Food preparation equipment is the important stage between fresh food coming into
the kitchen and being made ready for either cooking or direct service into the restaurant.
The equipment ranges from potato peelers, gravity slicing machines, juicers and
multi-function food processors to the traditional hand-held food preparation tools
such as kitchen knives and the speciality food preparation tools all good chefs
have in their workbox.
There is a wide range of food preparation equipment, but some are necessary items
rather than "nice-to-have" items, depending on the style of food the kitchen wishes
You can buy
Food Prep Blenders
Ice Cream and Sorbet Makers
Pizza Dough Rollers
Vegetable Preparation Machines
While there is a temptation to buy in ready-prepared vegetables, the kitchen does
not always get the best quality with ready-prepared vegetables. It's a very price
driven business, so there is pressure to use older, cheaper potatoes and big woody
carrots because they are quicker to peel than small sweeter carrots.
For high volume users of potatoes it can be more cost-efficient to buy sacks of
fresh potatoes and prepare them for boiling or frying than to buy in chilled or
frozen prepared chips or ready-peeled potatoes in gas-flushed bags. Fresh potatoes
will always give a better flavour and buying by the sack give the kitchen control
over which variety of potato the customer is being offered.
Chefs think they get a more consistent product when they buy ready-turned carrots,
but they don't - there is so much urgency to churn out the volume and meet a competitive
price that buying ready-prepared vegetables can mean the kitchen does not know what
is being bought.
Ready-sliced meats are never going to be as fresh tasting as that freshly sliced,
packet fruit and vegetable juice cannot match that of freshly squeezed. There is
a very strong argument both on food quality and food cost for a kitchen preparing
fruit and vegetables in-house.
Food preparation processors
These are at the heart of food preparation equipment in the commercial kitchen.
Those sold into restaurant kitchens are much more advanced in construction, versatility
and robustness than the lightweight food processors sold for the domestic market,
which cannot deliver chopped food acceptable on the restaurant plate. Expect to
get a far wider choice of cutting shapes, chopping features and mixing programmes
than anything offered in the domestic market. Motors are stronger, blades sharper,
speed of processing quicker. The accessories available can produce any size or shape
of fruit and vegetable a professional kitchen would want.
These are medium to heavy-duty versions of the domestic stick blender, but are very
much bigger and very powerful. They can pulse large quantities of foods very quickly
and have a wide range of uses, helping sauce and puree making in every kitchen,
from hospitals to Asian restaurants.
The theory of potato peelers has hardly altered in 50 years. The sides of the chamber
are gritted with a revolving gritted base plate, which actually does 90% or the
peeling work. The only real advance has been in double-sided base plates, which
feature a coarse grit for peeling old potatoes and a lighter grit for soft-skinned
Choosing a potato peeler size is all dependent on daily throughput, but do the calculation
based on 75% of the stated capacity. Overfilling the machine slows down the process,
tends to throw squared potatoes and is very wasteful. Another important working
practice is to get the machine running before putting the potatoes in. To load the
machine before switching on puts the motor under great strain to get moving against
the resistance of the potatoes.
You can buy
Carrots will clean in a standard potato peeler, most manufacturers offer a gentler
base plate for skinning onions and salad baskets are available for spinning off
Their main use is for cutting fine slices of cooked or raw meats, for fish, such
as tuna and smoked salmon and other items such as cheese or where the ingredient
is too big to fit in a mandolin. With cooked meats, the benefit is that whole cooked
boneless joints can be used, giving a fresher, juicier slice and far cheaper than
buying pre-sliced. Expensive meats such as dry-cured hams can be cut as wafers for
use in salads, as starters, part of a main course of for luxury sandwiches.
A gravity slicer can also be used for cutting wafer thin slices of raw meat such
as beef for producing items such as beef olives.
Food safety and food hygiene are extremely important issues with gravity slicers.
While cutting cooked meats without strong flavours will not give cross-contamination,
after cutting highly spiced or garlicky meats, a careful wipe with a sterile cloth
will keep following foods pure.
A full cleaning cycle is essential between cutting raw and cooked food to prevent
a serious risk of bacterial infection and a full cleaning must take place at the
end of every kitchen service. Slicers are extremely dangerous items of equipment
and staff need structured training on how to use and clean them.
Also called orbital mixers, these are useful for a bakery or patisserie section
of a kitchen and heavy mixing jobs in the main kitchen such as mashing potato. If
a kitchen wishes to bake its own bread, it may be worth thinking about a dedicated
dough-mixer, otherwise, a standard bowl mixer will do both dough and batter beating.
Commercial food preparation equipment is manufactured for high performance and long,
hard use. That brings with it the temptation to think it is so robust it does not
need the same level of care as more expensive and technically complex items in the
kitchen such as the combi-oven or the automatic coffee machine. Food preparation
equipment will last a long time and give consistent high performance, but only if
it is used properly and looked after properly. This is how to get the best from
some of the popular pieces of food preparation equipment.
Cleaning Food Preparation Equipment
Potato peelers - These are very low maintenance. The main regular check to do is
that water outflows are not clogged with peelings. The electric motors in commercial
potato peelers are built to withstand long and regular use, but what can cause excess
wear on the motor is if the peeling tank is consistently overloaded with potatoes.
This not only puts strain on the motor, but will prevent the potatoes from being
Eventually, the grit wheel or the walls of the tank will need re-gritting. The time
when needs to be done is for most kitchens measured in years. To maintain food costs,
when a potato peeler has been re-gritted, kitchen staff need to be advised that
peeling times will be much shorter than they have been used to and a careful watch
is needed in the first few weeks of vegetable peeling to establish new, shorter
Gravity Slicers - These are almost always used for slicing cooked foods, so thorough
cleaning is not just looking after it mechanically, but for food safety. Sharpening
of slicing blades should not be necessary through the lifetime of the unit unless
raw meat containing gristle and bone is regularly being cut. Even then, the speed
of the cutting wheel on a good quality slicer will be able to perform with some
slight dulling of the edge.
Stick blenders - These work tirelessly in pulverising sauces, but the most common
cause of motor burn-out is using too small a blender for the food in the pan. Hand
blenders are available in a wide range of size and motor powers. To get long life
from the blender, go big. This is particularly true with pulsing heavy sauces. Beyond
cleaning, there is no maintenance needed on stick blenders.
Food processors - Providing a commercial model has been bought, these are very easy
to maintain. Blades are very robust and as long as the right food is matched to
the recommended blade there is unlikely to be any maintenance problems. Even if
a blade is being regularly used to chop an unusually tough ingredient and becomes
blunt, replacement blades are available. It is good practise to retain one fine
chopping blade which is for chopping fine herbs such as parsley so it remains sharp.
Bowl mixers - Commercial models are extremely reliable and can be almost maintenance-free
for many years apart from a regular safety check and greasing of the gearing by
a service engineer on a scheduled visit. The main thing which will accelerate wear
on the motor is overloading or putting dense product on a high-speed action instead
of working through the gears until the mix becomes well broken. Care should also
be taken that if a safety guard is fitted to prevent hands being put into the bowl
during mixing that it is always working. For it not to be could be a serious health
and safety issue for employees.
Do - Clean gravity slicers daily, Periodically check the grit in peelers, Cut frozen
food on a gravity slicer, Check for stove singeing on blender power cables, Allow
food debris build-up on gravity slicers
Don't - Overload potato peelers, Allow meat bones on a gravity slicer, Use low power
blenders for high power jobs, Have faulty hand guards on bowl mixers, Allow peeler
drains to become blocked