Types: Refrigerated prep tables feature refrigerated openings on the top for holding a variety of pan sizes, and refrigerated understorage for holding backup pans and ingredients for sandwiches, salads, pizza or any other products that require a preparation step.
There are two basic types of cooling. Forced-air cooling uses one coil that cools the base and rail zone. The base needs to maintain a temperature of 40 degrees F, while the top is at 41 degrees F. Forced-air units operate better in applications with lower heat and humidity because one coil manages two different temperature zones.
Wrapped-wall or conductive cooling systems use copper lines wrapped around the tank or pan opening, which provides thermo transfer of the cold through the unit's walls. This creates a cold blanket of air above the product to protect it from ambient kitchen conditions. Because pans are recessed below the cold air, the top of the food is held at 41 degrees F.
Capacities/Footprints: A variety of sizes are available. Raised-rail units or pizza-prep units are typically between 43 and 119 inches long, with heights between 35 and 40 inches. Pan capacity is calculated by 1/3 pans in the rail. For example, prep tables between 43 and 48 inches long can accommodate six 1/3 pans. Mega-top prep tables typically have pan openings measured in 1/6 pans.
Energy Sources: To hold food between 33 and 41 degrees F, refrigerated prep tables run on between 4.9 and 10.5 amps and require between 1/5 and ½ horsepower, depending on the unit. Systems are powered by 115, 208 or 236 volts.
Manufacturing Method: These units' exteriors, in addition to featuring removable hoods and foam-insulated lids, are constructed of heavy-duty stainless steel. Cabinet backs and bottoms are typically constructed of galvanized steel, while interior liners are made of anodized aluminum to resist corrosion. Doors generally include foamed-in-place, high-density polyurethane insulation.
Standard Features: Refrigerated prep tables feature different sizes and configurations. These units offer between one and four doors, and may provide up to eight shelves or drawers for storage. The interiors generally accommodate between six and 15 pans, depending on the model. All models have stainless steel exteriors. Stay-open doors enable easy loading. The evaporator fans in some units offer motors with automatic-delay features that stop them when the doors open to prevent condensation from developing by mixing cold interior air with ambient air temperature. A 30-second open-door alarm and one-piece magnetic door gaskets are standard on some tables.
New Features/Technology/Options: Refrigerated prep tables are available with many options, including a backsplash, drawers, different gauge thicknesses, casters, overshelves and pot racks. Units offering adjustable shelves and pans, in addition to removable cutting boards, sneeze guards and crumb catchers, also are offered.
Prime Functions: Refrigerated prep tables offer storage and prep space for ingredients that need to be cut, sliced or otherwise prepped before use.
Key Kitchen Applications: These units are most often used to prepare and store ingredients such as vegetables, cheese, meat and fruit for sandwiches, salads, pizzas and other dishes.
Purchasing Guidelines: Since these units come in a wide range of sizes and capacities, operators need to determine how much space they need to store and prepare ingredients.
Maintenance Requirements: Prep tables are some of the most neglected pieces of equipment in the kitchen, since they are high use and can be difficult to move for cleaning. Units need to be regularly cleaned and wiped down, both inside and out; regular cleaning ensures optimum efficiency and can lower energy costs. Food debris should be removed from in and around the unit. Evaporator coils, fan blades and condensers should be kept clean. Air conditioning filters need to be changed and prep tables should be checked for fan failure and leaks. A proper seal against the door frame is critical to the compressor's performance.
Food Safety and Sanitation Essentials: To ensure proper storage temperatures are maintained, refrigerated food prep tables should comply with NSF Standard 7. All bases must hold at 40 degrees F without freezing product. All pans on top must be held at 41 degrees F without freezing product in the pans.