Out of the hundreds of hot holding appliances available on the market, it can be difficult for dealers to know which one to pick for which catering venue. But manufacturers and suppliers are on-hand to guide them through the choice.
For example, Jon Usher, head of UK sales and marketing at Burco Commercial explained: “Hot holding equipment allows operators to serve a large volume of food at the correct temperature in a short period of time. Available in an almost endless choice of styles, sizes and uses, caterers need to select the appliance or solution that best suits the needs of their operation to be able to get the most value from their equipment.
“These appliances tend to fall into two key areas, static and mobile. Static hot holding equipment is found in canteens, grab-and-go outlets and kiosks, while mobile hot holding equipment is usually found in hospitals, on board transport catering and office supply rounds. Equipment is designed specifically for these needs, with smaller units emphasising portability, while larger appliances focus on enhanced holding capacity.
“However, hot holding equipment can sometimes lead to the food overcooking or drying out if used incorrectly and the optimal storage conditions are not maintained.”
Burco Commercial offers a range of pie cabinets for the catering industry, including 20 capacity and 60 capacity units. These are suitable for both front and back of house usage. “Cleaning and maintenance is taken care of via a removable crumb tray which catches any debris before it falls onto the element, saving time and prolonging the appliance lifespan,” commented Usher.
Both models in the range are fitted with a water reservoir which is said to help maintain the correct humidity within the chamber and prevent the food from drying out, while a variable temperature control allows the operator to select between 30°C and 85°C for the products held within.
Usher indicated: “Dealers should be anticipating the launch of a new range of hot holding equipment from Burco in the near future. Our development team are working hard to further our range of British manufactured products and one such area of expected expansion is that of hot holding equipment.”
On the subject of using induction hotplates as warming equipment he added: “I don’t believe the market for induction technology is mature. As technology develops, the cost of induction appliances is falling, making it more readily available to the mass market.
"At the same time, we expect the long term price of gas continue to increase, meaning that caterers are starting to look at alternative heating methods for their catering setup to ensure their energy costs remain affordable.
“I strongly believe there is still a lot of potential in the market and over the coming few years, the demand for appliances with induction will grow sharply as the technology becomes more common in kitchens across the industry.” [[page-break]]
Competitor, Cuisinequip produces induction technology as part of its portfolio. Steve Elliott, national sales manager for the firm and its sister company Valentine, said: “There is still plenty of room for induction to come into its own in many more foodservice establishments.
“Many of our customers are leading chefs who have grasped the new technology quickly for its sustainability and versatility in their kitchen set ups. Induction hotplates work well in busy kitchens because of their rapid heat-up and precise control and will in my view continue to gain ground, especially as prices become more accessible.”
Cuisinequip offers two hot cupboard products in various finishes at present, and provided with a 36-month parts and labour warranty. “We can also offer hot cupboards as well as hot holding drawers that can be encompassed into a bespoke suite from Cuisinequip range,” added Elliott.
Furthermore, the manufacturer produces the Vbox front of house plate warmer which can be coloured to match any RAL colour scheme. Elliott detailed: “The other major plus point is that we offer the market leading warranty on the Valentine Vbox, which is 36 months parts and labour cover.”
Over at BGL Rieber, MD Gareth Newton believes: “Conventional hot holding servery units are one-dimensional – they can only hold food hot. Replacing them with units that can cook stir-fries, omelettes, breakfast items etc. and which can hold food hot provides maximum versatility from the same footprint.
“Whichever system is chosen, the key point is that food must be served above 63°C, so the caterer can have confidence in the product.”
Rieber’s induction Varithek and EST systems can cook anything from fried eggs to noodles and stir frys. They are also designed to simmer dishes such as curry sauces and then keep them hot, ready for service. EST and Varithek slot in to replace conventional hot holding plates, making them suitable for new counters or refurbishments.
Varithek also has an optional self-ventilation system, which means there is no need for an overhead ventilation canopy.
“Serveries are never left to run themselves, so anywhere with a servery has the staff available to create dishes such as stir fries, omelettes, crepes or fresh steaks or salmon fillets to order,” said Newton.
“Clients and customers both expect more from a caterer’s food servery. Clients are looking for innovative ways to present food to their customers, and modular induction hot cooking systems such as the Rieber Varithek bring ‘theatre cooking’ to the food offer, drawing customers in.”
Furthermore, the firm offers an electric chafing dish, the Rieber K-Pot, for holding at the point of service. In cooking mode, food can also be finished (stir-fried or griddled, for example). “Unlike conventional chafers which use smelly gel heaters that only heat the food in two spots, K-Pot ensures food will not burn or boil dry by evenly heating the whole of the pan,” commented Newton. “This also reduces fire risk.” [[page-break]]
Additionally, Rieber’s Hot Banquet Trolleys can be used for both plated and bulk service. All units feature adjustable humidity to keep meals moist, and the appliance’s doors opens to 270 and 180 degrees to allow staff to have full access in narrow spaces. GN compatible, the trolleys feature accessories including a two-speed electrically driven motor.
Meanwhile, Lincat numbers Panther hot cupboards amongst its range of equipment. These can be used to hold pre-cooked food at serving temperature for up to 2 hours. Alternatively, when fitted with a tiered gantry, the hot cupboards can be used to create a high capacity kitchen pass.
The Panther range comprises three product categories: 800 series, 670 series and light duty series. These come in a choice of unit sizes and options, such as static or mobile, plain top or bain marie top. The largest model in the 800 series can hold up to 84 plated meals.
The manufacturer also offers Seal heated merchandisers and servery units in a range of 67 models. Seal glass fronted heated merchandisers have a minimum food holding temperature of 72°C and a maximum cabinet temperature of up 95°C.
Individual units can be suited together for larger applications, whereas counter top units can be moved to one side when not in use.
A merchandiser, the UMO 50, is available too. This contains an oven, so that pizzas, pies and pastries can be cooked and displayed within a single unit.
According to Paul Hickman, Lincat development chef: “Heated merchandisers, such as those in our Seal range, are able to display food attractively and keep it in optimum condition prior to service.
“Effective lighting is important in this regard but so too is performance. Food will only look good if it is maintained in optimum condition, which is why units in our Seal range of counter-top food display merchandisers have precise thermostatic control and the visible digital temperature display. They are also equipped with a humidity feature to prevent food from drying out and thereby reduce waste.”
He advised: “Whichever style of hot holding equipment you choose, make sure that it can actually achieve what it claims to be able to. The consequences of failing to do so, in terms of food safety, are very serious. The best way of ensuring that the equipment will actually perform to the intended level, is to buy an established brand of equipment from a reputable dealer.”