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Different Types of Prep Tables

Refrigerated prep tables are essential pieces of equipment for any commercial kitchen. These versatile workstations provide ample space for food preparation, making it easier and more efficient for chefs and kitchen staff to perform their tasks. Prep tables come in various types, each designed to meet specific needs and requirements. Whether you run a busy restaurant, a bustling food truck, or a high-volume catering service, choosing the right type of prep table is crucial for the smooth operation of your kitchen.

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Use the following links to learn more about prep tables:

  1. Types of Prep Tables
  2. Prep Table Sizes
  3. Prep Table Access Type
  4. Prep Table Compressor Type
  5. Prep Table Refrigeration Type

Prep Tables Types

Finding the right prep table for your business doesn't have to be complicated. We explore the different types of prep tables available on the market, highlighting their features, benefits, and ideal applications, so you can make an informed decision that suits your specific needs.

Restaurant Equipment

Sandwich and Salad Prep Table

Commercial sandwich and salad prep tables are designed for commercial settings that offer customizable options like sandwiches and salads. They feature a wide, spacious work surface and refrigerated storage compartments to keep ingredients fresh and readily accessible. Some models come with additional storage compartments, such as refrigerated drawers or shelves, which can be useful for storing extra ingredients or utensils.

Salad prep tables come in various sizes, allowing you to select the one that best suits your kitchen's needs. Standard top units generally have 2 rows of food pans and cutting boards that are typically 10" to 17" deep. Mega top prep tables generally have 3 to 4 rows of food pans and feature a more shallow cutting board depth than standard tops. With multiple pan capacities and internal shelving, these units offer flexibility and efficiency in food preparation.

Restaurant Equipment

Pizza Prep Tables

Pizza preparation refrigerators are specifically designed for pizzerias and restaurants that serve pizza. These units feature a refrigerated raised rail design that accommodates food pans, where you can place your pizza ingredients and toppings for easy access. They also include a wide cutting board, large enough to fit the diameter of a pizza. 

In addition to the refrigerated workspace, pizza preparation refrigerators typically come with a refrigerated storage area underneath. This allows you to keep additional ingredients, such as dough, sauces, and cheese, chilled and close at hand. Some models even have multiple compartments or drawers, providing further organization and convenience.

What Is the Difference between a Sandwich Prep Table and a Pizza Prep Table? 

Sandwich and salad prep tables serve different purposes than pizza prep tables, but they're not as different as they sound. Sandwich prep tables come with shallower cutting boards designed for sub and sandwich bread, and most come set up for use with 1/6-size food pans in the top storage area. Pizza prep tables feature a deeper cutting board area with a raised pan rail and a top storage area designed for 1/3-size food pans.

Restaurant Equipment

Worktop Refrigerators and Freezers

Worktop refrigerators and freezers combine the functionality of a prep table with the convenience of refrigeration or freezing capabilities, making them ideal for food preparation and storage. They typically feature a stainless steel worktop surface that can withstand heavy use and is easy to clean. This worktop provides a convenient space for chefs to prepare ingredients or assemble dishes while keeping them within arm's reach.

These units are equipped with refrigeration or freezing components, allowing you to store perishable ingredients or frozen goods directly underneath the work surface. This eliminates the need for separate refrigerators or freezers, saving valuable space in your kitchen. Some worktop freezers and refrigerators come with additional features such as drawers, shelves, or doors for organized storage. These options allow you to customize the unit to meet your specific needs and preferences.

Prep Table Sizes

mega top prep table with 3 rows of ingredients

When it comes to choosing the right prep table for your commercial kitchen, size is an important factor to consider. The size of your prep table will depend on the available space in your kitchen, as well as the amount of food preparation you anticipate. Here are some prep table sizing configurations:

  1. Width: Prep tables come in various widths, typically ranging from 27" to 96". The width you choose should be based on the amount of counter space and ingredients you need for food preparation to ensure you have enough space to work efficiently.

  2. Standard Top: Standard top prep tables feature 2 rows of holding pans and 10" to 15" deep cutting boards.

  3. Mega Top: Mega top prep tables feature 3 rows of holding pans and 8" to 11" deep cutting boards.

  4. Cutting Top: Cutting top prep tables come with an extra-deep cutting board, usually ranging from 12" to 17" for additional workspace.

  5. ADA Height: ADA height prep tables are made to be 34" or less to make them accessible to wheelchair-bound employees.

Prep Table Access Type

bartender putting keg in a beer dispenser

Once you have decided on your sizing configuration, you'll want to focus on the storage and access type you will need from your unit. Most refrigerated prep tables come with doors, drawers, or a combination of the two.

  • Doors: Prep tables with doors have a refrigeration cavity very similar to reach-in equipment measured in cubic feet, complete with shelves that can hold a wide variety of foods.
  • Drawers: Prep tables with drawers generally come with less refrigeration space, but each drawer is laid out to hold food pans filled with ingredients, making them easier to access when it's time to swap out empty pans from the top storage area.
  • Doors and Drawers: Units with a combination of doors and drawers give the operator the best of both worlds. Sometimes they are designed to minimize wasted space as well, such as having a small drawer or door above the compressor.

Prep Table Compressor Type

Prep tables are available in two types of compressor positioning. When choosing between front breathing and side or rear breathing prep tables, it's important to consider your kitchen's layout and available space. Depending on the available clearances and ventilation, one unit may be better suited for your space than another. We'll break down the pros and cons of the compressor types below:

Front Breathing Prep Tables

Front breathing prep tables have a compressor located at the front of the unit. This design allows for better ventilation and prevents heat buildup in the kitchen. They are ideal for spaces with limited clearance as these units can be placed directly against the wall without any airflow restrictions. Because the intake and exhaust vent is on the front, contaminants from the kitchen floor can potentially get sucked into the unit and the rising heat can warm your cold ingredients. 

  • Doesn't require clearance beside or behind the unit
  • Prevents heat buildup in the kitchen
  • Kitchen contaminants can accidentally be sucked into the intake vent
  • Rising heat from the exhaust vent can warm ingredients

Side or Rear Breathing Prep Tables

Side or rear breathing prep tables have a compressor located either on the side or at the back of the unit. These prep tables are suitable for kitchens with ample clearance space. Side breathing units require some clearance on the sides to allow proper airflow. Rear breathing units need sufficient space at the back to prevent heat buildup.

  • Keep exhaust heat from warming ingredients
  • Side breathing units blow away from the wall, perfect for kitchens with wall materials that cannot handle the outflow of air (brick or glass)
  • Require clearance from the wall or around the unit
  • Harder to tell when the vent requires cleaning

Prep Table Refrigeration Type

There are three methods used for refrigerating the top food pan section of prep tables: air cooled, cold wall, and a liquid jacket. Each type has its own advantages and considerations, so it's essential to select the one that best suits your kitchen's workflow and space limitations.

Air Cooled Prep Tables

Air cooled prep tables are a popular choice for commercial kitchens due to their efficiency and ease of installation. These prep tables use fans to circulate air around the condenser coils, which helps to dissipate heat and maintain the desired temperature inside the unit. Air cooled prep tables are ideal for kitchens with sufficient ventilation and space for air circulation.

  • Low maintenance and labor costs
  • Excellent solution for restaurateurs who are just starting out
  • Power is more limited than alternative refrigeration methods

Liquid Jacket Prep Tables

Liquid jacket prep tables utilize a liquid-filled barrier to maintain the desired temperature inside the unit. The liquid jacket surrounds the interior of the prep table, providing a consistent and even cooling effect. This type of refrigeration system is known for its ability to maintain precise temperature control, making it ideal for kitchens that require temperature regulation for specific ingredients or food items.

  • Utilizes low-profile internal designs to maximize storage space
  • Keeps ingredients at a uniform temperature
  • Most expensive refrigeration type

Cold Wall Prep Tables

Cold wall prep tables, also known as "passive refrigeration," rely on a cold wall design to maintain the temperature inside the unit. The walls of the prep table are constructed with a special material that acts as a thermal barrier, preventing heat from entering the unit and keeping the interior cool. Cold wall prep tables are a suitable choice for kitchens with limited space or where noise from a fan-based system is a concern.

  • Run refrigerant lines through the table's structure to keep the interior cool
  • Greater output potential compared to air cooled units
  • Can experience uneven pan temperatures
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Different Types of Pizza Pans

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Undercounter Refrigeration Buying Guide

If you need a little extra storage space in your refrigerator that's close to a prep station, or simply don't have the room 'out front' for a traditional style reach in, an undercounter model is a great way to add cold storage space. Another popular piece of refrigeration equipment is the refrigerated chef base, which serves the role of a combination refrigerator and equipment stand. With so many sizes and configurations available, you'll be able to find the perfect one for your needs. We'll cover the ins and outs of all these units in this quick guide.

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