The following information is provided
courtesy of The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association.
Fast Food Cooking Systems
Fast food is
a huge sector of the catering industry with annual sales
estimated to be more than £7 billion. Because of the high volume
nature of fast food service, the equipment not only has to be
quick, it has to be very robust. Heavy-duty equipment is the
best choice, medium-duty is suitable where business is brisk,
but not frenetic, but light-duty equipment is unsuitable in all
but very small fast food operations.
equipment is designed and manufactured around a specific fast
food concept or menu item where there are global volumes of
equipment to be sold, but while designed with a specific purpose
in mind, creative caterers are always finding additional uses.
of the guide is the specialist equipment. More general items of
cooking equipment such as fryers and griddles have their own
fryers are most commonly associated with fried chicken
restaurants. Coated chicken pieces are lowered into the fry tank
and a lid closed and locked into place to form an airtight seal.
Moisture is immediately released from the food which rapidly
builds up the air pressure. The pressure causes rapid tumbling
of the food and transfers heat faster from hot oil to the food.
the effect of increasing the temperature of the food and oil and
because the heat transfer is faster than in a normal fryer, the
frying temperature is higher than in a normal deep-fat fryer. A
further effect of the pressure is to rapidly seal the outside of
the chicken, keeping moisture in and excess grease out. This
along with the flavour coating is what makes southern-style
fried chicken so crisp and moist compared to chicken cooked in a
standard deep-fat fryer.
is not possible to inspect the food as it is being fried, the
fryers are computer programmed according to the product being
cooked. The programme can do multi-temperature cooking during
the pressure cycle, to a rapid seal of the food at first, then a
gentler cooking temperature. In a typical chicken operation, the
start oil temperature will be 180 deg C for the first burst of
heat to seal the chicken, then will lower to 145 deg C to cook
the chicken safely through.
pressure fryers have an automatic pressure release and audible
signal at the end of the cooking cycle to tell the cook that the
chicken is finished. More advanced models will also have
automated basket lift.
fryers have in-built filtration systems and a cool spot to
collect food debris from frying prior to filtration.
ovens are a cooking tunnel with heating elements above or above
and below with a constantly revolving belt of steel mesh or
slats passing through it. There will be a tray in front of the
conveyor for loading foods and a tray at the rear for received
the cooked food. While popular for high volume pizza production,
they can do a wide range of foods, including steaks, chops,
fish, ribs and can gratin dishes such as lasagne. They can also
be used for a flame-grilled production of burgers. The heat is
controllable, but usually it is the speed setting on the
conveyor belt that controls the length of time the food is
subjected to heat.
can be gas, electric or infra-red and they come as double-decks
or triple-decks for high volume production. The cooking tunnel
can be as short as 50cm or more than twice that length on big
ovens. Some also feature a split conveyor belt with individual
speed settings for each half of the conveyor belt so that two
cook times can happen during the same pass-through.
is a conveyor oven with a difference. Pressurised hot air is
jetted at food items on the conveyor as it moves through the
oven. Because the jets are positioned to reach the top and
bottom of each food item, the cooking temperature is uniform.
The air nozzles apply hundreds of independent heat jets to the
product and the movement of the conveyor spreads heat
Manufacturers of impinger ovens say the food cooks faster and at
a lower temperature because of the forced hot air. Moisture
content is also increased as the hot air rapidly seals the
surface of the food.
are usually associated with chicken, but can also do rolled legs
of lamb, pork and rib beef. They can be sited indoors in a well
ventilated area in view of the customer powered from mains gas
or electricity or outside through a power cable or LPG.
available in two configurations – the meat skewered horizontal
or hung vertical. The horizontal is seen mostly in retail
environments, while restaurants go for the vertical type. While
the look to be energy inefficient with the heat radiating
outwards, the curvature of the radiants is designed to focus the
heat on the meat. This also makes for a cooler working
environment for staff.
high on rotisserie chicken and the cooking smell of it is a huge
selling point, but they are messy to clean and staff need a
strict clean-down routine at the end of a shift.
and delivery systems
grills are compact conveyor grills, usually upright with a
gravity feed system, similar in design to vertical toasters. The
table-top versions will run from a simple 13-amp socket, yet
production on even the smallest grills will be at least one
burger a minute.
be a means of adjusting the speed of the conveyor and for the
thickness of burger. There should be a fat collection system and
a catching tray. Because of the smoke and cooking smells that
come from cooking burgers, adequate kitchen ventilation is
necessary. Burger conveyor grills are only suitable for frozen
burgers, not fresh or chilled.
They can be
used in conjunction with burger bun toasters, which operate in
much the same way, but can toast top and bottom of a bun in 18
to 35 seconds, depending on power.
have been assembled and put in colour coded containers, they can
be held in burger box chutes. These are the working bridge
between the kitchen and the service team front of house with
back loading and front unloading. Burger chutes can have from
five to 10 or more angled channels so that kitchen staff can
keep every channel topped up for fast dispense at the counter
and may be stacked. They should have heat and light lamps above
for enhancing the display and keep the burger package warm and
can have additional under-box heating.