When purchasing a blast chiller, operators need to first determine food volume before choosing which size unit is appropriate. Blast chillers are sized by the number of pounds that can be accommodated at one time. Units typically use 2-inch-deep pans that hold about 10 pounds of product.
Also, when choosing a model, consider the type of food the unit will chill. For example, more delicate food such as bakery items, rice and vegetables will require a more controlled chilling method than heartier, denser food, like meat. Some blast chilling units offer both hard and soft chill capabilities, which are distinguished by how low the air temperature is inside the unit during the chilling process. With a hard chill, temperatures come down more quickly and bring food to an almost frozen state. Soft chill units bring product temperatures down to under 40 degrees F gradually, and the process is less harsh.
Proper container sizing plays a key role in assuring quality results, and the ideal unit size will depend on the volume and application. Countertop blast chillers hold between three and five pans, while roll-in units are geared for quantities of more than 200 pounds. One common mistake operators make is utilizing too big of a pan for blast chilling product. This can compromise the cooling process as the cold air won’t properly infiltrate the center of the pan.
Consider the available space needs when specifying undercounter, countertop and stand-alone blast chillers, in addition to roll-in and reach-in models.
It’s important not to overlook the required clearance when designating a spot for this equipment. Like all refrigeration equipment, proper space is necessary around the blast chiller for ventilation.
Blast chillers utilize large compressors, and operators can decide if a self-contained or remote condensing unit works best. Although some blast chillers require drain connections, catering operations may find that a model with built-in defrost capabilities, which eliminates condensation on condenser coils, works best.
Blast chillers feature different data recording capabilities for HACCP documentation, such as a printer, data port or USB drive.
Chilling product with these systems is much different than simply placing food in a refrigeration unit. As a result, accomplishing this process may be more challenging in foodservice operations with entry-level employees or high staff turnover. There needs to be an educational component for those working with this equipment in terms of how food should be sized, shaped and packaged prior to the chilling process.