For many chefs the demand on kitchen equipment is not just for heavy-duty performance, but for high-volume production. Typical situations where it's needed are in hospitals, universities, large banqueting operations and cook-chill units. Two items of prime cooking equipment have been developed specifically for these high-output situations - the bratt pan and the steam jacket kettle.
A bratt pan gets its name from the German word braten, meaning to fry - although they're not called bratt pans in Germany but tilting pans, and in the Americas, braising pans.
Bratt pans are versatile, able to perform eight cooking functions: braising, boiling, steaming, poaching, stewing, roasting, deep-fat frying and shallow frying. They can also be used for multifunction cooking of one product, such as browning-off meat with the pan set at a fry temperature with the lid open, then liquid added, the temperature turned down and the lid closed to braise softly.
Most bratt pans have a tilting feature, operated electrically or by a hand-driven mechanism, so food that has been cooked can be poured into containers, usually through a V-shape in the top edge, and most have a counterbalanced pull-down lid. Heat can come from gas or electricity.
The tilt feature is very useful for emptying the contents out and helps with washing the pan. Most bratt pans offer the option of being plumbed in so that a swivel tap is connected to the unit to allow water to be added both for cooking and for washing out.
In addition to bratt pans that work at normal atmospheric air pressure, a more advanced version is a pressure bratt pan. This performs all the same functions as a standard bratt pan, but the lid can be clamped tightly shut for cooking at a higher water temperature than 100C. As with any pressure cooker, the increase in pressure means the food is cooked much quicker and is tenderised, so is particularly suitable for dishes that use tougher cuts of meat.
Bratt pans are very energy-efficient, with good insulation in the cooking pan, effective heat distribution in the bed of the pan and heat recovery systems on some models.
Features to look for when choosing a bratt pan include coved corners in the cooking pan, which will make cleaning easier. Capacity marking embossed into the sides of the pan can help in making up wet dishes that need a set amount of liquid for the recipe to work.
Steam jacket kettles are a high-performance development of the double-pan cooking system in which a heated water bath in one pan underneath an upper cooking pan provides a gentle cooking heat. They can be counter-top units taking 10 to 20 litres, or freestanding units taking 50 litres or more. While most work using steam inside the jacket, some models work with hot water.
This indirect water-based heat system can work with hot water or steam. Burning of delicate sauces is virtually eliminated and the cooking and holding process can go on without constant attention.
Cooking kettles will have a tilting mechanism; they may also have a drain tap at the bottom.
Most boiling kettles will come plumbed-in with a swivel tap for adding water for cooking and cleaning. They can also come configured as a double unit so that two products can be cooked from a single footprint.