Easy Soup Recipes to Warm Your Menu This Winter

It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Most humans are hard-wired to crave comfort foods in freezing weather. Of all the comfort foods, soups seem to be the best at warming our innards. Many folks think of soup as something that’s prepared on a stovetop. But CVap® ovens are also great for making soup. You can scale the process up to crank out gallons of soup to keep your sales hopping all day. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making soup from scratch or retherming pouches of premade soup – CVap’s got you covered.

Here are a few great easy soup recipes you can whip up in a CVap oven.

Kickin’ Chicken Noodle Soup

easy soup recipes

What soup is more comforting than chicken noodle soup on a frosty winter day? It’s one of those flavors that instantly takes you back to being a kid. It’s particularly good when you’re battling a cold. That’s not a superstition. Evidence has shown that chicken noodle soup can reduce cold symptoms. It’s chock-full of electrolytes, which help you stay hydrated.

Our chicken noodle soup take utilizes CVap ovens and our Collectramatic® Fryers. The result was a soup that combined many flavors and textures. It’s sure to warm the coldest heart. Check out the recipe here.

Vietnamese Pho Soup

easy soup recipes

This flavorful broth recipe has some good bones – literally. It calls for over eight pounds of beef, pork, and poultry bones, roasted in a CVap oven. This recipe is one you’ll need to plan, as it calls for simmering for at least 12 hours.

Pho (pronounced fah) is a Vietnamese staple. There are countless variations of this easy soup recipe. Our recipe is rich in different flavors and textures. You may want to consider offering this as part of a Tết celebration, Vietnam’s observance of the Lunar New Year.

Lobster and Fresh Corn Chowder

easy soup recipes

Here’s a tasty chowder that’s a little decadent. The chowder recipe includes lobster, scallops, veggies, and a brunoise of new potatoes, onions, celery, and carrots. The advantage to preparing this chowder in a CVap oven is that you can stage all the key ingredients in the CVap while the lobster shells enjoy a day-long simmer to create a stock. At serving time, the scallops just need a quick sear to finish. Then the impressive final dish is assembled – with a base of veggies, topped by lobster meat, a couple of scallops, and a generous ladle of the lobster stock. It’s a soup that’s as impressive to look at as it is to eat. It’s a perfect soup on a frigid day to make diners daydream of warm days near the ocean.

Beer Chili is Awesome

Chili is great any time of year. But it really hits the spot in the wintertime. You can spice it up with as much extra heat as you want to bring some warmth to a cold day.

A customer challenged us to see if it was possible to prepare beer chili using just a cook and hold oven. As this recipe shows, it’s not only possible but also awesome. So, bring on the beans! Bring on the meat! Chilly weather is chili weather!

Gumbo Ya Ya!

By the time mid-winter gets here, we’re sick of it. Good thing Mardi Gras comes around to add some color and fun to the never-ending greyness of late February. And we’ve got the perfect dish to inject a little Cajun flavor into your menu.

This spectacular gumbo has it all: veggies, sausage, chicken, and crawdads. Like many great soups, you’ll want to let it cook overnight to coax every bit of flavor. A little roux, a little rice, and you got yourself some great gumbo.

Chicken Stock – CVap Style

Behind every great easy soup recipe is an outstanding stock. In this post, Chef Sam walks us through how to use your CVap oven to create gallons of chicken stock. It’s the perfect base for multitudes of soups. The important thing about this stock is that it can easily be frozen to use at another time. And it makes the most of the chicken, with virtually nothing going to waste.

Retherming Soup in CVap

So far, we’ve elaborated on some great scratch recipes you can make in a CVap. But many excellent pre-prepared canned or bagged soups are available from your favorite foodservice distributor. Use a CVap oven to retherm your premade soups, and you can really scale up production. Our largest ovens can hold up to 28 hotel pans, allowing you to cook gallons of soup at once. CVap technology ensures that no matter what soup you’re retherming, it will never scorch or overcook. And CVap oven’s automatic hold cycle keeps soup hot and fresh throughout your meal service.

bagged-soup

From Soup to Nuts

These are just a few ideas for souping up your menu. Need more ideas or suggestions for adapting an existing recipe to CVap? Just fill out our contact form. Our culinary experts will be happy to help! There’s no need to limit questions to soup. We can help with just about anything!

2023 Winston SNF Equipment Grant

Applications are open for the 2023 Winston Equipment Grant!

Winston’s CVap® technology has been helping schools improve student nutrition since the 1980s, improving food quality and safety. 

Winston Foodservice is proud to partner with the School Nutrition Foundation to donate up to $100,000 in CVap equipment to a deserving school system.

Although Winston underwrites the grant, we aren’t part of the selection process. Our SNF partners choose from the applicants. It’s an open and unbiased process.

School Nutrition Directors need to apply for the grant before the end of the day, March 31, 2023.

For more details, visit the SNF website

“We love, in particular, the CVap Holding Cabinets because of the way they hold food exactly the way we need it, and we can control our humidity levels.” – Marci Lexa, Henry County Schools, Virginia

Which Equipment Could that Include?

Who Are Our Previous Recipients?

2014 – Red Lake School District – Minnesota

2015 – Henry County School District – Virginia

2016 – Hernando County School District – Florida

2017 – White Bear Lake Area Schools – Minnesota

2018 – Grand haven Area Public Schools – Michigan

2019 – Franklin Special School District – Tennessee

2020 – Beaumont Independent School District – Texas

2021 – Methuen Public Schools – Massachusetts

2022 – Petersburg City Public Schools – Virginia

How Can CVap® Expand Your Menu?

Are you looking to change or expand your operation’s menu? If you have CVap technology in your kitchen, you already have a head start on your goal.

Ideally, expanding your menu won’t involve investing in new equipment. That’s why having CVap in your kitchen is such a game-changer. CVap ovens offer the versatility to accomplish a wide range of cooking processes, such as steaming, baking, holding, sous vide, staging, and more. You can find a rundown of CVap’s capabilities here.

Proteins

Proteins are typically the center of the plate for most entrees. Try some of these ideas to expand your menu.

Sous Vide Chicken

Stage chicken breasts sous vide in a CVap oven. When an order comes in, toss the chicken on a grill for a quick hit on both sides. The order is out in under four minutes. This saves so much time, compared to cooking raw. Serve it as a grilled chicken entree, a chicken sandwich, or in salads…the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Prime Rib

Who doesn’t love prime rib? An overnight cook yields deliciously perfect prime rib. CVap ovens achieve incredible yields. Their low, slow cooking method breaks down connective tissue within the meat. That ultimately means more servings per roast. Got leftovers? Shave it for epic Philly cheesesteaks.

Eggs

Do you serve breakfast? Eggs are the ultimate protein. You can cook up a mess of righteous poached eggs in your CVap oven. A CVap oven can cook dozens and dozens of poached eggs in a single load. You can easily keep a breakfast buffet fully stocked. Poached eggs are the perfect center for great eggs benedict.

Wings

Chicken wings are crazy popular. Add wings to your menu to pop up sales. Stage the wings in the CVap, then pop them in a fryer or onto a grill when ordered. The wings will fly out of the kitchen (pun intended) in a fraction of the time it takes to cook from raw.

Baking

Proofing

CVap ovens and cabinets are great proofers—proof focaccia, brioche…practically any dough. CVap is the perfect proofer. These unique cabinets can maintain a warm, slightly moist environment that helps yeast get down to the business of rising.

Cake

Expand your dessert offerings with goodies like crème brulé, flourless chocolate cake, or carrot cake. These (and lots more) bake perfectly in a CVap oven.

Something Different

Expand Your Menu

Flex your CVap oven for different purposes around the clock. Use as an oven to cook overnight, then use for holding takeaway food during the day.

Do you serve a lot of rice? You can hold rice and popular partner dishes like chicken teriyaki in the same CVap. It’s already set at the perfect holding temperature for both. One of our big chain customers uses this with excellent results.

Expand Your Menu

Is your school using a CVap Retherm Oven for school pizza? Try retherming soups, cooking vegetables, or baking tater tots. You’ll love the results.

Expand Your Menu

Dehydrate! If you’re familiar with CVap technology, you probably think it is humidified. But you can turn off the vapor heat and use air heat alone to dehydrate fruits, veggies, herbs, and even jerky. It’s a great way to introduce unusual products to your menu.

Add some healthier options to your menu by steaming in your CVap oven. Unlike typical commercial steamers, CVap ovens can low-temp steam at 200°F Vapor and 200°F Air. It’s 100 percent humidity at a gentler temperature. It’s perfect for veggies and more delicate foods like finfish and shellfish.

Versatility rules the day with CVap ovens. You can cook just about anything in them. Do you have an idea we haven’t mentioned here? Reach out to us. Our corporate chef and culinary team can advise you on the best way to accomplish it.

Key Features to Look for When Buying the Best Pressure Fryer

Buying the Best Pressure Fryer
Buying the Best Pressure Fryer

People love fried chicken. A recent poll found that a whopping 95 percent of Americans like eating fried chicken. The southern staple has grown in popularity for the past 50 years (thanks primarily to good ol’ Colonel Sanders and his addictive herbs and spices). Fried chicken is a butt-kicking addition to any menu.

If you plan to serve lots of fried chicken, consider buying a pressure fryer. These fryers are fast and cook excellent fried chicken. An added benefit to pressure frying is its lower cooking temperature. Pressure fryers cook at a much lower oil temperature than open fryers. Pressure fryers typically operate in the 285°F to 310°F range, versus the open fryer’s 350°F to 375°F range. Cooking under pressure at lower temperatures results in very moist chicken and longer oil life. 

There are key features and qualities to look for when buying a pressure fryer.

Ease of Use

Good help is hard to find. The last thing you want is a fryer that requires a rocket scientist to operate. The simpler it is, the better.

Collectramatic® fryers have had the same simple design for over 50 years. They are the epitome of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sure, over the decades, they’ve been improved with additional safety features and computerized controls. But the basic mechanics of them are pretty much unchanged. They are push-button-easy to operate. Minimal moving parts also make them easy to fix.

foodservice products Collectramatic LP46 Pressure Fryer foodservice products

Cold Zone

Oil (or shortening) is the lifeblood of fryers and a major ongoing expense. If you can extend the life of your oil, it’s money in your pocket. A fryer’s cold zone sounds counterintuitive, but it serves a purpose. The cold zone is an area near the base of the fryer’s cookpot (or cooking vessel). Bits of breading inevitably break off as chicken fries. 

If these bits, or cracklings, remain in the hot cooking zone, they will scorch and eventually ruin the cooking oil. The cold zone uses gravity filtration and thermal circulation to collect the cracklings as they sink through the cookpot. This prevents them from burning, extending the life of the cooking oil, and reducing the need for filtering. The cold zone also helps save on labor, as you can cook up to 20 rounds of chicken before stopping to filter.  

An added benefit to pressure frying is its lower cooking temperature. Pressure fryers cook at a much lower oil temperature than open fryers. Pressure fryers typically operate in the 285°F to 310°F range, versus the open fryer’s 350°F to 375°F range. Cooking under pressure at lower temperatures results in very moist chicken and longer oil life. 

Capacity

When it comes to pressure fryers, bigger is better, right? Maybe. It all depends on how much chicken you anticipate serving on an average day. For example, Winston’s Collectramatic Fryers are available in 4-head and 6-head sizes. The 4-head can cook up to 14 pounds of chicken in a single load. The 6-head cooks up to 18 pounds. Winston isn’t the only fryer on the market. There are larger fryers available. But you may want to consider whether it’s better to invest in one larger fryer or two or three smaller ones. For example, three Collectramatic Pressure fryers can cook 18 heads of chicken. Our biggest competitor’s 8-head fryers can only cook 16 heads in the same footprint. And three Collectramatics cost less than two of the other guy’s fryers. It’s simple math – more capacity for less money. Having several gives you more flexibility to deal with the restaurant rush and slow periods. And having more than one fryer allows you to continue cooking even if one of the units goes down for service.

Filtering

Buying the Best Pressure Fryer

Fryers will need to be filtered periodically. Otherwise, your oil will start to get funky, which will also make your chicken funky. Funky chicken is an awesome dance, but nobody wants to eat it. A well-designed fryer is engineered to minimize the need for filtering. Collectramatic fryers, with their cold zone, can cook up to 20 rounds before filtering. This extends oil life, which lowers your operating costs.

Cook Pot

Every pressure fryer has a cook pot. This is the chamber that pressurizes to cook the chicken. They come in two basic configurations: square and round. We recommend a round. The round cylindrical shape encourages oil circulation, which reduces cool spots. Additionally, round pots have a single weld seam, whereas square pots may have seams in each corner. Seams can be a structural weak point. By its nature, a single seam is less likely to cause issues than four seams. A broken seam is often the most expensive part to fix. 

Programmability

Pressure fryers are more complex than having a simple on/off switch. Many customers (including our largest fryer customers) have particular time and temperature settings that they use to achieve the best results. Rather than having to enter settings each time, the best pressure fryers have programmable channels, capable of holding multiple settings.

Winston’s Collectramatic Fryers have eight preprogrammed channels. Each can be re-programmed to suit the user’s needs. The controls can even be programmed with multiple temperatures per channel, to accommodate all menu items.

Winston’s Collectramatic Fryers have eight preprogrammed channels. Each can be re-programmed to suit the user’s needs.

fryer control shadow

Simplicity

It’s a simple fact that the more moving parts a machine has, the more likely that machine is to wear out or break. When it comes to pressure fryers, simpler is better. Collectramatic fryers aren’t the fanciest machines, but they have a reputation as being the most durable pressure fryers out there. A properly maintained Collectramatic can last over 20 years. This is because of a time-tested basic design and the fact that they have very few moving parts. Fancier isn’t always better.

Safety Features

Any machine that combines hot cooking oil and pressure can be dangerous if not used properly. The best pressure fryers are as idiot-proof as possible. Consider what safety features any fryer you’re considering purchasing includes.

Collectramatic fryers have several built-in features. These include:

High-Limit Thermostat

Automatically shuts off if the fryer gets too hot (over 410°F).

DVI Alarm

The DVI (Drain Valve Indicator) alarm sounds and disengages heaters if the power switch is on, and the drain valve is opened. When the heaters are exposed to air while they are engaged, they can start a fire. The DVI alarm instantly alerts the operator that they are creating an unsafe situation.

Lid Lock

Prevents the lid from being opened before the release of pressure through the lid valve.

Aqualert

Software that automatically detects the presence of water in the cookpot. Automatically shuts off the fryer to allow corrections.

Power

power lines

Pressure fryers are either powered by electricity or natural gas. The type you choose will depend mainly on the power you have available at your location. Major metropolitan areas usually offer you a choice, with both utilities readily available. But outside of cities, infrastructure like natural gas lines may not exist. If you’re going with an electric fryer, you’ll want to have an electrician install it. These fryers pull a lot of power. You’ll want a professional to verify that your existing electrical infrastructure is up to the task.

Weigh Your Options

We know, that’s a lot to consider. Pressure fryers ain’t cheap, no matter what brand. Make sure to get the biggest bang for your buck by choosing the fryer that checks the most boxes for your needs. One last thing you might want to consider – Collectramatic Pressure Fryers can also open fry. It’s as simple as leaving the lid open. Believe it or not, that’s a capability most competitors don’t have. If you’re offering other fried foods in addition to chicken, it’s an option you’ll want to calculate into your decision.

Collectramatic Pressure Fryers

Holiday Recipes: CVap® Oven Recipes to Snazz Up Your Holiday Restaurant Menu

Holiday Recipes

The holidays can be a make-or-break time for restaurants. Take advantage of your CVap oven to expand your menu. Your guests are ready to celebrate. These recipes will send ’em home feeling festive and full. It may just help you keep things in the black.

Hanukkah

This year Hanukkah begins on December 18 and ends on December 26. Two perennial Hanukkah favorites are brisket and roasted chicken. We have some great recipes for both.

Retherming Brisket in CVap

Brisket is growing in popularity. In the last decade, it has grown in popularity by 23 percent. Brisket is a relatively tough cut of meat. It must be cooked low and slow to break down its connective tissue. But if you don’t have the time or patience for a traditional cook, CVap can help you save time and effort. By cooking ahead of time and refrigerating, you can serve fresh brisket in a fraction of the time it takes to cook from raw. There are also quality commercial products, such as Hormel’s sliced brisket. These will save tons of time compared to cooking from scratch. Whether thermalizing your brisket or serving a prepacked product, CVap will help satisfy your guests. Read more here: Retherming Brisket in a CVap Oven.

retherming brisket

Beautiful Beef Brisket: Smoky, Juicy, and Tasty!

Do you have the time to cook a traditional brisket? We’ve got you covered. This blog describes how to smoke an incredible brisket: Beautiful Beef Brisket: Smoky, Juicy, and Tasty!

CVap Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables a la Thomas Keller

Are your guests more inclined to prefer chicken over beef? This roasted chicken and root veggie recipe is as hearty as it is easy. Shared with us by our late friend Chef Jim Waley, it’s an adaptation of a recipe by Chef Thomas Keller. Learn how to prepare it here: CVap Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables a la Thomas Keller

Corned Beef in CVap

Some customers will prefer their brisket as corned beef. We tackled that project too. This scratch recipe tested different cook settings to determine the best method for both sliced and shredded corned beef. Please read it here: Corned Beef in CVap.

roast chicken thomas kellar

Christmas

Turkey

Turkey is the center of many Christmas celebrations (not to mention Thanksgiving). Over the years, we’ve tested many turkey recipes in CVap ovens. They all produced excellent results. Rather than giving a synopsis of each recipe, we’ll list them here:

What the Turducken!

Want to give your Christmas celebrants a treat that they’ll never forget? Serve them turducken. Although the word starts with “turd,” it’s a culinary treat that few are willing to invest the time and effort in preparing. Turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken, all layered with dressing. It’s a nutritionist’s nightmare but a diner’s fantasy. If you’re up to the challenge, learn how here: What the Turducken!

Turducken

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, dating from the mid-1960s. It celebrates African-American culture. The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits.” It’s based on the harvest traditions of parts of West and Southeast Africa. It occurs from December 26 to January 1 each year.

Kwanzaa food traditions are varied as the African diaspora. Popular dishes for this holiday are influenced by the cuisines of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the American Deep South.

holiday-recipes

CVap Gumbo Ya Ya!

A fantastic and easy dish to serve your Kwanzaa guests is gumbo. It’s inspired by the cuisine of Louisiana and is packed with robust Cajun flavor. It features chicken, sausage, and crawdads. Please read up on it here: CVap Gumbo Ya Ya!

Shuckin’, Crackin’, and Peelin’ – Let’s Dish Shellfish!

Treat your guests to the flavors of the Gulf Coast with this wide-ranging assortment of shellfish. There’s something here to please every seafood fan. Check out the recipe here: Shuckin’, Crackin’, and Peelin’ – Let’s Dish Shellfish!

New Year's Day

Staging Lobster Tails for Catering

Want to really impress the folks celebrating New Year’s Eve in your restaurant? Nothing is more impressive than lobster tails. It’s hands-down the best part of this celebrated crustacean (and not nearly as challenging to eat as tackling an entire lobster). This recipe takes them from frozen to fantastic in about an hour. Read how here: Staging Lobster Tails for Catering.

The Day After

Yeah, we know, everybody starts a diet on New Year’s Day. But after a night of celebration, some folks are still going to want to start the new year with a great breakfast.

CVap Quiche with Fresh Kale

This quiche is easy and pretty nutritious. Hey, if it’s got kale, it can’t be all bad! Your guests will love it, even if they can’t pronounce it. Whip it up with this recipe: CVap Quiche with Fresh Kale.

retherming brisket

Hassle-Free Sous Vide Style Egg Bite

Are you offering a breakfast buffet for your new year’s patrons? These egg bites are easy to make and hold great in CVap. They are as simple as they are delicious. Read how: Hassle-Free Sous Vide Style Egg Bite.

chicken and waffles

Chicken & Waffles – Damn, It’s Good

So maybe your guests aren’t starting a diet on New Year’s Day. They can go all-out with the classic chicken and waffles. It’s sweet. It’s savory. And damn, it’s good. Read about it here: Chicken & Waffles – Damn, It’s Good.

Essential Kitchen Equipment for New Restaurants: A Checklist

essential kitchen equipment
essential kitchen equipment

Opening a new restaurant is no walk in the park. There are lots of hurdles to bear in mind. According to recent data, one in three restaurants won’t survive its first year. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Talk to folks who have walked the walk of opening a thriving operation. Chef Andy Husbands is a great example. He’s successfully opened five locations of his Boston-based concept, The Smoke Shop. His advice is spot on.

“Use professionals. That is a business planner, an architect, a lawyer, and not your cousin. Use somebody who actually writes restaurant leases. Someone who actually designs restaurants. I know that your friend’s sister is really good at designing, but if she hasn’t designed a restaurant before, you don’t want her making mistakes on your dime.”

Obviously, there are a ton of things to consider for a new restaurant. We’re concentrating on the stuff you’ll need inside this new place, essential kitchen equipment. Specifically, equipment for prepping, cooking, storing, and cold storage. Most commercial kitchens are going to need some mix of the following:

  • Cooking Equipment
  • Cold Storage Equipment
  • Ice Maker
  • Food Prep Surfaces and Equipment
  • Storage Racks and Containers
  • Dish Washing Area

Cooking Equipment

Ovens

When you think about essential kitchen equipment, the first thing that pops into your mind is probably ovens. Commercial ovens aren’t like home ovens. They have higher power and larger capacities. And they’re designed to cook all day, every day. There are a bunch of different types of ovens, and they all come in different sizes. Calculate how much food you will prepare during a typical service to figure out what capacity you’ll need. And don’t forget to lean on your kitchen equipment designer for input.

Oven Types

Conventional Ovens are like ovens found in most homes. They use simple radiant heating elements for cooking food.

Combination ovens or combi ovens are part steamer and part convection oven. Combi ovens are versatile and powerful. They cook faster than any other type of commercial oven. But you will pay for all that speed. They can cost an arm and a leg and aren’t cheap to maintain. If you’re going with a combi, you’ll have to have a vent hood and will have to plumb it to a drain.

Some combi ovens offer lots of bells and whistles. Ask yourself whether you need those fancy features. If they’re not beneficial to your operation, why pay for them? Factor in the repair costs when those extra features break down. You’ll want to weigh the costs versus the benefits before investing in a combi.

Cook and Hold Ovens do exactly that. They cook food and then switch to a holding mode until the food’s ready to be served. They aren’t as fast as combi or retherm ovens, but they make up for that with versatility, precision, and higher food yields. CVap Cook and Hold Ovens are ideal for classic “low and slow” cooking. This boost yields, so you can get more servings from every cut or roast. More servings mean better profits. And because you’re not cooking the hell out of it, food retains more of its natural juices.  

Thermalizers are robust ovens used to reheat prepared cold or frozen foods. When it comes to food safety, time and temperature are important. The more time food spends in the temperature danger zone, the faster bacteria can grow. Thermalizers are designed to push food temps through the zone in under two hours. Winston’s CVap® Retherm Oven is a great example. These retherm ovens don’t just reheat, they are also capable of a wide range of cooking processes, from baking to roasting, to sous vide. Winston’s retherm oven can also automatically switch to hold mode at the end of the cook cycle, taking pressure off the crew.

Microwave Ovens use the same technology as microwaves found in most home kitchens. Commercial models are larger and more powerful. They’re commonly used to retherm individual portions of prepared foods. Even restaurants need to nuke stuff sometimes.

Convection ovens use powerful fans to circulate hot air around the food. This cuts down on hot spots and helps food good more evenly. Convection ovens are perfect for baking. They are fast, but they can dry food out if you’re not careful. It might take a little trial and error to dial in satisfactory results.

Sous Vide

Okay, technically, sous vide is a cooking technique. It’s French for “under vacuum.” It usually involves vacuum-sealing the product in food-grade bags and placing it in an immersion circulator. These circulators keep water at a set temperature. The laws of thermodynamics being what they are, food temperature equalizes with the water temperature. It’s a very precise cooking method. Overcooking is dang near eliminated.

sous vide cvap

Commercial immersion circulators are more powerful than home countertop models. Sous vide can be used for most meats and vegetables. It’s perfect for delicate foods, like fish. Adding spices or oils to the bag before sealing can enhance the flavor. Circulators are not fast cookers. You’ll need to plan to accommodate their slow cook time. Even commercial circulators tend to be fairly small, so you’ll need several circulators to achieve higher volume. Most circulators are placed on countertops so space may be an issue. And many localities require sous vide processes to have an approved HACCP plan, which is another expense. Don’t forget to factor in the need for a vacuum sealer and the cost and labor associated with using the bags.

CVap ovens are ideal for sous vide cooking. Their dual heat system can achieve 100 percent humidity, mirroring the effects of food cooked in an immersion circulator. Since CVap cooks with water vapor instead of a water bath, bags are optional. Additionally, CVap ovens can cook large volumes of food in a small footprint, compared to the expansive countertop space required to cook the same volume in circulators.

Ranges

There are two types of restaurant kitchen ranges – gas and electric. Both have their good and bad points.

Gas ranges utilize live flame, which offers better cooking speed and precision than electric burners. However, they can also be harder to clean.

Electric ranges provide more even cooking and easier cleanup than gas. They take longer to heat up. And utility costs are generally higher than the gas ranges.

Grills

Not every commercial kitchen requires a grill (or griddle) so this may or may not be considered essential kitchen equipment. But if your menu includes burgers, steaks, pancakes, etc., you might consider a grill. Good grills come with a flat griddle surface for making pancakes or grilling sandwiches. Like ovens, you have a choice of gas or electric.

Fryers

Commercial fryers use hot oil or shortening to deep fry products like fried chicken, fries, seafood, appetizers, etc. Smaller restaurants may get by with a countertop model. But if you anticipate serving lots of fried foods, you’ll want to consider a larger floor model.

Commercial fryers are available in gas or electric. Gas fryers tend to cook faster. Electric fryers are usually less expensive to operate. There are dozens of configurations, but they come down to two types – open or pressure. Open fryers are great for fries, seafood, and other fried appetizers. On the other hand, if you’re serving fried chicken, consider a pressure fryer. Pressure frying speeds up the cooking process and makes the final product less greasy.

 

A well-built fryer can last over 20 years (with regular maintenance). Winston’s Collectramatic® fryer line offers both open and pressure models. Winston’s fryers are strictly electric.

As you can imagine, commercial fryers do come with risks. Anything that uses hot oil to cook can be dangerous if misused. Your staff needs to be thoroughly trained on how to operate a fryer safely.

Holding Equipment

Although they aren’t technically cooking equipment, holding equipment allows you to keep hot cooked food at a safe temperature until you serve it. Holding equipment frees up the cooking equipment to allow you to keep on cooking. Some ovens, such as CVap ovens, can function as holding cabinets, offering double duty from the same footprint.

Holding cabinets are commonly available in half or full size. This gives them a capacity difference from four to 14 pans. Like with ovens, the cabinet’s efficiency depends on its technology. The cheapest are dry radiant heat. Humidified cabinets cost more but are much more effective and offer longer hold times. CVap Holding Cabinets offer the longest quality holding times in the industry.

Consider your holding needs when choosing a holding cabinet. If yours is a low-volume operation, you may not need to hold. The higher your traffic, the more likely it is that you will need it. Holding cabinets can be an important crutch to get you around staffing challenges.

Warming drawers are smaller than holding cabinets but serve the same function. They are usually on or under counters. Drawers are great in operations with limited space, like food trucks and concession areas. Because they recover quickly, drawers are a great option where the food must be accessed frequently. They usually hold one to two hotel pans, depending on the configuration. Humidified drawers are more precise than radiant heat. CVap Hold & Serve Drawers, like other CVap products, offer the best quality hold in the industry.

There are lots of other appliances available for keeping food hot. These include countertop food warmer bins, soup warmers, heat lamps, and steam tables. Think about your menu when deciding what holding solution is best for you.

Cold Storage Equipment

Freezers and Refrigerators

Another must have for any restaurant is refrigeration. Without a fridge, you can’t keep perishable food fresh. Likewise, freezers are crucial for inventory management.

Industrial-grade refrigeration units are designed to meet the requirements of foodservice operations. They are available as reach-in or walk-in units. Although walk-in fridges and freezers have more storage space, smaller restaurants may not need a walk-in.

Be familiar with the maintenance requirements of your refrigeration equipment, as it can be expensive to repair. If a faulty unit reaches unsafe temperatures, it can ruin your inventory and put customers’ health at risk.

Blast chillers are designed to cool foods quickly. The Temperature Danger Zone is as important when cooling food as it is when heating it. Simply placing hot food in a refrigerator to cool may not chill it fast enough. Blast chillers can cool large quantities of food quickly. While they aren’t necessary for every kitchen, they’re a great tool.

Ice Maker

You’ll probably need an ice maker if you’re serving any kind of beverage. Beyond icing drinks, they can also be used to fill bins for keeping canned and bottled beverages cool or as ice baths for food in hotel pans. Factors to consider when choosing an ice machine include capacity and cube shape. The ice maker should also be easy to drain and clean so that old ice or contaminants aren’t lingering in the depths of the ice.

Food Prep Equipment

Food Processors

Another essential kitchen equipment is food processors. They are great for slicing, chopping, blending, and pureeing. They’re handy for making dressings, dips, and sauces.

The more horsepower a processor has, the longer it can operate without bogging down or overheating. Likewise, the processor’s rotations per minute (RPM) affect how efficiently the blade cuts. There are a few different food processor types to consider.

Batch bowl processors are the same type most home cooks are familiar with. Staff simply choose their preferred blade, drop the food in, and collect it in the integral bowl.

Continuous-feed food processors are more of a workhorse. As the name indicates, continuous feed processors run continuously, dropping the food into a separate bowl. They are ideal for high-volume kitchens.

Buffalo choppers are among the most powerful and heavy-duty food processors. They have metal parts and sharp rotating blades sturdy enough to process meat. It’s more of a specialty item. Not every kitchen needs one.

Mixers

Most restaurant kitchens will need a commercial mixer. These are designed for frequent use.

Hand mixers are ideal for quickly blending soups and sauces, chopping up ingredients, and emulsifying dressings.

Countertop mixers work well for smaller restaurants that only need occasional mixing.

Floor mixers are ideal for high-volume commercial kitchens. These huge heavy-duty mixers stand on the floor and have the power to mix massive quantities of ingredients quickly.

Slicers

Commercial slicers are used for slicing meats and cheeses. Horsepower always indicates how long the slicer can run without overheating or bogging down. Check out the slicer’s blade kits and make sure the size works for the type of food you’ll be slicing.

Prep Surfaces and Cutting Boards

Prep tables, counters, and cutting surfaces are essential kitchen equipment. The best prep surfaces are stainless steel. Stainless is tough, doesn’t absorb bacteria, and can withstand the harsh cleaning products used in commercial kitchens.

When it comes to cutting boards, your choices are plastic or wood. Plastic boards are easier to sanitize but can develop deep grooves that can hide bacteria. Wooden boards are tougher to clean than plastic ones but don’t develop grooves as easily.

Consider adopting a color-coded system for cutting boards help prevent cross-contamination.

Storage and Containers

Storage Racks and Shelving

An organized storage shelving system streamlines your kitchen. It keeps the most-used kitchen equipment and supplies within arm’s reach. Likewise, store the stuff that’s used less frequently on the top and bottom shelves. The bottom shelf must be at least six inches off the floor to meet health codes.

Mobile storage racks are handy. They’re commonly sized to fit 20 standard sheet pans and are great for storing and transporting food.

Storage Containers

Storage containers, such as plastic bins and hotel pans, make every cook’s job easier. Pair these with good tape and markers to clearly label containers with contents and dates. It will make FIFO easier.

Dishwashing Area

Every restaurant will need a designated dishwashing area. Small operations may be able to get away with a simple triple sink setup (for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing). Larger restaurants will want to consider a commercial dishwasher, which can handle a much larger volume of dishes. As with planning in other areas of the restaurant, contemplate your anticipated need when choosing a dishwashing option. Check local health codes to see what is required for your location.

Although it’s not really part of dishwashing, having the proper number of handwashing sinks available to your staff is equally important. It’s something every health inspector will look for.

Sourcing Restaurant Equipment

It is advisable to reach out to a foodservice consultant, manufacturer’s rep, or equipment dealer to guide you, particularly if you plan to buy all-new equipment.

Buying used equipment is an option. There are caveats to buying used. While used equipment is often still in great shape, you don’t know if it’s been properly maintained or works as it should. Used equipment isn’t usually covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, so you’re fully responsible for repairs.

Begin your search with a little online investigation. Numerous large online equipment dealers can help narrow down your search. Interested in Winston’s products? Fill out our contact form. We’ll be glad to help.

Food Warmers Vs. Rethermalizers: Uses, Types, and Benefits

rethermalizer vs warmer

Having the right tools for the job makes all the difference. In a commercial kitchen, food rethermalizers and food warmers are two important tools. You might think these appliances do the same thing. However, their function is very different. Each has unique benefits.

What is a Rethermalizer?

In general, rethermalizers are appliances designed specifically to reheat prepared foods from a chilled or frozen state of less than 40°F to a temperature of more than 165°F safely and quickly. They don’t require food to be slacked or thawed before retherming. Rethermalizers must be capable of boosting food temperature through the “Danger Zone” (between 40°F and 140°F) in under two hours (not to be confused with Kenny Loggin’s classic Danger Zone). This is critical because bacteria reproduction goes into overdrive within that temperature range, doubling every 20 minutes. Once food passes 140°F those little bacterial bastards are killed off.

Most rethermalizers use water as a heat transfer medium.

rethermalizer vs warmer

Uses for a Rethermalizer

Just as the name implies, rethermalizers reheat food. They are especially useful in operations that prepare and freeze large batches of food ahead of time. Ideal menu items for retherming include soups, casseroles, sauces, pasta, vegetables, bread, desserts, and meats.

We all know that finding good help right now is a royal pain in the butt. With no end in sight to the tight labor market, it’s important to have tools that are easy to use and don’t need a lot of babysitting. Rethermalizers are a great option. They’re push-button simple, and most feature an automatic hold function. Many have programmed cooking functions, so staff can just load them up and push start.

Types of Rethermalizers

There are four basic types of rethermalizers: water bath, induction, combi oven, and CVap® Retherm Ovens. The first two are typically countertop appliances (though some large floor models are found in QSR chains). The latter two are usually floor models.

Bain Marie or water-filled rethermalizers use a water well to reheat food quickly and gently. Although this type can be a more economic option, there are a couple of disadvantages. Water-filled rethermalizers need about 15 minutes to preheat before adding the product. And it’s necessary to check the water level about every two hours. Allowing the water level to drop too low can damage the unit and burn the food.

Some water bath rethermalizers are sous vide immersion circulators. Food is prepped and sealed in vacuum bags. It can be cooked right away, or chilled or frozen for later use. The bagged products are placed directly in the heated water bath. Once it reaches serving temp food can remain in the water bath until serving. The water bath prevents it from overcooking or cooling down.

Induction rethermalizers remain cool until an induction-ready inset is placed inside. They are very efficient since no energy is expended in preheating. Virtually all heat is inducted directly into the food, quickly retherming it. Because induction units don’t utilize water baths, they won’t develop the funky scaling that can develop in water bath appliances.

rethermalizer vs warmer
foodservice products

Combi ovens are popular for rethermalizing. Combis get their name from their combination of hot steam and hot convected air to quickly retherm food. They are hella fast, and hella powerful. But they’re also hella expensive and can be pretty damned complicated to use. Speaking of expensive, you’ll want to factor in the required chemicals and maintenance that combis must have.

Like CVap Retherm Ovens, combis don’t just thermalize. Most are capable of a wide range of other cooking processes.

CVap Retherm Ovens use heated water vapor as their primary heat source. This means you can retherm in a CVap oven with or without vacuum bags. It’s like sous vide, without the mess. CVap ovens can also roast, steam, bake, sous vide, low-temp steam, proof, and more. You can even use them as food warmers. They automatically shift from cooking to holding mode at the conclusion of their cooking cycle.

Rethermalizers vs. Food Warmers

Rethermalizers can be used as food warmers. But food warmers cannot be used as rethermalizers. They perform very different functions. Rethermalizers are designed to quickly heat food to safe temperatures. Although food warmer might sound like it does the same thing, that’s not the case. Food warmers are designed to keep hot cooked food at a safe temperature. They aren’t designed to heat up cold food. If anybody tells you different, they are either pulling your leg or are ignorant to the basic functions of kitchen equipment.

What is a Food Warmer?

Food warmers maintain food temperatures above the minimum safe temperature of 140°F. They are called several different things: warmers, holding cabinets, hot boxes, warming drawers, etc. Food warmers are great for operations that have predictable rush periods, like school cafeterias and fast-food restaurants. They allow cooking to be done ahead of the rush. Food is held hot until serving. This allows more efficient use of the staff on hand. Just like rethermalizers, many warmers rely on heated water in some form to provide continuous heat.

Uses of a Food Warmer

As the name implies, food warmers keep food warm. They are useful in rush traffic situations and in operations that need to serve throughout the day. Food warmers help provide quick service by minimizing prep time.

food warmer

Types of Food Warmers

Food warmers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are simple, such as chafing dishes, heat lamps, warming shelves, and heated strips. The simpler warmers are only good for short-term holding, like on a serving line.

Countertop warmers are next up in the holding hierarchy. They include kettles, bins, and drawers. Kettles are great for soups and sauces. Bins usually hold full or fractional pans, so you can hold different products together (if they share similar settings). Warming drawers are great because they have a closed environment, enabling more precise control of food temperature. Drawers take up relatively little space, making them ideal for food trucks, concessions, and other operations where space is critical.

Finally, the largest food warmers are holding cabinets. These are available in under-counter, half, or full-sized configurations. They let you hold lots of food in a small footprint.

Just as there are different types of food warmers, there are also different technologies behind them.

Warmer Technologies

Dry warmers are just that. These drawers or cabinets, also known as “hot boxes,” use simple electrical heating elements to heat the unit interior. Because they don’t add moisture to the unit’s atmosphere, they can only hold for a short time before food quality starts to drop. Inevitably, food will start to lose its moisture. Not only does this dry the food out, but it also causes food temperature to drop (because evaporation is a cooling process).

Passive humidity warmers add a water bath to the unit’s interior. They are an improvement over dry warmers because the addition of a water bath means moisture isn’t being provided solely by the food itself. They are better than dry units but are less accurate than more sophisticated warmers.

Humidified warmers offer better temperature accuracy. Their internal water bath is temperature-controlled, which extends holding time.

The most accurate warmers are Winston’s CVap (controlled vapor) holding cabinets and warming drawers. CVap uses a dual-heat system of dry air heat and moist vapor heat. This means that CVap warmers precisely control food temperature and maintain the desired surface texture. CVap is equally effective at holding crisp or moist foods for extended times.

Rethermalizer vs. Warmer: Differences

As described previously, the biggest difference between rethermalizers and warmers is their function. Rethermalizers reheat or cook food. Food warmers do not. As mentioned before, you can hold food in a rethermalizer, but you cannot cook in a food warmer. Rethermalizers are designed for speed and require much more electrical power than warmers.

Rethermalizer vs Warmers: Similarities

Rethermalizers and warmers share some similarities. Many use some form of water or water vapor as the thermal medium to cook or hold food. Since water is efficient at heat transfer more energy is directed into the food than is wasted in the atmosphere.

Rethermalizer and warmers may have similar appearances. Although there may be some overlap in function, they serve different primary purposes.

The Best Practices for Oil Filtration

Best Practices for Oil Filtration

Americans love our fried foods. According to some estimates, as much as a third of the U.S. population eats fried food every day. Fried foods are fast, convenient, and dang tasty. What do all fried foods have in common? Oil. And the #1 way to keep that oil working for you is to adopt the best practices for oil filtration.

Oil (or shortening) is the muscle behind frying. A highly effective cooking medium, it quickly transfers thermal energy into food. Frying under pressure boosts that speed even further. The core truth of frying is that your food will only be as good as your oil. You could be frying the most amazing products, but if your oil is crappy, your food will be crappy. You’ve got to show your oil some love.

Best Practices for Oil Filtration

Oil isn’t cheap. It’s one of the most significant operating expenses for some operations. Adopting best practices extends oil life, allowing you to get maximum use out of every drop. Critically, the most effective way to maintain oil is by filtering. Every fryer manufacturer has its own recommended filter procedure. We’re discussing the best practices for Collectramatic® fryers.

Passive and Active Oil Filtration

Filtering takes two forms: passive and active. Both are important.

Passive filtering involves passing the oil through a filter medium to remove particulate matter. Winston’s Shortening Filter is designed specifically for use with Collectramatic Fryers. However, you may use our filter with virtually any commercial fryer. It uses paper filter material to passively filter oil. The filtering process is simple. You can view it here.

Active filtering involves using a chemical powder to polish the oil. It acts like a magnet that attracts and removes food debris and extracts soluble liquid impurities, dissolved flavorants, and odors that spoil fried food. Examples of filter powers are Fryclone and Magnesol. Although active filtering isn’t needed as frequently as passive filtering, it is equally important. Winston recommends polishing the oil at least once each day

fryer accessories
fryer accessories

How Often Should you Filter?

Collectramatic fryers have a unique design that reduces the frequency of filtering. Nonetheless, our fryers need periodic filtering to maintain high quality. How often depends on the fryer size. The six-head fryer needs filtering approximately every 20 rounds (or 360 pounds of chicken). The smaller four-head fryer needs it every 30 rounds. Or put another way, oil should be filtered after 120 heads of chicken have been cooked. And as mentioned before, we recommend polishing the oil at least once daily.

Why Bother Filtering?

It’s all a matter of taste or flavor. Anything that negatively affects the flavor of your oil will have a similar effect on the food in the fryer. Filtering removes cracklings, debris, impurities, and other materials that can spoil oil flavor. Without the best practices for oil filtration, this will happen sooner rather than later.

Oil degradation isn’t limited to cracklings and contaminants. It’s also subject to oxidation and breakdown from excessive heat. The hotter the cooking temperature, the faster oil will break down. You will replace all oil eventually, but regular filtering and polishing will enable you to maximize its lifecycle.

Of course, you always have the option of just dumping your oil and refilling with fresh oil. But then again, you can pile cash behind your building and light it on fire too. The results are the same.

10 Food Safety Tips for Commercial Kitchens

food safety tips

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly twenty percent of foodborne illnesses are caused by poor food safety. In real-world numbers, that’s approximately 3,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. No commercial kitchen operator wants to be the source of an illness outbreak. There are several steps you can take to minimize the risk. Check out these food safety tips to ensure your kitchen stays safe for your customers, your employees, and your bottom line.

Maintaining clean and safe conditions for your food prep areas is critically important. Salmonella and other dangerous bacteria cause serious illness. Knowing how to ace health department inspections ensures you can operate a safe and clean kitchen. Additionally, it gives the operator peace of mind.

Commercial and industrial kitchens can be very hectic, making it challenging to ensure that everything is done properly. But following these ten safety tips will protect the health and safety of your customers and staff.

Washing Hand

The simplest food safety tip is also the most important. Wash your dang hands. This means providing a dedicated hand washing station for your staff in a commercial kitchen. This minimizes cross-contamination. Even trace amounts of bacteria can sicken someone, so hand washing is a priority. Soapy hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds under running water. Make it easy for your team by recommending they sing the Alphabet song or Happy Birthday in their heads while washing their hands.

food safety tips

Stay Home When Sick

This is another no-brainer, but it continues to be an issue. The CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) surveyed nearly 500 food workers. The results showed that five percent of workers admitted to preparing food while they were suffering from vomiting or diarrhea. Doing so puts their customers’ health at risk. Gastrointestinal illnesses, such as Norovirus and E. coli, are incredibly contagious. It takes as few as 18 viral particles to make someone sick. And many contagions can survive the cooking process.

Allowing sick workers to be present in your operation puts all your customers and staff at risk. Offering sick pay to workers indeed carries a cost. But removing the financial pressure for workers to “power through” an illness can protect your business and reputation. And in these days of chronic labor shortage, including a sick pay benefit can be another incentive for folks to join your team.

Use Gloves, But Use Them Right

Workers should be wearing kitchen gloves when preparing food. This food safety tip is a tricky one because they need to understand that they can’t use the same gloves for every ingredient. Gloves must be changed when moving from raw meat and poultry to cooked food. Failure to do so can spread contaminants to the customer’s food, leading to food poisoning. Providing an ample supply of gloves for your workers is important. Training staff on proper glove use is time well spent.

food safety tips

Washing Food Properly

Make sure fruits and vegetables are washed. Even produce that will be peeled or skinned must be washed. Not doing so risks spreading bacteria from the outside of the product to the inside.  Fruits and vegetables should be washed under cold running water. To add an extra layer of safety, use an FDA-approved fruit and vegetable rinse. Check with your health department to see which options are recommended in your area.

food safety tip

It's All About the Temperature

Food temperature is absolutely the most important factor in food safety. Assuring that food transitions quickly through the temperature danger zone (40°F to 140°F) is paramount. Likewise, it’s important to know all proteins’ minimum safe internal temperature. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sets the standards for beef, pork, poultry, and seafood. When reheating cooked food, it is important to reach a minimum of 165°F. Care should also be taken when verifying food temperatures so that thermometers don’t inadvertently cross contaminates.

temperature

If cooked food is to be held hot, it’s equally important to verify that food temperature doesn’t drop into the danger zone.

Winston’s CVap® technology is an industry leader when it comes to safe food temperatures. CVap’s unique dual-heat system is designed to help food transition quickly through the temperature danger zone. Once the desired doneness temperature is achieved, CVap can maintain food at the desired temperature for an extended period without sacrificing food quality. It truly is a game changer.

Implementing and maintaining a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) plan is advisable.  This is a plan with a preventative approach to food safety. www.fda.gov

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Naturally, many foodborne illnesses arise from accidental cross-contamination, where bacteria are spread from raw meat or poultry to other foods. Utilize separate cutting boards for raw produce, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Consider labeling each board with its intended purpose or use a color-coded system. Be sure to keep boards separate from one another. Likewise, use separate utensils and meat thermometers.

food safety tips

Stay Cool and Separate

Refrigeration and freezing are the primary methods for storing foods. Raw meat and poultry should be kept separate from other foods, especially vegetables, prepared sauces, and anything else that requires little preparation. The FDA advises that food should be cooled to 41°F or below and cooled in a way that provides ventilation, so air can circulate around the food. Make sure meat doesn’t drip and contaminate other food. Cut vegetables should never be left out at room temperature but properly stored away. Never store food on the floor either, and have a thermometer in the refrigerator, not just the freezer.

As stated before, it’s important for food to quickly transition through the danger zone when cooking. It’s just as important for food to cool quickly, to pass through the zone in as little time as possible. Blast chillers are optimal for this, but not every commercial kitchen has one. It’s advisable to store food in shallow containers rather than large vessels to increase the exposed food surface and allow more heat to dissipate. Another option is to place food containers in an ice bath, which will facilitate the chilling effect.

It’s important to understand the role of cold storage and food safety. Refrigeration does not stop bacteria from reproducing but does slow it down. That’s why keeping track of how long a product has been refrigerated is important. Once it’s outside the safe window, it should be discarded.

food safety tips

Freezing, on the other hand, stops bacterial growth. However, bacteria are still present in frozen food. Once thawed, all relevant safety protocols must still be followed.

Although food temperature requirements vary, it’s a good rule of thumb to consider any food that has been in the danger zone for more than four hours to be unsafe and thrown away.

Clean and Sanitize Prep Surfaces and Equipment

Your staff needs a proper workstation and equipment to do their job. Use hot soapy water or a small amount of commercial bleach or cleaner on cutting boards, dishes, countertops, etc. It’s equally important to keep your equipment clean. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing ovens, holding cabinets, grills, and other commercial equipment.

As is the case with many food safety factors, it’s advisable to check with your health department for specific recommendations.

clean
clean
clean

Label Food

The mantra with food is FIFO (First In, First Out). Label food with its arrival date and expiration date, and make sure stock is rotated so that the older stock is used first. Be aware of expiration dates and follow them. The golden rule is “if in doubt, throw it out.” Saving a few pennies by using expired products can cost you dearly if it causes an outbreak of foodborne illness.

Staff Training

Your operation is only as good as your staff. That makes it critical to properly train your staff in all aspects of food safety. Failure to train can lead to shortcuts and a lack of awareness, increasing the risk of your customers getting sick. Each new staff member must be properly trained, both in what to do and what not to do.

An excellent source for food safety is FoodSafety.gov. You can keep up with any food safety recalls, cooking tips and other important information.

food safety tips