While refrigeration equipment holds food at cold temperatures, blast chillers take hot temperatures out of food.
Blast chillers quickly cool cooked food by decreasing product temperatures from 160 degrees F to 38 degrees F in 90 minutes or less. This process reduces the time food is in the danger zone of between 41 degrees F and 135 degrees F, which limits bacterial growth.
This chilling method forms microcrystals on products, as opposed to evaporating the moisture, which can dehydrate food. By arresting the cooking cycle, the cook-chill process retains food quality, appearance, nutritional value and flavor. Foodservice operators can store most blast chilled product safely for up to five days.
Blast chiller capacities range from 30 to 1,300 pounds. Reach-in and roll-in models are available, with most utilizing 2-inch deep pans that accommodate about 10 pounds of product at one time. Some types have rack systems that correlate with cooking equipment, such as combi ovens.
These units have large compressors, and offer either self-contained or remote-condensing units. Some models have built-in electric defrost capabilities that eliminate condensation on the condenser coils, while other units must connect to a drain.
Although more complex than refrigeration equipment, with newer technology and control boards, blast chillers have become easier to use than in the past.
Foodservice operators can choose from a variety of options and features, depending on the blast chiller model. Some types provide an ultra-violet light that sanitizes the cabinet's interior. Units with DC connections, printers, extra probes and preprogramming features also are offered on some units.