When considering commercial warming drawers, there are several key factors to look for. These can enhance functionality, performance, and efficiency in any foodservice operation. Here are the top 11 factors to consider.
Temperature Control: Look for a warming drawer that offers precise temperature control. This allows you to adjust and maintain the desired temperature for various food items. Ideally, the drawer should have a wide temperature range to accommodate different dishes.
Humidity Control: Some advanced warming drawers offer humidity control features. This allows you to adjust the moisture levels inside the drawer to keep food items fresh and prevent them from drying out. Humidity control is particularly beneficial when dealing with delicate or moisture-sensitive foods.
Be aware that not all humidity controls are alike. Some manufacturers simply provide vents on the drawers, allowing moist air to escape. Likewise, other manufacturers include a water reservoir within the drawer to provide additional moisture. Only CVap technology utilizes moisture to control the temperature and texture of food. The result is a much longer holding time, and higher quality food.
User-Friendly Controls: The controls and interface of the warming drawer should be intuitive and easy to use. Look for models with clear digital displays, responsive touch controls, and programmable settings. User-friendly controls can enhance efficiency and reduce the chances of user error.
Most drawers have either digital or thermostatic controls. Thermostatic controls are simple analog controls. They typically feature a simple power switch and control dial. They are easy to operate. Some may include a temperature gauge and a heat indicator light. Thermostatic controls are not as accurate as digital controls and require periodic calibration.
Digital controls are more accurate than thermostatic controls. Many manufacturers tout their digital controls as precise to within one degree of the selected temperature. Because digital controls are more sophisticated and accurate, they tend to be more costly than thermostatic controls. CVap drawers feature digital controls, with a temperature range of 90°F to 180°F.
Regardless of which control type you select, you’ll want to ensure that the warming drawer will automatically detect when the drawer temperature has dropped too low and turn on the heating elements to boost the temperature back to the selected set point.
Heat System: Warming drawers have three distinct types of heat systems: dry, humidified, and controlled vapor.
Dry (or non-humidified) warming drawers are the simplest and usually the least expensive. Because they lack a water reservoir, they’re best for kitchens that only need to hold food briefly. Dry warming drawers evaporate moisture from food, limiting the time it can be held. But not every kitchen needs to maintain food quality for an extended time. And not every kitchen prioritizes food quality. A dry warming drawer may be a good option if you don’t need a long hold or your budget is tight.
As the name implies, humidified warming drawers have an internal water reservoir. Humidified drawers can hold food for longer periods than dry drawers. Food doesn’t surrender as much of its internal moisture, extending the time food can hold at an acceptable quality. Humidified drawers tend to be more costly than dry drawers.
Controlled Vapor (or CVap) drawers differ from other humidified drawers in their technology. Conventional humidified drawers attempt to control food temperature via the drawer’s air temperature. They “control” the relative humidity in the drawer to counteract the drying effect of the air heat. CVap Warming Drawers, on the other hand, control food temperature via heated water vapor. They utilize dry air heat as a secondary heat source. The vapor heat precisely controls food temperature. The air heat controls the evaporation of surface moisture from the food. The result is a warming drawer that offers more precision over food temperature and texture than any other holding technology.
Multiple Heating Zones: Commercial warming drawers with multiple heating zones are extremely popular. This feature lets you set different temperatures in different sections of the drawer, which is especially useful when holding multiple dishes warm simultaneously.
Capacity and Size: Consider the capacity and size of the warming drawer to ensure it meets your operation’s needs. It should be large enough to accommodate the volume of food you typically handle. Additionally, consider the unit’s dimensions to ensure it fits well within your kitchen layout.
The most uncomplicated placement is on a countertop. Countertop placement makes it easier to move the drawer if needed and more convenient to clean. But under-counter placement is always an option. You can even install drawers as built-in units. Bear in mind that built-in units are not as easy to move should the kitchen’s needs change.
If opting for a built-in placement, ensure sufficient space and airflow for ventilation. Most drawer manufacturers have specific requirements for ventilation space around their drawers. Ignoring this could result in the drawer prematurely failing from overheating. Failure to follow a manufacturer’s installation requirements can void your warranty.
Consider how many drawers you need. Most manufacturers offer single and double-drawer models. Some even provide three-drawer configurations. Likewise, most brands have wide and narrow drawer configurations. Narrow drawers tend to be a little deeper, so the capacity of wide versus narrow drawers tends to be about the same.
Durability and Construction: Commercial warming drawers don’t get a lot of love from end users. High-quality drawers are built to take a lot of abuse. Look for a warming drawer constructed with high-quality materials that can withstand the demands of a commercial environment. Stainless steel is a common choice for its durability and resistance to corrosion. Ensure that the drawer is well-built and designed to withstand heavy usage.
One critical element is the drawer’s roller system. Many drawers close via ball bearings. But some models use a nylon runner system or reinforced gliders that are more sturdy and less susceptible to dirt buildup.
No matter what type of rollers the drawer utilizes, it’s crucial that the drawer can be removed to allow for thorough cleaning of both the drawer and the unit’s interior.
Ease of Cleaning: Warming drawers should be easy to clean, as they will encounter spills and food debris. Look for models with removable racks, drip trays, or surfaces that can be easily wiped down. Some drawers may even have self-cleaning functions, which can be a time-saving feature.
The more seamless a unit is—inside and out—the easier it is to clean and sanitize. For example, models that feature exposed heating elements inside each drawer (versus seamless versions) can’t be cleaned until those elements are entirely cooled, and such elements may trap and burn food particles. Likewise, units with knobs and/or analog controls are more difficult to wipe down than sleek touch screens. Freestanding units can be unplugged and detached from the wall to allow deep cleaning under and behind the units.
CVap Warming Drawers check off all the boxes when it comes to cleaning. The heating elements are not exposed. The drawers can be easily removed to facilitate cleaning. Touchscreen controls are a cinch to wipe off.
Safety Features: Safety is crucial in a commercial kitchen. Look for warming drawers with features like cool-touch surfaces, automatic shut-off timers, and overheat protection mechanisms. These safety features can help prevent accidents and ensure the well-being of your staff.
Energy Efficiency: Consider the energy efficiency of the warming drawer, as it can impact on your operational costs. Look for models with good insulation and energy-saving features, such as low-power standby modes or efficient heating elements. Energy-efficient models can help reduce electricity consumption and lower utility bills.
There may be accessories available that can help boost efficiency. For example, Winston offers perforated drawer bottoms that allow better air circulation. This improves recovery time after opening and helps reduce temperature fluctuations within the drawer.
Brand Reputation and Support: Finally, consider the reputation of the brand and the availability of customer support. Choose a reputable manufacturer known for producing reliable and durable equipment. Check customer reviews and warranty terms to ensure you have access to support in case of any issues or questions.
By considering all these factors, you can select a commercial warming drawer that meets your specific requirements and enhances the efficiency of your kitchen operations.