steam tables

To make the right choice, you will have to consider what you need for your location. Electric steam tables will allow you to keep your food warm for long and it can be placed anywhere in the kitchen. Electric steam tables can have up to 5 bays which allow you to accommodate different kinds of foods. When using a gas steam table, you won’t need to use spillage pans since water is added to the well and it is later on drained. But for wet bath models, then a spillage pan is necessary.

Commercial steamers

A commercial steamer is a steaming equipment that is used in your commercial kitchen. They can come in different models to allow for maximum flexibility in the kitchen. They are ideal for large establishments since some models can hold 10 pans. Depending on the type of model, each one has its own pros and cons.

Food shields on steam tables

You can either have a clear acrylic or glass food shield, and it is important to know when to place the shields because there are different types of shields available: decorative, custom, institutional and adjustable designs. All the same, the most common is the pass-over units that are commonly seen in buffets. Food shields are meant to protect your food from contamination, this is why they need to be replaced when they wear out.

When deciding on the type of food shield that you need, you have to decide on the color, accessory, and style. There are fabricators like ESP who can create custom food shields that can have satin stainless steel, polished brass or any other custom finish. You might go an extra mile of configuring the heat food shields with LED lighting to make it more attractive to customers.

Ensure that your steam table and food shields are durable and they are made of good quality materials before making a purchase. Learn when it is time to replace food shields, the options you have and how to maintain your steam tables for the long term; this will ensure that you make the most out of your investment.

TAGS: restaurants, food, safety, food shields & sneeze guards, helpful tips
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