Industrial steam tables are designed to keep cooked food fresh and hot for extended periods without overcooking, making them indispensable serving items in buffets. They work great for keeping food hot where the food temperature needs to be maintained over time, such as in hotels, hospitals, events, cafeterias, or catering. Industrial steam tables consist of wells where water is heated either using electricity or gas, and food pans are placed inside the wells, staying hot with the steam of the hot water below. This method also prevents the food from drying out, which can occur in dry heat methods, with the help of the steam.
How Does An Industrial Steam Table Work?
Industrial steam tables use water to heat the food. The stainless steel wells are filled with water, and the heating element inside the compartments heats the water using either electricity or gas. The heated water creates steam, which gently heats the food pans from below, ensuring uniform heating all over the pans. Industrial steam tables also prevent food from drying out with heated water’s steam. There are also open and sealed well steam tables available. Open-well industrial steam tables provide both dry and moist heating without a need for water.
Some industrial steam tables feature storage bins beneath the table for simple storage of food pans or any other kitchen tool, providing efficient workflow and saving extra space in the kitchen. In addition to being an efficient tool as a food warmer, industrial steam tables play a vital role in food safety. Steam tables help to prevent foodborne diseases by keeping food at safe temperatures, above the danger zone, which is between 40°F and 140°F (4.44°C and 60°C,) where germs grow the fastest.
Industrial Steam Table Types
You can choose an industrial steam table according to the heat source and well types. According to the power source, you can choose gas or electric steam tables, while you can find open well or sealed wells due to the well types.
Open Well vs. Sealed Well Industrial Steam Tables
There are two types of industrial steam tables: open well and sealed well. Whether the well is sealed or open refers to the heating element of an electric steam table or the flame of a gas steam table is covered or uncovered. Because open wells have an exposed heat source, you will need spillage pans to fill with water and place above the heating source for open-well wet heating. Sealed wells feature a covered heat source, meaning the heating source is located beneath a metal well, letting you add water without using spillage pans.
Open-well industrial steam tables are more versatile because they provide dry and moist heating. Dry heat is used for fried food items and is not a choice in sealed units, making open well units a better option. When it comes to costs, open-well steam tables have lower initial costs but require more labor than sealed-well models.
Sealed well industrial steam tables are slightly more expensive but require less effort since spillage pans are unnecessary. The table’s heating components are sealed beneath a permanently located metal well into which water is poured directly from a source. Sealed well steam tables feature built-in drains and valves that automatically remove the water, providing easy cleanup and removing the need for filling, transporting, and replacing spillage pans. The dry heating option does not provide uniform heating and maintains shorter holding times, making this type unsuitable for fried dishes.
Gas Steam Tables vs. Electric Steam Tables
When choosing an industrial steam table, you must opt between a gas or electric. One isn’t certainly better than the other, so you must consider the features you need and your available power source.
Gas Steam Table
Gas steam tables operate using either natural gas connecting to your kitchen’s gas source or liquid propane tanks. They heat up faster, are simple to use, and have less chance of malfunctioning. Gas is often less expensive than electricity, but it is also less energy-efficient, and they are more likely to raise the temperature around the unit than electric ones. The ones that work with natural gas are mostly stationary, but you can opt for propane-powered units with casters for outdoor events.
Electric Steam Table
Electric steam tables take a little more time to heat up. Yet, they are more energy-efficient, have more exact temperature settings, and won’t increase the temperature around the unit. Most electric steam tables utilize NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) rated plugs, but there are hardwired plug options too. There are voltage and phase options, so you must decide which is more efficient for your business before purchasing. Plus, if you want to move your steam table in the kitchen or use it for outdoor events (where an electric connection is available), you can opt for portable steam tables with casters.
How Many Wells Do You Need?
The number of wells required is determined by your usage and the amount and diversity of the food you want to serve. Units range in size from 1 to 6 wells. A 6-well industrial steam table is the best choice for self-service hotel buffets, school cafeterias, or large catering events where you can serve high amounts of food. One or two wells will be enough if you want to use your table in the kitchen or a catering event with a few options. Adapter bars are available for extra fractional-size pans, providing alternatives in smaller quantities.
Maintenance and Cleaning Tips
Industrial steam tables provide many facilities in food service establishments. Keeping them working properly is essential for both food safety and the efficiency of the business. Following the cleaning practices and maintenance tips will extend the lifespan of your industrial steam table.
Cleaning Steam Tables
To ensure your industrial steam table’s durability and efficiency, cleaning it daily is essential. After using the device, don’t forget to turn it off and wait for it to cool down before cleaning. Remove the food pans and wash them with soap and hot water. Clean the table’s wells by draining the water and wiping the wells with a cloth. You should avoid using abrasive chemicals and tools that can scratch the well’s surface. Do not forget to give a final wipe to the exterior of the table and the knobs and switches.
Regularly inspecting for leaks and ensuring the heating elements work properly and the thermostat is accurate are some of the simple yet effective maintenance tips ensuring the longevity of your steam table and preventing potential problems and pricey repairs. For malfunctions, don’t forget to contact an expert.
To Sum Up
Industrial steam tables are efficient equipment designed to keep pre-cooked food at hot and safe temperatures, ideal for establishments where food is served and displayed for extended periods. Steam tables also ensure food safety by keeping the food above 140°F (60°C), preserving the food’s flavor and texture, and adding versatility to the kitchen with some models featuring storage cabinets. You can choose various sizes and well numbers depending on your business, whether it’s a cafeteria, restaurant, catering business, hotel, or hospital buffet.