Blast chillers remove the heat from food, bringing temperatures down from 160 degrees F to 38 degrees F in 90 minutes or less. This process reduces the possibility of bacterial growth.
Foodservice operators use blast chillers to cool food prior to storing. By halting the cooking cycle, blast chillers help retain food quality, appearance, nutritional value and flavor. This equipment also provides the means for storing food for extended periods, helping to cut down on waste.
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 range of between 41 degrees F and 135 degrees F, which limits bacterial growth.
During the quick-chilling process, microcrystals form on products. When food is placed into a freezer, moisture can evaporate, which can dehydrate food. Most blast chilled product can be safely stored 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 once. Some types have rack systems that correlate with cooking equipment, such as combi ovens.
In addition to cook-chill programs, foodservice operators can use this equipment to chill salad plates before serving. High-volume bar areas can utilize blast chillers to quickly cool wine and beer as necessary. These units can also cool other beverages in a pinch. Gelatin desserts can be set in a blast chiller in about 20 minutes, as long as the inside air volume doesn’t blow over the product. Also, chefs can utilize this equipment to quickly cool hot product for easier handling.
These units have large compressors and offer either self-contained or remote condensing units. Some models include built-in electric defrost capabilities that eliminate condensation on the condenser coils, while other units must be connected to a drain.
Features vary by model and may include stainless-steel interiors and exteriors, 4-inch-thick panels with CFC-free polyurethane foamed-in-place insulation, a remote refrigeration system sized to match the specific application, flush-mounted polyurethane foamed doors for a dependable seal, a door gasket heater that prevents icing over on doors, and a surface exterior-mounted control system with a digital readout of interior ambient temperature and probe temperatures as well as automatic defrost and hold cycles.
Newer innovations with these units include an automatic or hands-free cycle start and advanced data management features. In the past, operators would use handheld thermometers and a written log to track the temperature of food being blast chilled. Today, most units offer data recording capabilities for HACCP documentation. Different methods are used to accomplish this, depending on the model. Blast chillers that are hooked up to computers may require special cables or access to hookup lines.
Blast chiller energy use varies, depending on the model. These units utilize more power than standard refrigeration equipment because product temperatures are brought down more quickly. However, units that offer two independent cooling compartments provide greater energy efficiency since smaller amounts of product can be chilled in single compartments. Because the area being chilled is smaller, it is more efficient to cool. Also offering added efficiency are blast chillers with parameter modification modes, which decrease energy usage.