Foodservice Professional – Equipment, Recipes, Tips and Tricks
Foodservice Equipment – Hot Food Holding & Moisture Control
Food is naturally mostly made up of water; since water is a common element in all fresh food, it only stands to reason that preventing the water in the food from evaporating will keep the food fresher longer. Preparing bulk food ahead of kitchen peak service times is a common way to allow the chef and kitchen staff to focus on other vital tasks during rush hours. When loading bulk food into a moisture controlled heated cabinet, such as a FWE MTU-12, the food is met with heated and humidified air that creates equilibrium with the foods natural moisture content.
This moisture equilibrium is important to maintain. If you get too far out of balance you might over saturate your crispy breading on your fried chicken, or dry out a whole pan of tonight’s lasagna special. One manufacturer uses a humble pea as an example to explain this equilibrium, and I think that is a great place to begin. We have all seen it, too dry and the pea shrivels up like a pruned finger, too moist and it becomes an off-putting gray color with a texture that is mushy. Every food product is similar to this pea in the fact that it has a perfect and usually specific moisture balance that fits its needs. Once this balance is found, the longer the food (or pea) can be successfully held with little to no degradation. Each manufacturer will tell you that their equipment can hold the pea better than the other guy can.
When shopping around for a heated holding cabinet, it is important to look at three main areas. First, look at the water reservoir. Is it easy to clean? If you live in an area that has hard water or mineral rich water, this will be important as you will have to descale the cabinet regularly to avoid build up. I recommend removable pans over fixed water basins to make the job of cleaning and replacing faster and easier. Secondly, be sure the cabinet is fully made up of quality stainless steel. A moisture laden environment can quickly become a rust problem or bacteria infested if cheaper construction is used. Lastly, take a look at the way the cabinet is controlled (I go into a little more detail about the different control options here: Foodservice Equipment – Controls). There are three common ways the units are controlled. Does the cabinet have a separate humidistat to read the actual environment and give you precise control? Does it use an infinite switch to heat the water from low to high, or does it measure the water temperature in the reservoir to control the heat and humidity? What control and moisture system is best for you? I will go into this a bit deeper in a future post to help you identify the moisture system and control that is best suited for your particular operation.