Patrick White 2013-01-29 04:21:54
Hold Holding cabinets and retherm ovens ensure food safety, as well as smooth kitchen operations. Holding cabinets—and their more sophisticated big brothers, retherm ovens—are the kind of equipment you can walk by in the kitchen and barely even notice they’re there. While new combi ovens and steamers are certain to attract attention for their high-tech capabilities, most holding cabinets are—as their name implies—focused on maintaining the status quo. But for school nutrition programs that use holding cabinets and retherm ovens, they are indispensable parts of the overall operation, playing a key role not only in food safety but in ensuring that the right amount of food is ready for students at the time it’s needed. Valley View Public Schools, Romeoville, Ill. “They’re not very glamorous,” acknowledges Meghan Gibbons, SNS, of her program’s large collection of holding cabinets. “But we couldn’t live without them. We use them for just about anything that comes out of the oven before serving.” In fact, the operation menus some fully cooked packaged products—such as breakfast pancakes and waffles—that don’t have to go into the oven but are placed directly in the warming cart. “We’ll still take internal temps, but sometimes the holding cabinet is all they need—we’re really using them more like a retherm oven in those situations,” she reports. Valley View purchases holding cabinets from Alto-Shaam and CresCor. “We always look at other manufacturers, but usually stick with what we like and what we’ve had success with,” she explains. “Holding cabinets are pretty simple pieces of equipment, so there’s not too much to break down, but when and if they do, it’s nice to have consistent makes and models, so we can swap parts. We save some of our older cabinets just for that reason, so we’ll have spare parts.” The Valley View district uses holding cabinets at all of its sites and purchased a new batch of holding cabinets this school year to accompany the introduction of a full-day kindergarten program. “The feature that I’ve made pretty much standard on my spec is a clear door, rather than a standard solid door,” notes Gibbons. “That saves my staff from opening and closing a thousand times a day to check on what’s in there. The clear door is much more convenient.” This feature not only improves efficiency, but prevents loss of heat within the cabinet from unnecessary door openings. Gibbons also specs that all four wheels on her holding cabinets come with 360-degree swiveling casters, rather than standard casters; she also requires a locking mechanism. In some schools in the district, the holding cabinets are moved from the kitchen out to the serving line on a regular basis. “In others, they stay in place probably from the moment we buy it, until it dies,” jokes Gibbons. “It all depends on how the school is set up.” Having the swiveling casters on every single unit gives her flexibility if a cabinet is moved to a new site or the existing kitchen is remodeled and the use of the unit needs to change. “For units that are going to be moved constantly, we also order them with a push handle,” Gibbons adds. “We have found that has reduced our workplace injuries. In the past, people would put their hands on each corner to push it, and fingers would get pinched going through doorways or running into something.” Gibbons says she bases the number of holding cabinets in each school on average daily participation: “In our high-volume high schools, we might have 10 warming carts, while in our elementary schools we might only have two.” She says she always keeps two older units as “back-ups” in the district’s warehouse. That way, if a school has a cabinet go down, a replacement can be quickly delivered. Laramie County School District, Cheyenne, Wyo. With a central production kitchen and limited space at some individual schools, holding cabinets in this western district regularly need to do double-duty. “We purchase units that can be used as an oven up to 350°F and also can hold the food at the correct temperature until it’s ready to be served,” explains Lena Wilson, SNS, nutrition services program administrator. “In some schools where we don’t have ovens, [these let us] bring food back up to the correct temperature if it falls out of temperature.” These units serve a vital role in the operation of the school nutrition program, as well as ensuring food safety, she explains. The Laramie school nutrition operation uses combination retherm/holding ovens from FWE to give the team the capability to handle both of these tasks as necessary. “We bought the last batch a few years ago. We don’t buy them often, because they last quite a long time,” reports Wilson. “They give us a lot of extra functionality. Holding cabinets are just that: They hold the food, but they don’t cook it. [But] with these, we can actually cook the food with an internal probe in it, so whenever it reaches the correct internal temperature, it will automatically switch to hold mode.” In schools that do have the space for ovens, Wilson purchases CresCor holding cabinets. “It wouldn’t make sense financially to buy the more expensive retherm ovens for those schools, so we just get standard holding cabinets,” she explains. When purchasing retherm ovens and holding cabinets, Wilson specifies that they need to include large casters and need to be all stainless steel. “We need them to last forever, basically,” she states, so the more heavy-duty, the better. “And on the standard holding cabinets, we also spec them to include handles, because when we satellite them to campuses, it makes them easier to move,” she adds. The retherm units are larger and typically stay in place at individual schools, but Wilson notes that “they would be ideal if we had to cater an off-site meeting or use for summer feeding.” While Laramie’s current summer feeding sites all have kitchen facilities, some future sites may not, and Wilson says she wouldn’t hesitate to rely on the FWE retherm ovens in those situations. “With just an 110v outlet, you could serve hot lunches instead of just cold sandwiches,” she points out. “It gives you options.” For other districts that might have a need for retherm capabilities, Wilson advises simply calculating the added costs against the increased functionality. “For us, it’s worth it,” she explains. “Because when you add in the cost of a new oven, and consider the space limitations that many school kitchens have, it gives you options that you might not otherwise have.” Carrollton City (Ga.) Schools Each of the district’s kitchens is equipped with holding ovens, and these are critical for short-term holding of food, explains Director of School Food & Nutrition Linette Dodson, SNS. “Depending on the individual school site and the volume of food they’re serving, the holding ovens are really used for that important period,” she says. “Sometimes the food might be in there five minutes; sometimes it might be up to 30 minutes. Typically, it’s not longer than that.” In some district kitchens, the holding cabinets stay stationary in the back of the house. In others, they’re located directly behind the serving lines. “Then, in some schools, we use pass-through holding cabinets,” reports Dodson. “For example, in two of our schools, we built the wall right around our cabinets, and they have doors on both sides. It’s very convenient and helps us a lot when they can be loaded on the back side and the trays then can be pulled out on the front side.” Carrollton City Schools uses both Traulsen and Winston holding cabinets. “We’ve had good luck with both of those brands,” says Dodson. When purchasing the pass-through holding cabinets, Dodson recently has begun specifying a split door on the kitchen side and a full door on the serving side. ”[We want] to try to retain as much heat in the cabinet as possible,” she explains. “The doors are opened much more frequently on the kitchen side, so…with a split door on that side, more of the heat can stay in the cabinet when the door is opened.” Dodson says she’s had no problem finding units with split doors and, in fact, has begun taking the same approach with her pass-through refrigerated cabinets. For those cold cabinets, she also purchases units with glass doors to reduce the number of times staff has to open the door to check the contents, but Dodson says she’s found that the glass doors don’t work as well with her hot holding cabinets. “The steam and the residue from cooking often ends up obscuring the view,” she points out. Beyond the functionality, she also thinks the dirty windows make the units look less pleasing aesthetically in the kitchen. For the most part, holding cabinets in the Carrollton City school nutrition operation don’t have to move much, so Dodson purchases units with legs rather than casters. “This makes it easier to clean underneath them,” she says. Regular cleaning helps reduce the amount of overall maintenance they need.” In fact, Dodson says that beyond the very occasional heating element or thermostat malfunction—which can be easily replaced by the district’s maintenance staff—the holding cabinets don’t require much maintenance or repair work. The holding cabinets have been a critical part of the district’s HACCP plan for maintaining food temperatures for some time, but recently these pieces of equipment have begun playing an even larger role in efficient preparation and service. “Now, with so [many menu items] being baked—including vegetables—it’s definitely added to the volume on our ovens and combi ovens. Having the holding cabinets allows us to have a little bit of a back-up for our serving line and lets us batch cook and still be a few minutes ahead of the need,” says Dodson. Holding Cabinets and Retherm Oven Vendors Following is a list of some companies that offer holding cabinets and retherm ovens. ■ AccuTemp www.accutemp.net ■ Alto-Shaam www.alto-shaam.com ■ Blodgett Oven Corporation www.blodgett.com ■ Cambro www.cambro.com ■ Carter-Hoffmann www.carter-hoffmann.com ■ Colorpoint/A Division of Low Temp Industries www.lowtempind.com ■ CresCor www.crescor.com ■ Duke www.dukemfg.com ■ Electrolux Professional www.electroluxusa.com/professional ■ Eloma USA www.elomausa.com ■ FWE www.fwe.com ■ Hobart www.hobartcorp.com ■ Manitowoc Foodservice www.manitowoc.com ■ Market Forge www.mfii.com ■ Metro www.metro.com ■ Montague www.montague-inc.com ■ Traulsen www.traulsen.com ■ Unified Brands www.unifiedbrands.net ■ Vollrath www.vollrathco.com ■ Vulcan www.vulcanequipment.com ■ Winston www.winstonind.com You’re the Expert A snapshot of the districts that shared their experiences using and purchasing holding cabinets and retherm ovens in this month’s column: ■ Valley View Public Schools Romeoville, Ill. Website: www.vvsd.org Director: Meghan Gibbons, SNS District enrollment: 18,000 Number of schools: 19 ■ Laramie County School District Cheyenne, Wyo. Website: www.laramie1.org Director: Lena Wilson, SNS District enrollment: 13,000 Number of schools: 32 ■ Carrollton City Schools Carrollton, Ga. Website: www.carrolltoncityschools.net Director: Linette Dodson, SNS District enrollment: 4,900 Number of schools: 4
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