Product Knowledge Guide: Proofer Cabinets

Proofers are essential to any bakery and restaurant that bakes menu items in-house. Unlike open air proofing, the temperature and humidity levels in a proofing cabinet are ideal for allowing dough to rise to perfection.

Some foodservice operators use proofers as holding cabinets to keep freshly-baked bread or other items warm until serving.

This equipment accomplishes proofing within 45 minutes to an hour at temperatures ranging from between 80 degrees F and 120 degrees F. Richer items and those with a higher butter content require lower proofing temperatures. Sweet yeast dough products require a full proof temperature of 95 degrees F to 100 degrees F, with humidity levels of 80 percent to 85 percent. Proofing bread dough requires the same temperature and humidity.

Cabinets typically measure 5 to 6 feet tall and 25, 26 or 30 inches wide. These units offer varying pan capacities, depending on the volume of product the operator will proof inside. Full-size 69-inch to 72-inch-high cabinets typically hold 17 to 20 full-size, 18-inch-by-26-inch sheet pans spaced 3 inches apart. Proofers also come in a three-quarter size to hold 12 pans and half size to hold eight pans.

This equipment comes with either stainless steel or aluminum construction. Operators can also choose between insulated or noninsulated cabinets. Although foam or fiberglass insulated cabinets have a higher price tag, these cabinets help prevent heat loss, release less heat to the kitchen and have cool exteriors.

The cabinet slides come in chrome-plated wire, aluminum or stainless steel. Operators can remove these components to clean them and adjust them to accommodate the products being proofed.

Door options include solid, glass and polycarbonate versions. Solid doors can help with energy efficiency, insulation and heat recovery times. However, because these doors don’t allow viewing of the proofer contents, operators tend to open this type of unit more often, leading to heat loss and inconsistent product quality. Often more affordable than glass, polycarbonate doors provide easier viewing to the cabinet’s contents. The downside is polycarbonate is not as durable, leading to scratches and cloudiness that can obscure the door’s transparency. Glass doors make it easier to check on a product’s process and resist scratching. Though this type provides better insulation and a longer service life than polycarbonate doors, these units can cost more.

Standard features include caster mounting for ease of mobility and adjustable digital temperature controls with LCD readouts or a thermostat, which allow operators to monitor the cabinet’s temperature. There are separate controls for heating elements for the air and also for the water vat or under pan. Moisture control is important when proofing, and maximum air flow is key. Consistent top to bottom heat is needed to effectively proof dough at all pan levels.

Proofing cabinet options vary by unit and manufacturer. Removable heating and control modules can make cabinet cleaning easier without damaging electrical components. Adjustable pan slides allow operators to reconfigure the unit’s interior to accommodate various pan depths. If the cabinet will remain stationary, operators can specify legs instead of casters. Specify larger casters of 6 inches or more for proofers traveling long distances. Special latches can better secure the proofer doors during transport.

Operators can choose from left-handed door swings if necessary and stacking kits for higher volume use. Pass-through types offer easier access from both sides. Combination proofing/holding cabinets also are available for added versatility in the back of house. These units generally switch from a proof to a hold mode automatically.