Operators should weigh a number of factors when purchasing a steamer to ensure this piece of cooking equipment can meet their cooking and heating needs.
Operators need to identify current and future menu items that require steaming. In addition to style of service and current menu items, considerations include portion sizes required per serving, number of servings required during production cycle per pan and per compartment, current production time for steamed items on the menu with the current steamer, desired production time for steamed items on the menu with the steamer, and how many 2-inch-deep pans are needed per compartment to produce the number of portions/servings per pan.
Operators should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of steamers. For example, pressure steamers cook at a higher heat and pressure and are faster than convection steamers. Because these units cook large quantities of food, they are mainly used for large foodservice operations. Pressure steamers work well with starchy foods, such as potatoes. Convection steamers cook at lower temperatures, but this can lead to longer cook times.
High-volume kitchens with frequent steamed products during serving hours may benefit from a steamer with a boiler, according to some consultants. That’s because this equipment has the ability to steam large quantities of product in shorter time periods. Small-volume operations or kitchens with low-volume steaming needs may benefit from a boilerless steamer. Lower labor, maintenance and utility costs are a benefit of these units.
It’s important to specify the appropriate hood for steamers, and the municipality will dictate this. The steamer size and whether it is gas or electric also will determine ventilation needs.
Steamers require proper installation by qualified professionals who follow manufacturer recommendations. Otherwise, problems can occur from undersize drain lines and steam that escapes and damages equipment components.