Cooking with steam has a number of operational and health benefits. Because it is such an efficient method of heat transfer, it cooks foods quickly without drying them out. Steamed vegetables retain their vibrant color and natural texture plus the vitamins and minerals that may be lost in other cooking methods. Plus, cooking with steam is also very healthy, compared to some cooking methods since you don't need any cooking oils or fats. Read on to learn about different types of commercial food steamers and equipment that uses steam to make the best choice for your business!
When deciding what size and type of commercial food steamer to purchase, you'll want to think about your menu and output needs. Since size options range from small countertop steamers to large, multi-compartment floor steamers, you'll want to size the unit appropriately to meet your current and future needs. Steamers are sized by how many full size or half size food pans their compartments hold. While determining which size is best for you, here are some questions to think about:
A 2 1/2" deep full size food pan holds (72) 4 oz. portions, (48) 6 oz. portions, or (36) 8 oz. portions!
Steamers can produce steam for the cooking process in a variety of ways. Keep in mind that with the exception of self-contained models, you'll need an incoming water supply as well as a wastewater/condensate drain in addition to the gas or electric required to power the unit. There are pros and cons to each type as you'll see below.
Many local authorities mandate that waste water entering the drain be lower than 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It's a good idea to check your local regulations to see if you need to specify a drain quenching system or option with your steamer.
Direct steam vegetable steamers hook up to your building's existing steam supply. It's important to note that if you're hooking up directly to this type of source, you'll need to be sure that it's potable.
Some commercial steamers will use an internal steam generator to produce the steam. Their exact design varies by manufacturer; some will use steam jets while others may spray water onto heating elements.
A boiler-based food steamer may have the boiler built right into their cabinet. Other models may rest on top of a boiler base to provide steam for the unit.
No matter which type of steamer you choose, we recommend water filtration. In fact, manufacturers usually won't honor the equipment's warranty if their specified water quality requirements aren't met. It's also crucial to delime the units frequently as limescale buildup will negatively affect your steamer's performance and longevity.
You might not initially think that you can use your microwave as a steamer, but several manufacturers have high powered models designed specifically for steaming. These microwave steamers have high-wattage magnetrons and larger internal cavities that can accommodate several food pans of vegetables or other items you wish to steam. Since they don't need a floor drain, water supply, and likely wouldn't need placed under a hood, they're a very cost-effective way to add steamed items to your menu with a minimum amount of hassle.
Commonly known as a tortilla steamer, these compact countertop units use a quick shot of steam to rejuvenate stale baked goods, revitalize cooked meat, heat up a small portion of refrigerated or frozen vegetables, or warm tortillas for service. Their small size and ease of use make them ideal for operations with limited space.
Another versatile piece of steam equipment is the steam kettle. Ranging in size from a small, 6 gallon tabletop model all the way up to 300 gallon floor models with built-in mixers, it's a great choice for preparing large quantities of soup, sauces, pasta, rice and gravy. They can also quickly braise meat or boil large quantities of water. With all these units, the steam is contained in a cavity between the outer and inner walls of the kettle. To produce the steam, the water in the cavity may be heated by a gas or electric burner. On a "direct steam" model, steam is piped directly into the cavity from your building's steam supply. Some benefits of cooking with a steam kettle include: