Deli Counter – Essential Equipment and sundries
We assist delicatessen proprietors in selecting the equipment necessary for preparing fundamental food items.
Pic – Source – Wendy Koon
Starting with the equipment used for cooking, a six burner gas stove is ideal for a deli kitchen. Electric models are not only more prone to breaking and raising electricity bills sky high, but are useless in times of power cuts.
Whichever stove is used, a commercial hood is necessary for proper ventilation and air quality. In most exhaust hoods, a filtration system removes airborne grease, fumes, smoke, odours, heat and steam from the air. Although many commercial vent hoods exhaust air to the outside, some recirculate the air to the kitchen.
Commercial vent hoods may also be combined with a fresh air fan that draws in exterior air, circulating it with the cooking fumes, which is then drawn out by the hood.
The next obvious selection is a microwave oven. While the domestic microwave is designed for sporadic use during the day, the commercial one is built for continuous heavy use and therefore requires high power to shorten defrosting, reheating and cooking times.
The power of domestic microwave ovens varies from 600W to 850W, while commercial microwaves have a 900W to 2 000W power range. A light-duty oven (900W to 1 100W) is perfect for a small deli, while the heavy-duty microwave (1 500W to 1 900W) suits a busy establishment.
Commercial microwaves usually have a stainless steel interior for easy cleaning and corrosion prevention. A heavy-duty domestic microwave might look attractive price wise, but will cost in the long term if the interior is made of mild steel, which eventually rusts.
Commercial deep fryers are available in electric and gas models, and fryer baskets come in various shapes and sizes, with or without heat resistant handles.
Electric restaurant fryers are popular in counter top models because of their mobility. Floor-model fryers can be fitted with casters for easier maintenance and cleaning.
Electric fryers lose a little less heat than gas fryers because their heating elements are immersed in the oil, and they have a faster temperature recovery time between frying cycles. But gas fryers, apart from being cheaper to operate, heat up quicker and to a higher cooking temperature than electric fryers.
Commercial fryers are generally available in mild steel or stainless steel. Besides being susceptible to corrosion, mild steel also expands under heat which may damage the welds over time. Because of this, stainless steel fryers often come with a better warranty.
Several of the new fryer models include electronic temperature controls, which save energy by constantly adjusting the temperature of the oil and assists in assuring accurate cooking times. Safety thermostats that automatically cut the power if the oil reaches dangerous temperatures serve to prevent oil fires.
A flat top grill is a must-have apparatus for cooking burgers and breakfast items. Although it resembles a griddle, it performs in a different way. The heating element is circular rather than straight and creates an extremely hot and even cooking surface, as heat spreads in a radial manner over the surface.
As the name suggests, a flat top grill is typically level, but some are slightly convex or crowned in the centre to facilitate the capture and disposal of excess juices or grease.
If pizza is part of your menu, it is a good idea to invest in a gas pizza oven or countertop electric version, pizza pans, peels and cutters.
Indispensable storage items are display cases and refrigerators and freezers.
Refrigerators are available as reach-in, walk-in and under-counter units and freezers as chest, upright or walk-in units.
Your deli size and frequency of deliveries from your food distributors will be the biggest factors in determining what you need for refrigeration. Eateries that receive daily deliveries of fresh meats, seafood and produce don’t need as much refrigeration as those that only get a delivery once or twice a week.
In restaurants, walk-ins are a good choice for holding large bulky and perishable food items such as boxes of produce, buckets of food and blocks of cheese, but space-saving under-counter fridges placed underneath worktops will suffice in most delis.
If your menu is based on a lot of frozen foods like pub grub such as fries, chicken wings and onion rings, then you will need ample freezer space. It is important to note that an industrial freezer used for food storage is not a place to store or make ice. Instead, invest in an ice machine for this job.
Moving on to food preparation equipment, prep tables should be made of stainless steel for both durability and food safety reasons. Tables with built-in shelves provide extra stowage.
Vital utensils for food preparation include slotted spoons, ladles; egg lifters and wooden spoons; silicone spatulas for stirring, mixing, scooping and scraping; whisks; stainless steel and plastic tongs; colanders; thermometers to guarantee perfectly cooked meat and baked goods; and chef’s knives.
Mixing bowls come in stainless steel, ceramic, glass and plastic. For baking purposes, you should have at least three mixing bowls of different sizes, as it is often necessary to keep mixtures of ingredients separate.
Prepared dough can be stored in the refrigerator directly in the mixing bowl, so keep in mind bowls which can handle temperature change well and/or which have lids for such storage.
When using a handheld electric mixer rather than a standing mixer, be sure to get mixing bowls that will be usable with such a mixer, with high enough sides to prevent splatter.
Cake pans come in three main materials: stainless steel, aluminum and silicone.
Chefs who opt for stainless steel do so because of its durability and, as the name implies, resistance to stains. However, stainless steel does not conduct heat as well as aluminum and therefore cakes may not bake evenly. Aluminum creates an even heating surface that cooks cake uniformly throughout.
Silicone is easy to store and clean, and can be used in the freezer, refrigerator, microwave and oven. From cold to hot temperatures, silicone will hold up without showing signs of rust or stains. Those opposed to silicone for baking say that cakes do not brown as well and the material’s elasticity may damage baked goods when handling.
An elevated cooling rack is essential to ensure freshly baked goods cool evenly and stay crisp.
When it comes to choosing cookware, there are dozens of shapes and sizes to bear in mind – from the everyday skillet to the specially shaped fish poacher.
Starting with pots, you will need vessels for cooking rice and other grains as well as vegetables. A Dutch oven made of cast iron allows for slow, even heat distribution and can be used on the stove or in the oven. It is ideal for braising; simmering stews and soups; oven roasting; cooking large quantities of rice, grains or vegetables; boiling water for cooking potatoes or pasta; and for boiling water for pasta or potatoes.
You will also need a double boiler for melting chocolate or making delicate egg-based sauces and steamer baskets for steaming vegetables. Make sure they are adjustable so they will fit in a variety of pot sizes.
Next, you will make use of a large selection of pans:
- a medium- to large-sized skillet for sautéing and stir-frying;
- a non-stick skillet for cooking eggs;
- a cast-iron skillet for searing meat and making certain breads;
- a saucepan for cooking smaller batches of soup and sauces;
- a saucier for cooking risotto and grains, and making custards and delicate sauces (the curved sides aid in stirring risotto and sauces);
- a small saucepan for melting butter, boiling an egg or heating a can of soup; and
- a grill pan.
Aluminum conducts heat quickly and evenly, and is lightweight and durable, but it can react unfavourably with acidic or alkaline foods, so it is often coated with another material such as stainless steel or a non-stick finish.
Cast iron produces heavy, thick, durable pans that are slow to heat but are outstanding at retaining and distributing heat – the best choice for dishes requiring long cooking periods like braises or stews.
Copper is excellent at conducting, distributing and retaining heat, but it tarnishes and dents easily. It is also an expensive metal, which is why it is often used in combination with other metals such as in only the base or in a thin layer in the construction.
Stainless steel is hard wearing, non-porous, and resistant to rust, corrosion and pitting, but since stainless steel is not very conductive, it is often combined with other metals such as copper or aluminium.