The following information is provided
courtesy of The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association.
Understanding Food Preparation Equipment
preparation equipment is the important stage between fresh food
coming into the kitchen and being made ready for either cooking
or direct service into the restaurant. The equipment ranges from
potato peelers, gravity slicing machines, juicers and
multi-function food processors to the traditional hand-held food
preparation tools such as kitchen knives and the speciality food
preparation tools all good chefs have in their workbox.
There is a
wide range of food preparation equipment, but some are necessary
items rather than “nice-to-have” items, depending on the style
of food the kitchen wishes to offer.
is a temptation to buy in ready-prepared vegetables, the kitchen
does not always get the best quality with ready-prepared
vegetables. It’s a very price driven business, so there is
pressure to use older, cheaper potatoes and big woody carrots
because they are quicker to peel than small sweeter carrots.
volume users of potatoes it can be more cost-efficient to buy
sacks of fresh potatoes and prepare them for boiling or frying
than to buy in chilled or frozen prepared chips or ready-peeled
potatoes in gas-flushed bags. Fresh potatoes will always give a
better flavour and buying by the sack give the kitchen control
over which variety of potato the customer is being offered.
they get a more consistent product when they buy ready-turned
carrots, but they don’t – there is so much urgency to churn out
the volume and meet a competitive price that buying
ready-prepared vegetables can mean the kitchen does not know
what is being bought.
meats are never going to be as fresh tasting as that freshly
sliced, packet fruit and vegetable juice cannot match that of
freshly squeezed. There is a very strong argument both on food
quality and food cost for a kitchen preparing fruit and
These are at
the heart of food preparation equipment in the commercial
kitchen. Those sold into restaurant kitchens are much more
advanced in construction, versatility and robustness than the
lightweight food processors sold for the domestic market, which
cannot deliver chopped food acceptable on the restaurant plate.
Expect to get a far wider choice of cutting shapes, chopping
features and mixing programmes than anything offered in the
domestic market. Motors are stronger, blades sharper, speed of
processing quicker. The accessories available can produce any
size or shape of fruit and vegetable a professional kitchen
medium to heavy-duty versions of the domestic stick blender, but
are very much bigger and very powerful. They can pulse large
quantities of foods very quickly and have a wide range of uses,
helping sauce and puree making in every kitchen, from hospitals
to Asian restaurants.
The theory of
potato peelers has hardly altered in 50 years. The sides of the
chamber are gritted with a revolving gritted base plate, which
actually does 90% or the peeling work. The only real advance has
been in double-sided base plates, which feature a coarse grit
for peeling old potatoes and a lighter grit for soft-skinned new
potato peeler size is all dependent on daily throughput, but do
the calculation based on 75% of the stated capacity. Overfilling
the machine slows down the process, tends to throw squared
potatoes and is very wasteful. Another important working
practice is to get the machine running before putting the
potatoes in. To load the machine before switching on puts the
motor under great strain to get moving against the resistance of
clean in a standard potato peeler, most manufacturers offer a
gentler base plate for skinning onions and salad baskets are
available for spinning off washed salads.
use is for cutting fine slices of cooked or raw meats, for fish,
such as tuna and smoked salmon and other items such as cheese or
where the ingredient is too big to fit in a mandolin. With
cooked meats, the benefit is that whole cooked boneless joints
can be used, giving a fresher, juicier slice and far cheaper
than buying pre-sliced. Expensive meats such as dry-cured hams
can be cut as wafers for use in salads, as starters, part of a
main course of for luxury sandwiches.
slicer can also be used for cutting wafer thin slices of raw
meat such as beef for producing items such as beef olives.
and food hygiene are extremely important issues with gravity
slicers. While cutting cooked meats without strong flavours will
not give cross-contamination, after cutting highly spiced or
garlicky meats, a careful wipe with a sterile cloth will keep
following foods pure.
cleaning cycle is essential between cutting raw and cooked food
to prevent a serious risk of bacterial infection and a full
cleaning must take place at the end of every kitchen service.
Slicers are extremely dangerous items of equipment and staff
need structured training on how to use and clean them.
Also called orbital mixers,
these are useful for a bakery or patisserie section of a kitchen
and heavy mixing jobs in the main kitchen such as mashing
potato. If a kitchen wishes to bake its own bread, it may be
worth thinking about a dedicated dough-mixer, otherwise, a
standard bowl mixer will do both dough and batter beating.
food preparation equipment is manufactured for high performance
and long, hard use. That brings with it the temptation to think
it is so robust it does not need the same level of care as more
expensive and technically complex items in the kitchen such as
the combi-oven or the automatic coffee machine. Food preparation
equipment will last a long time and give consistent high
performance, but only if it is used properly and looked after
properly. This is how to get the best from some of the popular
pieces of food preparation equipment.
These are very low maintenance. The main regular check to do is
that water outflows are not clogged with peelings. The electric
motors in commercial potato peelers are built to withstand long
and regular use, but what can cause excess wear on the motor is
if the peeling tank is consistently overloaded with potatoes.
This not only puts strain on the motor, but will prevent the
potatoes from being peeled efficiently.
the grit wheel or the walls of the tank will need re-gritting.
The time when needs to be done is for most kitchens measured in
years. To maintain food costs, when a potato peeler has been
re-gritted, kitchen staff need to be advised that peeling times
will be much shorter than they have been used to and a careful
watch is needed in the first few weeks of vegetable peeling to
establish new, shorter peeling times.
These are almost always used for slicing cooked foods, so
thorough cleaning is not just looking after it mechanically, but
for food safety. Sharpening of slicing blades should not be
necessary through the lifetime of the unit unless raw meat
containing gristle and bone is regularly being cut. Even then,
the speed of the cutting wheel on a good quality slicer will be
able to perform with some slight dulling of the edge.
These work tirelessly in pulverising sauces, but the most common
cause of motor burn-out is using too small a blender for the
food in the pan. Hand blenders are available in a wide range of
size and motor powers. To get long life from the blender, go
big. This is particularly true with pulsing heavy sauces. Beyond
cleaning, there is no maintenance needed on stick blenders.
Providing a commercial model has been bought, these are very
easy to maintain. Blades are very robust and as long as the
right food is matched to the recommended blade there is unlikely
to be any maintenance problems. Even if a blade is being
regularly used to chop an unusually tough ingredient and becomes
blunt, replacement blades are available. It is good practise to
retain one fine chopping blade which is for chopping fine herbs
such as parsley so it remains sharp.
models are extremely reliable and can be almost maintenance-free
for many years apart from a regular safety check and greasing of
the gearing by a service engineer on a scheduled visit. The main
thing which will accelerate wear on the motor is overloading or
putting dense product on a high-speed action instead of working
through the gears until the mix becomes well broken. Care should
also be taken that if a safety guard is fitted to prevent hands
being put into the bowl during mixing that it is always working.
For it not to be could be a serious health and safety issue for