Foodservice Equipment – Controls

It’s not just about nobs and switches these days, even though some people would prefer it that way.  Foodservice equipment manufacturers have brought us some pretty out of this world technology, such as dazzling touch screens that can control every aspect of a cook cycle while utilizing Wi-Fi to report live HACCP data to a headquarters for review.  But who needs all of these bells and whistles, what happened to just applying temperature to food?  Well depending on your operation, and the size of your company / franchise, eliminating even the smallest step from an employee or Critical Control Point can save millions of dollars at year end.

Mechanical Controls

The good old analog control of yesteryear.  These controls are most commonly preferred by independent establishments that are happy to save on equipment cost wherever possible.  These controls are if nothing else, very reliable and rugged.  They can take a beating, and the proof can be found in every used equipment dealer across the nation.  Mechanical thermostats are bulb and capillary, making them incredibly easy to calibrate, most of the time a simple screwdriver will get the job done.

You probably have come across a diel or two that have nonspecific settings such as 1-10 or Low-High.  More often than not, temperature or even perhaps moisture is being controlled by what is called an infinite switch.  These controls send power to the heating elements and components determined by a ratio such as 1 minute on 3 minutes off.  As you adjust to a higher setting the ratio will change allowing for more time on, and less time off.  If you do a specific job, such as proofing at the same setting day in and day out, this control can work wonderfully.  Most manufactures have guides, or even on call chefs, to assist with settings for common products.

Digital Controls

It’s becoming difficult to even purchase a control these days that aren’t digital.  As technology is ever advancing and electronic components are becoming more and more affordable, manufactures are all moving into the digital era.  These controls bring with them high precision and quick reaction.  By reaction, we are referring to the time or lag it takes for the controls sensor to read the internal temperature of the cabinet.  This lag or delay it takes to react can generate temperature swings as much as 20°F above and below the set point as the cabinet cycles on and off.  It’s no wonder why the majority of energy star qualified equipment sport digital controls.

Digital controls offer a wider range of customization and options to the operator than mechanical controls do.  These controls can have locks, preset menus, adjustable programs to automatically change temperatures during a cook cycle, or even add temperature probes that track and cook food perfectly without the need of a chef.  With this next level safety and programming, cook and hold ovens can cook over night without worry.  Manufactures of foodservice equipment are now working directly with customers such as restaurant chains executive chefs to develop controls that cook specific products perfectly every time with limited user skill sets.  These large applications leverage the small upfront investment of a digital control to save large money on payroll and training.

Touch Screens

To infinity and beyond!  Almost all of the largest foodservice equipment managers offer a touch screen control in one fashion or another.  These controls have the most flexibility to customize, if you need something that is not off the shelf, you might need an advanced control such as a touch screen.  Because the information is driven from a screen much like the one on your tablet or phone, the amount of information that can be stored or shown is almost limitless.  Manufactures are starting to team up with companies that specialize in software that protects profits by centralizing control, analysis, and management of energy-consuming equipment, driving energy costs down and enhancing equipment maintenance.

Large foodservice operations such as casinos, schools, and hospitals can monitor HACCP live from tablets or phones.  Foodservice directors can be offsite and receive push notification warnings about temperature sensitive food reaching the temperature danger range.  They can even make adjustments to the programming while at a headquarters on the opposite side of the country, or be warned if there is a power failure during a thunder storm.

Controls are a commonly overlooked item on a spec sheet or order form, but depending on your operation, whether it is a food truck that only wants reliability and a cabinet that gets hot, to the director of operations that is overseeing the equipment usage and condition of 500+ locations across the country, they deserve a second thought.

Foodservice Equipment – Retherm Ovens

What is it to Rethermalize? 

Retherming is the process of reheating food that has been previously cooked to a safe temperature and safely cooled to a frozen or refrigerated ”slacked” state of 41°F or less. All food that is being reheated from this state must reach an internal temperature of 165°F for 15 seconds within 2 hours or must be thrown out. In general, cooking times of 90 min or less are preferred to allow for a safe amount of flexible preparation and cooking time.  Retherm ovens are typically found in large institutions such as school, hospitals, and prisons. Retherm ovens allow food preparation to occur off site, catering to centralized kitchens with satellite operation that have a minimum of other expensive cooking equipment, as well as associated kitchen ventilation systems.  Because retherm ovens such as the FWE RH-18, top out at a maximum temperature of 350°F, in most states these ovens are not required to be  under expensive ventilation hoods. Continue reading

January 2015 Challenge, Slow Cooking


I came across this challenge while reading through some of the great forums that are on and could not resist.  It’s literally freezing outside, and the best way to warm your bones, is with a nice slow cooked meal after a long day.  The set it and forget it cooking method is always a plus during the work week, and it is also great in a professional kitchen.  No reason we can bridge the two right?

Lamb Barbacoa Taco’s

Place a boneless lamb leg (NAMP234) in a slow cooker / hotel pan, season with Trade East Six Pepper Blend, add cooking liquid (Beef broth and Tropical Rub Glaze) to about half way up the roast.  Cook on Low /200F for 7-8 hours, and after it is cooked you can ether take it out or hold it (if you are in a commercial kitchen) at 150 for up to 8 hours.

This lamb came out tender and juicy.  So tender my bear claws pulled right through it!  I spread it out on a warm taco with some freshly made hot salsa, red onion, cilantro and a squirt of lime juice.   These little spicy Lamb Barbacoa Tacos warmed my bones after shoveling some snow.

The oven I used was a FWE Cook and Hold, the great thing about it is, it can act pretty much like a crock pot on steroids.  You set it for a low temperature and time just like you would at home, plus you get to add a hold temperature that has a little more flexibility than the crock pot, but some idea.

Energy Efficiency ($$$’s not ZZZ’s)

I want to tell you a little about how all of the energy conciseness and the green movement can help you get money in your pocket, the real green movement.  Every time you flip a switch, you are bleeding out money, and helping add to a death by a thousand cuts.  Maybe not that dramatic, but I got to make the power bill entertaining right?

There are a lot of ways to help lower your power consumption and help get those dollars and cents back to the bottom line where they belong.  First, it’s more than that blue sticker on the side of your equipment that you need to help lower your bill.  You need to have a little discipline and a little training to identify potential problems.  I’m not here to give you the discipline, I can’t do that (if I could I would be making a lot more money as a motivational book writer).  What I can do though, is help you identify some problem areas.

Continue reading

Brisket 101


Brisket is a great example of a cut of meat that bodes well with barbecue.  As we know, barbecue is a method of indirect low and slow cooking.  Meats that are tough and have a lot of connective tissue need this low slow technique to breakdown and become tender and delicious. You might now ask yourself “why is the brisket such a tough muscle?”.  Well, as cattle do not have collar bones, their heavy upper body, over half its weight, is supported by these muscles.  That makes for a well-used Schwarzenegger approved work out. In this post I am going to go over some of the basics that you might or might not already know and how they can be used to help get you best possible product. Continue reading

Why Buy A Cook & Hold

Why buy a cook and hold?  The primary advantage to a FWE cook and hold is the low and controlled temperatures.  This technology helps dramatically reduce loss in many roasted meats.  This reduction improves yields allowing for more servings thus increased revenue.  As much as an additional serving or two of prime rib can be saved with one of these cook and hold ovens.  To achieve this, the product must come up to temperature at a slower pace.  A drawback that chefs face with most low temperature cooking is the loss to the dark, crisp, caramelized outside of meat products.  FWE’s engineering team have worked hard to find that perfect balance of gentle air flow, and even heat distribution, that allows for the Maillard effect to be achieved, giving that desired flavor and texture that many chefs want.

The cook and hold runs at a lower temperature so it requires less energy than typical ovens.  In restaurants that require an electric demand fee, utilizing overnight cooking could offer even more of an expense advantage.  Since the unit is cooking at a low temperature (below 350°) the use of a hood is not required in the majority of the United States.  This flexibility allows large kitchens to save on space and the expense of having to purchase extra ventilation hoods.

Overnight cooking offers labor saving as well.  If a product is started before a shift ends, it will cook to a predetermined setting, and automatically switch to a holding cabinet.  Without a piece of equipment like this, staff may have to come in early and cook before service time, thus extending working hours and payroll.  Kitchen staff will not even need to come in early to preheat this unit, if the Delayed Preheat option is utilized.  Program what time the unit should start, and open the kitchen with hot cooking and holding equipment ready to go.  To save even more on payroll, FWE has advanced upon the preset function that has been helping kitchen staff for years.  With 15 programmable cooking procedures now available, inexperienced staff can cook correctly and consistently to the restaurants standard operation procedures.

Hummus, with All American Hot Sauce

Hummus is such an easy and healthy snack to make.  The best part about it, in my opinion, is how easy it is to manipulate with flavor.  By manipulate, I’m talking about adding any number of ingredients to make new styles of hummus.  I have used Smoke Roasted Garlic,  truffle oil, and now All American Hot Sauce.  Any time my wife or I have a party or pot luck we like to incorporate Sanford’s Kitchen products.  We had  an appetizer party and wanted to show off our hot sauce in a less pushy way (most of the time we just pop a jar of Just Chillin’ Salsa and call it a day).  This is what we came up with.


2 Cans of Garbanzo Beans/chickpeas
1/2c Olive Oil
1TBL Lemon Juice
1/2 Jar All American Hot Sauce
1/2TBL Paprika
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a food processor, processes all the ingredients until smooth.  If you want to add more heat use a whole jar of hot sauce.  As you can tell, I didn’t use Tahini in this recipe.  I love to serve hummus with pita bread, just rip off chunks, dip it, and enjoy.

Smoke Roasted Garlic

Not much is more versatile then the humble garlic.  For most of us, its awesome flavor is one of the first we recognize in our young cooking lives.  I for one, would put garlic powder on darn near anything I cooked as a teen.  In fact, while in the first semester in culinary school, the entire class would rush to the garlic when developing dishes.  I still hold this love for garlic in my heart.  When cooking breakfast in a half vegetative sleep state, my subconscious grabs for the stuff to toss in any and all unwilling dishes in front of me.

One day I was blankly looking at my smoker thinking, what next.  Just like breakfast, culinary school, and in my teens, the first thing to pop in my head was garlic!


12 head of garlic
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs BBQ Rub


  • Pull the extra paper off the garlic heads, don’t worry to much about the paper that sticks to cloves.
  • Cut the garlic tops off exposing the cloves.  This will allow for the smoke to penetrate into the cloves.
  • Spread the oil over the heads of garlic and sprinkle with BBQ Rub.
  • Smoke for 1 hour and roast for 30min at 250F until the garlic is tender.  Poke with a fork, the garlic should almost be spreadable.

These cloves are great spread on toast, in hummus, and served as a side with some Prime Rib.

Smoked in a FWE Cook & Hold

Thanksgiving Turkey

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  This is one of my favorite times of the year, and has been for a long time.  I get to cook food and watch football all day.  If dishes would wash themselves it would be the perfect day.  I smoked turkey all this week for testing at work.  I am asked a lot during this time of year “how do you smoke a turkey, what settings do you use?”.   It was a question until just recently, that sort of bothered me.  As you know everyone likes a different amount of smoke flavor.  The process of smoking, naturally, cures the skin of the turkey making it rubbery to bite into.  I would tell people what I thought would be best, but deep down knew wasn’t quite perfect yet.  This is not OK in my world.  I love a crispy poultry skin, I demand a crispy poultry skin.  My father deep fries his turkey every year and so I have become custom to the great golden bird.

So my task was to get crispy skin, and smoky flavor.  What I found through lots of testing, was a few lessons to live by while cooking the great bird.

1)      Do not use butter!  If you must use it make sure it’s clarified butter.  Don’t know what clarified butter is?  Simmer butter in a sauce pan and skim out the white frothy stuff.  (that’s the cream and water)  Water in the butter will steam and the steam with make rubber out of the skin.  What is left over is the oil that still has great flavor but lacks the stuff that steams and burns.

2)      Rinse and pat dry.  I’m sure you do this already, but if you don’t… Do it.  As before, the water will steam the skin and make rubber out of it.

3)      Please don’t stuff.  When your relatives yell at you, and they will, direct the hate mail to me.  But be happy that you are not making anyone sick.  The majority of food poising is from the stuffing.  Getting that up to 165F will dry the bird out and is unrealistic.  So more often than not, people will serve the stuffing at less than 165F and full of bad salmonella from the turkey cavity.

4)      Oil the skin on top and bottom.  By bottom I mean gently separate the skin from the breast and legs and use oil, or that clarified butter I was talking about, and season both sides of the skin.

5)      Smoke for only 30 min.  This is easy peasy in my FWE Smoker.  Longer smoke will give you more smokey flavor but rubber skin.  I use apple wood, if you like stronger smoke flavor, try hickory for 30 min.

6)      Cook by PROBE!  Don’t care what the clock says.  It is done when it is done.  I remember asking my chef once “Hey Chef, how long do I cook the roast?”  he looked at me like I asked what a fork was, and responded “Until it’s done”.  Buy a probe thermometer, (you’ll use it all the time and it’s not that expensive) probe the turkey on the inside of the leg close to the breast, and down into the thigh muscle.  Be careful not to touch bone or you will be measuring bone temp not flesh.  Cook it at 350F to 160F turkey temp.

7)      Shhhhh, let it rest.  Once you have reached 160F, take it out, cover it in foil and let it rest for 30min.  This is the most difficult process of all.  No one in my family believes in this, or cares about this.  It is a must.  Hide like I do, if you have to.  It makes a difference.

Game Time Snack

Looking for a great health snack?  Celery is an awesome addition to any snackers arsenal.  It has what we call negative calories, that is, you burn more calories eating the celery then you take in from it.  Score one for the snack!  I want to add a little flavor love though so I pack it full of Laughing Cow Blue Cheese spread, and at 35 calories a wedge add as much as you like.  Now to get a little more zing add some All American Hot Sauce at 20 calories a serving.
I love the flavor of these little snacks.  It reminds me of chicken wings without the chicken.   It’s a perfect quick snack for my Sunday’s sitting in front of the TV watching some football.