Tighter food safety regulations mean that a traditional one-size-fits-all refrigerator no long meets minimum requirements. Stuart Ferguson looks at some of the latest kit
Since the dawn of time we have prolonged the life of our foodstuffs by cooling them. In prehistoric times man found that game would last longer if stored in the coolness of a cave or packed in snow. Since then these caves have evolved into stainless steel boxes that get cold.
But a simple rectangular box will no longer suffice, according to Ian Osborne, managing director of Enodis UK Food Service, supplier of Delfield Refrigeration. "Requirements in refrigeration have changed over the years, and it's no longer acceptable to offer a one-size-fits-all cabinet and prep counter," he says. "Every caterer has a different requirement and therefore manufacturers need to offer products that will fit, whatever their need." A quick look at the range of Delfield refrigeration units highlights this perfectly.
"Under-counter storage/prep cabinets now sell in greater volume than traditional upright cabinets, and there's a growing trend for drawers rather than doors. This is purely from an ease of access point of view and the benefit of being able to see everything in one go rather than having to bend down. Drawers can also increase the energy efficiency of the unit as there is less temperature loss when drawers are opened."
Many Delfield products are multitemperature units, giving the user the choice of setting for meat, dairy or general-purpose usage. "But we find that similar to washing machines, people tend to select their preferred option and stick with it, rather than constantly changing the programme," says Osborne.
Where this type of option becomes invaluable, however, is for event catering. Delfield's latest development, the Versa Drawer, will be able to switch from being a fridge to a freezer at the touch of a button, making it ideal for chilling salads in the summer, and freezing pies in the winter.
Taking the multitemperature feature that bit further is the Adande VariCool, which comes in one- to four-door configurations. Each insulated drawer is controlled with touch-button simplicity, between -20°C and +15°C, enabling a change of temperature whenever it's required, in 1°C increments. Each of the drawers is cooled independently and can be set at its own temperature separately from the other drawers. Completing its versatility is its offer of blast-chill and controlled thawing functionality as optional extras.
Blast chilling and controlled thawing are now important considerations in a world dominated by health and safety, or in this case HACCP. With this in mind Foster Refrigerator has launched a new, improved Controlled Thaw Cabinet. The new CT70 model now includes Foster's Surf Navigation control panel, making it easier to use. With a simple press-and-start operation, the CT70 is easy to use, even for first-time operators. This system allows you to turn the dial to select the required programme and press to start. There's also a simple-to-use programme designed to thaw quantities and weights of food dependent on your requirements.
Thawing in ambient temperatures puts your customers and your business at risk and does not meet HACCP recommendations on safe food handling. The CT70 thaws 70kg of food safely from -18-21°C to +1-4°C within a safe time span, minimising bacterial growth. The new model alternates between circulating gentle heat and refrigeration via special air ducting and fans, ensuring an even, speedy and safe thaw that meets the latest food safety legislation and HACCP requirements. The unit also has an overnight storage hold facility so that thawed food is ready for use when you are.
Just as important as safe thawing, blast chilling cooked foods is the safest way to bring down its temperature. In the US state of Florida, every commercial kitchen must have a blast chiller and it's possible that Europe might legislate on it before too long. Caravell's Climate Class T counter-top unit is suitable for smaller applications where space is limited. Although the unit is small enough to be placed on a counter-top, it still has all the features of the full-size units - 304 Grade stainless-steel interior/exterior, digital temperature control and display, full electronic control, polyurethane insulation, special pin core probe for insertion into a product and radius corners inside for easy cleaning and keeping the temperature even throughout the cabinet.
While Gram is linked mostly with green initiatives, the company also prides itself on being innovative. The Pizza Prep Counter was a much-requested addition to its range. Available with two, three or four doors, it comes complete with a night storage lid which ensures the pans are cold and keeps food fresh. This counter has been designed to ensure an optimal air circulation. The cold air circulates around the cabinet and is directed at the pans, which maintains a correct and uniform temperature at all times. You don't have to be serving pizzas for it to be of use either, as pretty much any kitchen needing easy access to chilled ingredients, for instance salad items, would benefit from this unit.
Versatility, with a view to being greener thrown in, is the aim of the latest dual temperature chillers from Valera. With an integral, independently controlled section for fish or frozen food they're suitable for small restaurants with limited space and do away with the need for a separate fridge and freezer.
The compact AGP-752 heavy-duty chiller features both a general purpose section and a fish section - or frozen food section in the AGM-752 model - in a 710mm x 820mm x 2010mm unit. Both have their own individual refrigeration system and controller to maintain perfect conditions in each side of the cabinet.
Supplied with two shelves, and three drawers in the frozen food/fish section, both the AGP-752 and AGM 752 have a capacity of 280 litres in the chiller and 250 litres in the fish/frozen food section. There are easy-to-use digital controllers and temperature read-outs, coupled with curved corners for easy cleaning.
The Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) chain has become a firm favourite in London, with Aberdeen Angus Scotch beef with fresh pesto, mozzarella, salad and relish chicken with avocado and bacon, and venison with spiced redcurrant and cranberry sauce among the burger varieties on offer. Each kitchen in the GBK restaurants has been individually designed and purpose-built, incorporating state-of-the-art equipment that's both functional and looks great.
Williams Refrigeration's Amber cabinets are used in the busy kitchen at GBK's central London restaurant in St Paul's, as the range has space-saving qualities. Bespoke cold rooms from Williams have also been installed, which have been designed to continue the clean, crisp feel of the open-plan kitchen. Bottle coolers chilling the likes of New Zealand's popular Steinlager also sit behind the front counter.
Close to roots
GBK operations director Nabil Mankarious says: "Part of GBK's success lies in the fact that even though we're expanding we're still keeping close to our roots and delivering fresh, gourmet food to busy people promptly. Kitchen design is key for us and with lots of busy chefs in the kitchen the refrigeration needs to work hard. Williams certainly stands up to the job and saves us space too."
Another key area for refrigeration is display. Lincat offers 32 refrigerated models as part of its Seal range of food merchandisers and food-preparation bars, delivering compliance with all food safety regulations. "New, tighter food safety regulations came into force in January 2006 that require caterers to make formal records of food holding times and temperatures. They therefore need to be entirely certain of the ability of their food display and holding equipment to perform," explains Nick McDonald, marketing and export director of Lincat. "Our new Seal refrigerated merchandisers are designed to offer caterers that reassurance."
The Seal food display showcases, food display bars and food preparation bars are all capable of holding food at 3-7°C, in ambient conditions of up to 25°C and 60% relative humidity, surpassing the requirements of EN23953 Class 3M. The 650, 500 and 350 ranges, however, will hold food at 3-7°C, in ambient conditions of up to 32°C and 70% relative humidity, which meets the requirements of EN23953 Class 4M2.
Precise thermostatic control, with a digital display of cabinet temperature, ensures that safe temperatures are maintained at all times. Each unit uses energy-efficient and non ozone-depleting refrigerant which is kinder to the environment.
It all goes to show just how versatile the humble refrigerator has to be: drawers, walk-ins, salad counters, blast chilling, thawing, merchandising and freezing are just the tip of the iceberg for today's caterer.