Advice for hot holding food, and some frequently asked questions.
When looking to hot hold food on display there are several questions you need to answer before making the correct choice for you.
- What Type of Food are you Looking to Hold?
- What Food Containers are you using?
- Is it Assisted Service or Self-Service?
- What is the Environment within the Service Room?
- What is the Length of Time Required to Hold the Food?
The answers to these will all have a big effect on the decision you make, lets delve a little deeper into each question.
- What Type of Food are you Looking to Hold?
Whether it be a wet dishes – curries, chillies or stews; more delicate items – pastries, vegetables or seafood; or other items such as – pizza, roast meats and fried products. All have their own characteristics when it comes to holding them hot.
- Wet dishes would require heat to surround the container – think of Ban Maries, if you have the ability have a built in unit this works well, however if you want the unit to be portable then this could be an issue. Here you could look at having units with heat sources below and above the product. Units like the Hatco GRFFB could work or maybe the GRBW range.
- For delicate items you could use simple base heat. As the profile of the food is less dense it would require less intense heat to keep it to its optimum. A simple solution here would be the HGSM units, these are an attractive solution, giving a full 1/1 GN pan of heated glass, with simple button controls allowing you to adjust the heat from 55°c up to 95°c ensuring you keep it to it optimum quality no matter what the product you are holding.
- For roast meats, you will want heat above and below the product you will want the base heat controllable. You do not want to dry the product out after you have taken great efforts in producing juicy succulent joints. The GRSSR20-DL77516 is an extremely attractive piece of equipment giving a thermostatically controlled base, as well as a 250watt heated lamp above.
- Fried food is notoriously difficult to hot hold! The advice here would be to replenish little and often to keep it crisp and appetising. Leaving it longer may result in it going soggy. If it’s for a front of house location, we would recommend more intense heat above and below the unit. The GRFFB with its Ultra-Glo ceramic element above and thermostatic control for the base. Alternatively, you could look at the GMFFL units. These only offer a heat source from above but are ideal for short holding times if you are can top up regularly.
2. What Food Containers are you using?
Shallow dishes with a flat base work best to transfer the heat from the base heat source. It could be as functional as a gastronome pan or something more decorative like a ceramic dish, ensuring the unit has no feet or ridges. Make sure the container is hot before you place the food into the container otherwise it will draw the heat straight from your food. Also ensure you can maximise your display potential by using a GN compatible unit.
3. Is it Assisted Service or Self-Service?
With the current COVID situation more than likely you would be looking at assisted service. Look for equipment that encloses the product to the front either in the form of a “sneeze screen” or fully enclosed in glass. Units such as the GMHD range offer a small footprint with multiple tiers giving easy access via sliding rear doors. Alternatively try the GRCD range – both units can even offer the added benefit of humidity keeping the product moist if required.
4. What is the Environment within the Service Room?
The decider on whether you need screens can also be dependent on the area you are using for your servery. Atmospheric conditions may be a factor – is there air conditioning blowing in the area? A draft through a doorway maybe? These will both have an effect on keeping the food hot. If these are factors, definitely consider including some form of heat over the product. These can be functional like the GRAH range or ornate like a DCS heat lamp. If the location is more permanent, why not look at decorative lamps? Utilise the retractable style in order to pull down when required.
5. What is the Length of Time Required to Hold the Food?
Local codes and environmental authorities will have a say in how long you are looking to hot hold. Regular probing of the food is essential to ensure the temperature doesn’t drop into the “danger zone” – keep the food above 63°C! If this is not possible you can take food out of hot holding to display it for up to two hours, however you can only do this once. Food that has not been used within two hours should either be reheated until it is steaming hot and put back into hot holding or chilled down as quickly as possible to 8°C or below. If it has been out for more than two hours throw it away. Remember to keep the food at a safe temperature until it is used.