Heated Holding Best Practices

Make the most of the holding equipment you have or are considering to buy. Discover how to keep food warm at the highest quality for on- or off-premise service.

Pre-prepared, grab-and-go food programs are clearly the way forward, but how do operators address the dual challenge of maximizing food quality and minimizing waste? Poor quality is invariably a result of inconsistent cooking applications and harsh holding techniques – issues that can both be easily overcome when armed with the right equipment to keep your food hot.

The range of Alto-Shaam heated holding products is extensive, from heated shelf merchandisers and hot hold cabinets through to drawer warmers and hot food wells. Choosing holding equipment with gentle, precise Halo Heat® technology allows operators to maintain the highest food quality, and achieve longer hold times without harsh heating elements, fans or added humidity. They allow for food to be produced in advance, before peak service times, and held at the optimal temperature for on- or off-premise service.

How to make the most out of your food warmers

First off, be sure when using heated holding equipment, such as heated shelf warmers, holding cabinets, or food wells, to preheat the unit to the desired temperature well in advance of presenting any food. This concept is similar to how you would pre-heat an oven before baking.

Next, what might come across as obvious, considering how food is packaged can be the difference between quality or dried out food. Packaging not only impacts food quality, but it can also make quite an impact on how well the food holds. At a practical level, wire shelves may be necessary accessories for sandwiches wrapped in paper when using a heated shelf warmer. Similarly, display cases benefit from being preheated at least 20 minutes in advance with the pans already inside, and to the desired holding temperature setting. 

Food placement is key. Dense and thick foods should go on one side, and items like fried chicken should go on the other. Operators should only use the appropriate amount of food that can be held by the pan to ensure consistency and quality (i.e. chicken should be no higher than the sides of the pan). The back doors of the Deli case should not be removed as they have an obvious effect on temperature consistency.

Of course, not everyone will be convinced that pre-prepared food is the way to go, and this view will partly be influenced by misconceptions in the market regarding what heated holding can deliver.

Heated holding misconceptions

One of the most common misconceptions, for example, is that if the food is cooked to a higher internal temperature, it will hold longer with or without holding equipment. This simply isn’t the case. In fact, the higher the temperature a food is cooked to, the more moisture is removed, and this shortens the holding time and quality. Holding moisture in a food will enable it to keep its heat for longer.

On the other hand, releasing moisture – by opening a few vents in a heated holding cabinet – has the advantage of holding crispy items, like fried chicken, for longer.

Pre-prepared food programs will continue to grow in popularity as people continue to have busy lives and are in need of added convenience. Buying the right equipment and taking the right advice on how such equipment is used, will be the difference between a successful program with quality, hot food, or one where your customers go hungry.

Alto-Shaam has a full team of chefs to help operators maximize food quality, extend holding times and reduce labor, operational and food costs. For more information, contact a culinary expert today.

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