What is a Warming Drawer?

warming drawer

A warming drawer is an electrical appliance used by commercial foodservice operators. Their function is to hold and warm food that will not be served immediately fresh, flavorful. 

The Industry refers to them as many other names. Some call them warming drawers, food warmers, hot-boxes, holding drawers, hot cabinets, heated food cabinets, etc. Whatever you call them, a warming drawer can help streamline your operation. This product is a reliable way to keep staple menu items hot and fresh. Ordinary, you can find warming drawers at buffets, cafeterias, and restaurants because they make it easier to keep up with demand. Most importantly, they allow the operator to remain confident in the quality and safety of the food they are serving. CVap® Hold and Serve Drawers have an operating range of 90 to 180°F. The maximum temperature of CVap warming drawers is 250°F.

For example, high-volume food products such as bread rolls are kept warm for immediate serving. Also, perishable foods such as meats stay above 140°F to prevent spoiling; moreover, guests dine safely. In order to do this, set and adjust temperatures with the electronic differential controls. These controls automatically monitor and adjust the drawer temperature. Watch this video for a quick, quirky rundown of CVap drawers.

What Are Warming Drawers Used For?

warming drawer
  • Specifically, drawers are used on the serving line to keep hot components of daily specials ready to churn out, cutting down on cooking times.
  • Servers and front-of-the-house staff use them to hold sides such as nachos, tortillas, breadsticks, and rolls.
  • Also, caterers use them to hold pans of cooked food before departing for events.
  • Drawers are great for holding a variety of foods, such as soft and moist to crisp or fried.
  • In addition to food, you can warm plates, bowls, cups, and other oven-safe dinnerware in drawers.
  • Finally, drawers are used at low temperatures to proof bread dough.

Never use warming drawers for...

  • Cooking or reheating food, especially potentially hazardous foods because we do not design drawers for cooking.
  • Warming plates or dinnerware that is not oven-safe.
  • Heating plastic wrap or conventional plastic containers because will melt and ruin food.
  • Also hazardous, aluminum lining or any other type of foil.

Is a Hold and Serve Drawer Worth the Investment?

Drawer warmer is a wise investment for high-volume menu items and ingredients. Cooking and holding them ahead will help you save time and sell more products. Consider these three questions when investing in drawers for your kitchen. Firstly, how many pieces of equipment does your operation require? Secondly, what type of product do you need to hold in them? Thirdly, where will they be placed?

If catering is your forte, or you find yourself frequently preparing for events, a warmer drawer will help you maintain that just-cooked look and taste. It’s a satisfying balance of achieving quality and quantity. A food warmer can serve as one of the workhorses of your kitchen and ease concerns you might have when large groups arrive. If the need is there, this versatile piece of equipment may be well worth the investment.

Benefits of Holding Drawers

Holding Drawers are an energy-efficient alternative to microwaves and conventional ovens to hold hot food.

They keep food fresh, flavorful, and visually appealing.

Allows you to cook food ahead of time, which frees up labor during peak serving times.

Simple, intuitive controls make it easy for even inexperienced cooks or servers to operate.

Provides a designated space for hot food holding which does not need to be nearby cooking equipment (e.g., an oven or microwave).

It frees up space on griddles and ranges and in ovens and microwaves, which kitchens sometimes use as warmers.

Typical Features of Warming Drawers

Variable Temperature

Digital or thermostatic controls allow you to select the desired temperature suitable for specific foods. CVap drawers feature digital electronic differential controls, and therefore never need calibration.

Vents

Vents allow airflow control to manipulate moisture and humidity to maintain the quality of different foods. For instance, CVap technology allows our drawers to operate without vents for even more control.

Heat Indicator Light

Indicator lights alert the operator when it reaches the desired temperature. CVap warmers indicate the temperature, therefore making heat lights unnecessary.

Mobility

Casters or legs offer different degrees of mobility, while a built-in design allows for discreet, permanent installation. Casters are available as an option on CVap Hold and Serve Drawers.

Different Types of Warming Drawers

All warming drawers perform the same primary function of holding food at serving temperature. However, different models can serve multiple purposes. Some units, like rice warmers, are designed to warm specific types of food and even utensils. Below, you’ll find comparisons of the common styles and types.

Types of Controls

Thermostatic Controls

  • Easy for anyone to use.
  • Typically include an on/off switch and a temperature dial.
  • The control may or may not have actual temperatures listed, and some interfaces opt for number settings corresponding to temperatures.
  • Some may also include a temperature gauge or a heat indicator light.

Digital Controls (includes CVap’s electronic differential controls)

  • Simple, intuitive controls.
  • Typically have a digital or physical power button/switch.
  • Up and down arrows typically control temperature and time settings.
  • Heat indicator light (on some brands).
  • LCD screen displays time and temperature settings; it may also display error codes.

How to Use a Commercial Warming Drawer

With proper training, using a warming drawer is simple, regardless of your crew’s experience level. Though control options may vary across models, the same essential functions apply to all drawers. After you’ve selected the proper warming drawer for your needs, ensure that it is securely resting or installed in an ideal location. Use the following tips and instructions for optimal results.

Voltage

Power your unit with an outlet suitable for the voltage rating of the drawer. Here’s a quick run-through of the typical voltage ratings available:

  • 120V warmers (CVap drawers operate at this voltage)
  • 208V warmers
  • 230V warmers
  • 240V warmers
  • 208/240V warmers

Temperature Setting

After powering the unit on, be sure to set it to the desired temperature and allow it to preheat. Preheating may take up to 30 minutes for high settings. Preheating ensures that hot food will not fall below the desired temperature. If your unit has a heat indicator light, it will illuminate or shut off (depending on the model) to indicate that the temperature is ready.

Digital displays will likely also provide a visual indication of a set temperature or actual temperature. After preheating, place hot food in the drawer as soon as possible, using drawer warmer accessories such as high-heat plastic or stainless steel food pans, if needed. Refer to the following table for a basic overview of food-safe internal temperatures for meat and seafood.

warming drawer

Airflow Control

If your model has them, the vents are located on the front of warming drawers to adjust the air entering the drawer. The more opened the vents are, the more air enters the drawer, ultimately decreasing the moisture level. Dry foods that do not require moisture, such as tortilla chips, will retain a perfect crunch with little to no humidity.

Moisture

Closing the vents allows you to maintain the moisture level inside a drawer. Keeping vents closed retains some of the natural moisture levels for foods that should stay moist. Fill a stainless steel pan with water to increase the drawer’s humidity. Doing so will prevent food like grilled chicken from drying out. To further increase the moisture and resulting humidity of a drawer to accommodate foods prone to drying out. Place a splash baffle inside the pan to prevent splashing when you move the drawer. Set another slightly smaller pan inside the first pan and fill it with the food that requires additional humidity. Also, for the best outcome, do not remove it from the warming drawer for the duration of holding.

CVap drawers, on the other hand, are powered by heated water vapor. CVap differs from other technology in that it directly utilizes heated vapor to control food temperature. Because CVap technology supplies the steam, foods can retain their internal moisture, preserving flavor and nutrients while keeping temperatures steady.

Proofing Dough

Similarly, keeping dinnerware warm before plating and serving is another less conventional use for drawer warmers. Though it’s not the most economical use for your unit, some do so without reservation, based on the notion that some dishes are improved when served on a warmed plate. The food maintains better flavor and consistency. Also, the meal stays warm longer when using preheated plates, bowls, or other dinnerware.

CVap drawers, on the other hand, are powered by heated water vapor. CVap differs from other technology in that they utilize heated vapor to directly control food temperature rather than doing so passively, as other “humidified” drawers do. Because CVap technology supplies the vapor, foods can retain their internal moisture, preserving flavor and nutrients while keeping temperatures steady.

Warming Dinnerware

Similarly, keeping dinnerware warm before plating and serving is another less conventional use for drawer warmers. Though it’s not the most economical use for your unit, some do so without reservation, based on the notion that some dishes are improved when served on a warmed plate. The food maintains better flavor and consistency. Also, the meal stays warm longer when using preheated plates, bowls, or other dinnerware.

CVap drawers, on the other hand, are powered by heated water vapor. CVap differs from other technology in that they utilize heated vapor to directly control food temperature rather than doing so passively, as other “humidified” drawers do. Because CVap technology supplies the vapor, foods can retain their internal moisture, preserving flavor and nutrients while keeping temperatures steady.

Cleaning Tips & Instructions

warming drawer

Clean Daily

To ensure that you are continuously operating in a food-safe manner, clean the drawers of your unit and any inserts daily, giving the exterior a good wipe down as needed.

turn off warming drawer

Turn it Off

Before cleaning, be sure to turn off or unplug the unit first to avoid any potential hazards. Also, allow any equipment to cool down for at least an hour before cleaning or servicing.

IMG_8545

External Cleaning

Never immerse any part of your unit, including the power cord, in water. When cleaning the exterior surface only, use a damp rag. Use a minimal amount of warm, soapy water or utilize cleaners and polishes designed explicitly for stainless steel. Avoid any areas containing electrical components. Furthermore, avoid any surfaces that come into contact with food.

sponge

Synthetic Scrubbers

Use a minimally abrasive synthetic fiber scouring pad or sponge. Clean with a mild cleanser to remove water scale and dried-on food. Do not use steel wool or other highly abrasive scouring pads. Avoid damage to the passive coating of the stainless steel. Abrasions in the coating layer can cause issues such as corrosion and rust.

IMG_8539

Remove Drawers

Lift the drawers themselves off their tracks and hand wash as needed using the handwashing method above.

Remove Pans

If your unit includes inset drawer pans or liners, remove them, and wash and sanitize in a three-compartment sink or commercial dishwasher.

spray

Remove Lime Scale

Use a 3:1 ratio of water (75%) and white vinegar (25%) to remove limescale and other mineral deposits. Fill the existing water pan or a separate stainless steel pan with the mixture and place it into the unit’s drawer. Power the unit on and allow it to run for 30 minutes, then turn it off. Let the pan sit in the equipment for two or more hours, depending on the severity of the buildup. There are also several commercial limescale removers available on the market.

Advantages of CVap Warming Drawers

Unlike traditional heated holding or low-temperature cooking technologies, temperatures created by CVap technology do not fluctuate. Its gentle vapor heat evenly surrounds food, resulting in better food quality and higher yields.

Contact Winston Foodservice Today

For over 50 years, Winston has provided reliable equipment to help foodservice operators meet the growing demands of their customers. Our sales team and global network of sales representatives are happy to consult with you and help you figure out the best equipment to meet your goals.

Fill out a contact form, or call 800-234-5286 to speak with a member of our team.

What is a Holding Cabinet?

holding cabinet

To explain, holding cabinets are heated appliances designed to hold cooked foods at a safe serving temperature.

Some holding cabinets do this job well and some do not. Of course, the quality depends on the manufacturer and design. Also, holding cabinets are sometimes referred to by other names. For instance, they are called a hot box, warmer, insulated warmer, hold and serve, warming cabinet, and other phrases.

Winston’s CVap® technology started as a holding technology. The challenge was to create an appliance that could keep foods hot and fresh. For example, operations with a drive-thru service rely on holding units to keep food hot and ready for fast delivery. Winston’s founder, Winston Shelton, saw the benefit of the technology. He worked out the science behind the challenge. As a result, CVap technology has been an industry leader ever since.

 

holding cabinet

What are the Benefits of CVap Holding Cabinets?

INCREASED FOOD QUALITY

Foods held in CVap equipment maintain the aesthetics and nutritional quality customers require. Achieve this by maintaining moisture and succulence in foods. The controls allow for flexibility. This enables serving from kiosks, cafeteria lines, chains, and QSR markets.

Maintain precise food temperature

The CVap process controls food temperature precisely. It keeps food safely out of the temperature danger zone. We program CVap equipment controls in compliance with all USDA guidelines. We can assure operators that CVap holding equipment will assist in maintaining safe temperatures. It also enables the documentation and monitoring of food safety plans based on HACCP.

Decreased Food Cost

CVap technology locks in the moisture of food from the start of the holding cycle. This process extends hold times and provides more time for production. Food costs decrease because there will be less low-quality food waste. 

CVap Equipment Versus the Competition

Three categories define CVap’s competition: dry cabinets, passive humidified cabinets, and humidified cabinets.

Dry Cabinets

Advantages

  • Food product is held in a hot atmosphere, facilitating quick service during busy periods.
  • Utilize this cabinet for dehydration (dried meats and vegetables).
  • Minimize cleaning time.
  • Simple to operate.
  • Cost is generally lower.

Disadvantages

  • No humidity means decreased hold times.
  • Heat rises, therefore causing food temperature differences in the cabinet.
  • Utilizes thermostat, which requires calibration and is only accurate within 10°F.
  • Cannot control food temperature precisely.
  • Food quality is not a primary focus.

Passive Humidified Cabinets

Advantages

  • Food product is held in a hot atmosphere, facilitating quick service during busy periods.
  • Increased humidity level in the cabinet, therefore causing better hold times than dry cabinets.
  • Utilize this cabinet for dehydration (dried meats and vegetables).
  • Unlike most holding cabinets, cost is generally lower.
  • Generally better yield than that of dry units.
  • Units are simple to operate.

Disadvantages

  • Small evaporator used, which limits the amount of humidity within units.
  • Water is not heated by a separate heat source, causing uncontrollable food temperatures.
  • Food quality is still secondary compared to other holding cabinets.
  • Unit has significant hot/cold zones throughout the cabinet.
  • Utilizes thermostat, which requires calibration and is only accurate within 10°F.

Humidified Cabinets

Advantages

  • Food product is held in a hot atmosphere, facilitating quick service during busy periods.
  • Large, heated evaporator is adjustable and allows the user to control food better.
  • Extended hold times on all food products (compared to dry and passive units).
  • Good temperature stratification throughout cabinet (minimal hot/cold zones).
  • Better overall food quality than dry and passive humidified cabinets.
  • Increased yield and higher food temperatures.

Disadvantages

  • Cannot control water temperature precisely, therefore resulting in inaccurate food temperature control.
  • Adjust the Humidity level by 0-10 setting, which doesn’t give an exact water temperature.
  • Insulated evaporator will climb past desired settings, which leads to food temperatures overshoot (in some cabinets).
  • Utilizes thermostat, which requires calibration and is only accurate within 10°F.
  • Determine settings by trial and error and for this reason can be confusing.
  • Recommend daily draining and cleaning of the evaporator.
  • Cost is higher than dry and passive humidified cabinets.

CVap Holding Cabinets

Advantages

  • Food product is held at desired serving temperature, facilitating quick service during
  • Hot and ready during busy periods and maintaining safe temperatures during slow periods.
  • Uses differential control to manage food temperature and food texture independently.
  • Differential control adjusts its air temperature to compensate for the water temperature, therefore optimizing texture.
  • CVap system creates a vapor pressure in the cabinet, eliminating hot/cold zones of food temperature.
  • Control has base settings, therefore making it easy to get an initial setting for the customer.
  • Microprocessor eliminates calibration needs and is notably accurate to within 2°F.
  • Best overall food quality and also the most extended holding times in the industry.

Disadvantages

  • Cost is higher than some competition.
  • Some customers don’t require long hold times.
  • Appearance is also similar to humidified cabinets (for example Cres Cor’s Aqua Temp).
  • Recommend daily draining and cleaning of the evaporator.

Passive Humidified Cabinets

CVap humidified holding cabinet

CVap Holding Cabinets

humidified holding cabinet

Humidified Cabinets

Does CVap Equipment Use Humidity?

All CVap cabinets utilize humidity (the amount of water vapor in the air). However, CVap cabinets do not use humidity the same as some competitors’ equipment. Unlike some competitor models, CVap cabinets generate humidity using a vapor bath. This bath is located in the equipment’s base. CVap holding cabinets function with a three-gallon vapor bath. It is also independently heated. The basin heats to the exact temperature that customers choose to hold the food.

Problem Areas – and How CVap Holding Cabinets Can Help

The most common problem area or areas for improvement are:

Ticket Times

The time it takes to serve the desired customer order. The longer the ticket times are the fewer total customers they can fill in one day. Indeed, CVap reduces ticket times, which enables users to seat more people. As a result, businesses make more money.

Food Quality

Poor food quality can result in loss of sales. For example,  poor quality includes dried-out or tough food. Additionally, food that is too chewy or has poor color can turn away customers. Food that is soggy, hard, or overcooked also can cause food waste and loss of revenue.

Shrinkage

This is how much the product reduces weight during holding and deals directly with food costs. In most cases, food products in a dry or humidity cabinet continue to lose weight while holding. Foods that show high shrinkage also are perceived as lower quality.

Employee Skill

Most kitchens today have trouble finding highly skilled employees. Many employees overcook or burn food, increasing food costs. This problem can also result in poor food quality, long ticket times, or an inability to service high volumes of people. Solutions for these problems translate to increased profits!

High Labor Costs

Again, it is tough to get good employees, and many restaurants overstaff to make sure that the job gets done. CVap products allow restaurants to reduce the number of employees on staff, thereby lowering labor expenses.

Food Safety/FDA Compliance

Many facilities are implementing HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), a system developed to minimize risks of injuries and foodborne illnesses. Those establishments who choose not to utilize HACCP must still follow FDA guidelines. CVap equipment is particularly effective in HACCP temperature compliance.

Kitchen Limitations

All restaurants have some form of kitchen limitation. Operators may not have space for more equipment, although they have trouble keeping up with their business. Other operators may want to get more equipment but don’t want to spend the money to get ventilation systems.

Utility Costs

The establishment may be utilizing inefficient equipment related to higher gas, water, or electrical costs. Providing equipment that solves this helps the bottom-line for profit earnings.

Features, Advantages, and Benefits

CVap technology holds foods at precise temperatures for an extended time without losing quality. Cook your food ahead of time. Also, eliminate quality changes in food. Significantly reduce long ticket times.

  • Feature: CVap Technology.
  • Advantage: Cooking or holding for extended times without losing quality.
  • Benefit: Reduce long ticket times

CVap technology utilizes a dual-heat source. CVap precisely controls the large evaporator in the bottom of the holding cabinet and the ambient air temperature in the unit. Therefore, you can adjust your desired food temperature by controlling that evaporator temperature precisely. Also, managing the ambient air temperature lets you adjust the food texture. You can decide if you want the food to be soft, crispy, or any desired consistency. In conclusion, by having this dual-heat source, you can hold rare steaks or crunchy chicken, and your staff should be able to keep up with the rush.

  • Feature: Dual heat source.
  • Advantage: Control food temperature and texture precisely.
  • Benefit: Staff can keep up with the rush (employee skill and ticket times).
holding cabinet

Food Sustainability

  • The key to quality food sustainability is more than the simple heat application. Adding simple humidity isn’t the answer, either. The real key to quality holding is to preserve as much natural product moisture as possible. That’s precisely the gentle holding capability of CVap Technology.
  • CVap keeps hot foods at safe, even temperatures while retaining the maximum amount of product moisture, the natural moisture found in most foods you need to hold.
  • Whether your holding needs are large or small, CVap hot food holding solutions are available in a wide variety of models and can support any food preparation or service by extending the sustainability of the food.

Heated Holding Cabinets

  • Holding units are a mainstay for any successful foodservice operation because they maintain precise food temperatures. CVap doesn’t “soak” foods with moisture. Instead, it helps foods retain their natural water for hours without overcooking or drying out.

Drawer Warmers

  • CVap Hold and Serve Drawers can fit anywhere you need production items held hot because they are available in one- and two-drawer configurations, in both standard and narrow widths. Therefore, you can place them on top or under countertops, on carts, or near serving stations.

Some competitors may attempt to convince you that adding water vapor to held foods lessens taste and result in washed-out food. Frankly, that isn’t true. Heating food causes evaporation. Evaporation is a cooling process. So, if a competitor tells you that no vapor is needed, they aren’t being truthful. If the cabinet isn’t providing the moisture, the food is. Overall, no matter how “gentle” they describe their technology, it doesn’t escape the fact that it loses heat and quality when food loses moisture.

Proofing in Holding Cabinets

  • Every CVap product, from holding cabinets, warming drawers, and ovens, makes excellent proofers! Since these units can operate as either a holding cabinet or a proofing cabinet, they’re ideal for small operations that only have space for one piece of equipment in their kitchen. 

Holding Cabinet Sizes

holding cabinet

Undercounter

  • 34″ tall or less
  • Fits under counters
  • Best for small kitchens
holding cabinet

1/2 Height

  • 36-41″ tall
  • Best for low volume kitchen operations
holding cabinet

Full Height

  • At least 65″ tall
  • Best for high volume kitchen operations

Insulation

All CVap cabinets are insulated. Insulated cabinets help preserve heat within the cabinet more efficiently. As a result, this helps save energy and reduces costs. Use insulated cabinets for transporting food items. For instance, if you need to move a large quantity of product from one place to another, an insulated cabinet is the best way to accomplish this task. An insulated cabinet reduces heat loss and energy consumption by heating the unit and cooling its kitchen environment.

Pros:

  • Energy efficient
  • Great for off-site events such as catering, weddings, etc.
  • Cool to touch exterior
  • Less radiating heat leaves the kitchen cooler

Cons:

  • Higher initial investment

Control Type

CVap holding cabinets are available with either capacitive touch or membrane controls. Both are easy to use and highly accurate.

CVap Door Types

CVap cabinets offer three types of doors: glass, flip-door, and solid. Glass doors allow operators to see the product without opening. As it happens, opening and closing the door frequently causes the cabinet to lose heat. Winston also offers a flip-door configuration on some cabinet models. Similarly, you can see the product through a flip-door. But unlike a glass door, a flip-door model allows quick access to foods without opening the door. Meanwhile, solid doors are extremely energy efficient and create minimal ambient heat.

holding cabinet pass-through door options
GLASS DOORS
holding cabinet flip door options
FLIP-DOORS
holding cabinet door options
SOLID DOORS

Holding Cabinet Door Configuration

Full height warmer cabinets are better for high-volume operation kitchens. CVap full-size cabinets feature Dutch doors because they minimize heat loss when the doors open. A pass-through configuration is also available. You can open a pass-through cabinet from both sides. Not only the front of the line can access the cabinet, but also the back of the line. Further speeding up the rate of production and service.

Holding Cabinets and the New Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic left a lasting impact on restaurants — a stronger emphasis on safety, convenience, and delivery. Improving food safety is an important goal for all foodservice operations. The right equipment can help accomplish this.

Holding cabinets are critical in preserving food temperature and safety in commercial kitchens. In fact, these cabinets help limit exposure to people when cooking for delivery or take-out. Foodservice professionals have incorporated this equipment to improve food safety practices and keep food fresh for take-out and delivery. Also, you can use holding cabinets to limit exposure to circulated air in a kitchen. Cabinets come in a variety of configurations.

Holding Cabinets Can Benefit Your Restaurant

Restaurants can improve food safety, cut costs, and improve delivery during this time. Utilizing holding cabinets promotes limited contact with food and keeps safe temperatures. They also keep food hot and fresh for delivery and take-out operations.

Promote Food Safety

With the risks of COVID-19 still looming, limiting person-to-person contact is essential. Holding cabinets help cut down on exposure between kitchen staff and food. These cabinets also are designed to preserve safe food temperatures before eating. They utilize controlled vapor and fans to distribute heated air to keep food hot.

Limit Food Waste

CVap holding cabinets keep food at safe temperatures for longer than heat lamps. A holding cabinet helps cut down on food waste and costs. They also keep food at desirable temperatures for delivery and take-out, which keeps customers happy.

food delivery

Improve Delivery Programs

Customers expect meals to be hot, fresh, and delicious when it’s delivered. Therefore, keeping food hot and fresh as long as possible is essential to offering quality take-out and delivery. Holding cabinets can keep food hot and safe until it’s ready for the customer.

Contact Winston Foodservice Today

For over 50 years, Winston has provided reliable equipment to help foodservice operators meet the growing demands of their customers. Our sales team and global network of sales representatives are happy to consult with you and help you figure out the best equipment to meet your goals.

Fill out a contact form, or call 800-234-5286 to speak with a member of our team.