Hot holding: the latest key technology

Unox Evereo crop
The Unox Evereo ‘hot refrigerator’ can keep food at serving temperature for days or weeks.

Hot holding is big business nowadays, with cooking equipment manufacturers lining up to roll out their latest developments to keep food at serving temperatures. But with the appliances historically associated with drying out food, many brands have got the bit between their teeth and ploughed resources into researching and producing cutting edge technology which maintains food moistness as well as heat.

One of the most recent developments is from Unox, with its Evereo ‘hot refrigerator’ which is designed to preserve dishes at serving temperature for days or even weeks. Unox UK MD Gary Nunn explained: “The Evereo is the only piece of equipment that utilises Exever service temperature food preserving patented technology to preserve food safely by using extremely accurate temperature and atmosphere control, combined with the most modern technologies in insulation to avoid heat loss. The appliance always works safely above the danger zone for bacterial growth at two stabilised temperature options: low, at 63°C, and high, at 70°C.

“The revolution is in the combination of two opposites: slow food and fast service, for unprecedented resource and energy saving.”

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The Italian manufacturer believes this means food can be cooked and held without the traditional blast chilling, cold storage and regeneration process, and served in a few seconds at any time of the day.

Nunn continued: “The benefits are extraordinary: zero regeneration, reduced service time, operational savings, labour savings, enhanced food, constant controlled temperature and maximum food safety. Recently awarded with Gold at the Innovation Challenge during the Commercial Kitchen show, the Evereo was deemed by the esteemed panel of judges to be a ‘radical innovation for the market’ and ‘an absolute game changer’.”

For supplier Foodservice Equipment Marketing, (FEM), Alto-Shaam’s Halo Heat system represents cutting edge hot holding. The appliance supplies a gentle heat that surrounds the food, and is designed to be uniform throughout the cabinet. It should evenly cook and hold the food without drying out or burning, and reduce shrinkage by up to 18%. The electronic thermostat allows for a wide temperature range, adjustable from 16°C to 93°C.

FEM also provides Alto-Shaam heated BQ2 banquet trolleys which are described as holding hot food safely and keeping it moist without condensation. Commercial director Mark Hogan commented: “Whether plated or in multiportion pans, the meals stay looking good and flavoursome.”

The trolleys are manufactured from stainless steel and run off a 13A supply. Their 152mm castors and transport handles are designed to make them easily manoeuvrable, while bumper surrounds protect them in transit. Their insulation should mean they can be transported over long distances with minimal loss of heat, provided the doors remain shut.

Looking ahead at coming technologies for the sector, Hogan feels that multifunctional equipment, such as cook and hold ovens, will hold sway. “Cook and hold ovens enable catering staff to smooth out peaks and troughs in demand, by allowing food to be cooked in advance and held at the perfect temperature for serving,” he said.

At fellow Scottish firm, Moffat Catering Equipment, it manufactures the Sahara multi-fan system to save energy by heating more efficiently. The firm believes that an upgraded hot cupboard bain-marie unit incorporating a Sahara fan heating unit is 48% more efficient. Sales and marketing manager Donald Reid said: “The system gives safer, more predictable temperature control and is up to 55% faster than using standard elements.”

Its latest addition is the Chillogen hospital foodservice trolley. It acts as a refrigerator, holding chilled food, plus as a regen oven, heating the food up, and as a hot hold cabinet, holding food until it’s required. It should cut down handling and simplify HACCP compliance for operators. Reid believes that this type of multifunctional appliance is becoming more popular.

The new trolley offers a multi zone-controlled system, which can be used to offer three different time and temperature zones. This means that all types of meals can be loaded and regenerated in the trolley’s oven chamber at the same time.

Reid reported: “In trials it is consistently producing food which is fresh, hot, safe and nutritious. It’s also helping to reduce food wastage. The trolley is easy to operate, using the coloured touchscreen controller, allowing catering staff to focus on the meal delivery process in the most effective manner.”

At competitor Lincat, culinary development manager Paul Hickman believes that the work being done to make existing hot holding equipment more effective and energy efficient is just as important as introducing new technologies. “I can see this becoming an even stronger focus for hot holding too in the future,” he said.

Lincat’s most recent addition to its Panther range is the multi-functional SuperPass series of hot cupboards. Hickman commented: “The description of hot cupboard doesn’t really do it justice, since each unit is also equipped with two bain maries, two water tanks for boiling vegetables or pasta, and a Carter Hoffman Crisp ‘n’ Hold, for keeping fried food in perfect condition prior to service.”

He revealed: “We developed them originally for one of our national account customers in the brewery sector, who needed a multi-functional solution for their busiest pubs. They wanted a unit which could cook a variety of items, before holding them in perfect condition, at the correct temperature, prior to service.

“Having our own research and development facilities meant that we were able to move quickly, in order to meet our customer’s deadline. It was just 6 weeks in all, from initial brief to final delivery. They performed exactly as hoped for and, when other customers started to ask us for them, we decided to add them to our standard range.”

BGL Rieber’s K-Pot electric chafing dish is designed to optimise efficiency.

Elsewhere, according to BGL Rieber’s MD Gareth Newton: “The design of much hot food holding equipment that is currently on the market was invented more than a century ago. Hot cupboards and hot plates, for example, are still mostly static and have just moved on from coal or wood heating to gas or electric.

“For new technology to be ‘cutting edge’, it must be unique, but it should also be proven in the field, which is why I am such a fan of Rieber’s K-Pot electric chafing dish, which combines clever use of power, optimised efficiency and food holding and cooking programmes.”

Available in both warming and cooling formats, the K-Pot comes in 1/1GN and 2/3 GN sizes, coloured in black or stainless steel. Smart buffet lids are also available.

Cooking versions are designed to cook as well as hot hold, with models including 2/3 GN, 1/1GN and 1/1GN with two independent cook zones. Cooking K-Pots can automatically cook and regenerate using programmes to control power/time.

The series’ Ceran hobs are designed to spread heat evenly and can be controlled to within a claimed +/- 1°C. It also features 1-9 power levels.

BGL Rieber has a dedicated distributor contact in the form of business and industry and national account director, Jeff Fishlock, who demonstrates the product benefits. The manufacturer also produces leaflets for distributors.

Over at Sous Vide Tools, brand manager Antony Ward feels that many chefs are now using water baths to hold food as well as initially cook it. He explained: “The benefit of using a water bath especially as the food remains under vacuum is that the food can be held for longer periods of time, much more than the 2 hour guideline for food not under vacuum with other holding methods.

“As well as longer holding time there is little to no loss in yields as a result of the time it has been held, also meaning moisture and flavour is locked in and the quality of the final product is maintained due to not drying out.”

The company’s latest offerings are compact water baths which are designed to be energy efficient and accurate to within 0.1°C. Ward added: “This makes sous vide not only a cost effective but also precision option for hot holding food and addresses fears and uncertainty surrounding food safety.”

Sous Vide Tools is working to educate dealers and end users on the potential of these techniques by inviting them to its training facilities in Lancaster and Connaught Street, London, where the firm can hold demonstration sessions and bespoke training courses.

While sister firm, Hendi UK, is also working closely with all dealers to communicate developments in its product range, such as its recently-launched low temperature oven. Suitable for hot holding, it features what is designed to be a precise and controlled heating process, heating from all four sides of the oven, uniformly distributing the heat throughout the chamber.

The core temperature probe can be separately adjusted, together with chamber temperature being adjustable by 1°C up to 120°C and can hold to a maximum of 100°C.

National sales manager Kenan Koymen analysed: “A great deal of the technologies for holding have used the same principle for some time but what is developing is the accuracy and the ability to hold for longer periods of time without any detrimental effect to the product, and with higher yield results.

“With two UK development chefs, Hendi is dedicated to continuously pushing boundaries and exploring new opportunities for its products. This is then passed to dealers to help them support the end user in a consultative approach.”

The firm is also developing wireless and smart technology in its equipment to give enhanced control and data logging, features which Koymen believes will be increasingly seen going forwards.

Kitchen & Restaurant Projects markets Thermodyne cook and hot holding cabinets to UK distributors.

A supplier which has recently entered the market is Kitchen & Restaurant Projects, the brainchild of ex-Lincat sales and marketing director, Rob Gibson. At the beginning of this year, his firm partnered with Advance Group to help market the Thermodyne cook and hot holding cabinets to UK distributors.

Gibson revealed: “At my first Thermodyne demonstration we set the holding temperature at 74°C, it never moved; we probed the food for over 2 hours and it remained exactly the same. The patented fluid shelf technology, where the heated glycol constantly flows through the shelves and back into a heat exchanger, achieves the precision holding temperature. I have yet to come across an appliance with such accuracy.”

As Thermodyne uses conduction heat rather than convection heat, the heating process should be gentler and kinder, and create a greater yield saving than convection heat. The unit runs from a three-pin plug and requires no extraction.

Kitchen & Restaurant Projects has set up a Thermodyne demonstration centre at First Choice’s Cannock headquarters where distributors and national accounts can come and see the technology in action.

Gibson further teased a forthcoming launch of a new Thermodyne unit which can act as a refrigerator as well as cooking and holding.

Other new products heading to market are promised by supplier Gamble Foodservice Solutions. Firstly it is adding the Hatco HDW-2R2 split drawers, which have four shallow drawers offering 1/1 65mm deep capacity to each drawer. Every drawer can have a different temperature and with the touch screen control, a timer can be set for each one. The vents to the front allow control of the individual drawers’ humidity.

Another new Hatco product is the MVW cookie warmer, a small counter top unit. Baked cookies can be loaded and displayed in the appliance, while consumers can also help themselves to the produce for impulse purchases. The units can also be daisy-chained together so only one power point is required for up to five units.

A third addition is the PHTT hot holding cabinet from FEW. The unit features Clymate IQ intuitive climate control technology, allowing control of the relative humidity with the cabinet from 10% up to 90% and air temperature control from 32°C up to 93°C. The unit has self-closing doors and is available in six models, from counter top to double stack.

Gamble’s business development manager Scott Taylor detailed: “With the FWE PHTT range, users can precisely control the relative humidity and temperature within the cavity. This enables the perfect conditions to hold a wide range of food products that have different hot holding requirements.”

Euro Catering supplies Beer Culinario Master Touch hot holding counters with touchscreen technology.

Over at Daventry-based Euro Catering, sales director Justin Towns feels: “Cutting edge technology in the sector enables front-of-house hot hold counters to multi-task and be both hot hold and cold hold counters at once.

“Adaptive technology now allows on-display counters like the new Beer Culinario and the Beer Uno Top Hot to provide four different climate zones for displayed food, within mini-climates that provide water heat, dry heat, ambient/neutral temperature and chilled (with crushed ice).”

Different foods can be held simultaneously in these units at temperatures of between 0 and 85°C, and the controls decrease issues such as dehydration of food and food safety problems like microbe growth.

Towns added: “The Beer Culinario Master Touch, however, builds on this, by enabling the caterer to utilise 4.3” touch displays with menu navigation. This enables the caterer to select a picture of a particular food item, to set the correct temperature for the GN area in which that food item will be held.

“The operator can use the USB interface available with the Master Touch to upload their own pictures, ensuring that the adaptive and responsive nature of this equipment will enable their own choice of food to be consistently held at an optimum temperature. The high-tech display allows information to be displayed on both sides – customer and serving staff, with the customer interface showing price and product details.”

While Signature FSE’s MD, Paula Sherlock, believes the latest and greatest hot holding technology is induction in tabletop, built-in and undercounter models to replace traditional chafing stations. “These induction solutions are now used with modern materials for buffet presentation such as artificial stone, glass or natural wood,” she detailed.

The supplier’s latest addition to the Gastros InductWarm series it imports from Switzerland is the InductWarm 130+ model. This features undercounter technology through artificial stone (such as Dekton), natural wood or glass using field induction. Devices can be linked together and controlled with a single control panel.

Gastros InductWarm technology from Signature FSE is built into counters to replace traditional chafing stations.

There is also no reliance on a generator as the system is designed to require low power supply. This technology also allows users to keep the system constantly up-to-date by loading a new configuration or updating the firmware via USB should it be needed for different presentation dishes.

Signature informs dealers about its latest equipment by organising training sessions, presenting its products during exhibitions such as Hotelympia and also via video product content.

On the horizon for introduction is the next generation of battery-powered induction technology for hot holding. Sherlock reported that Gastros Switzerland is working on an updated version to offer longer battery life.

Tags : BGL RieberEuro CateringfemGamble Foodservice Solutionshendihot holdingkitchen & restaurant projectsLincatMoffatsignature fsesous vide toolsUnox
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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