Blast chillers bring down food temperatures from 160 degrees F to 38 degrees F in 90 minutes or less to reduce the time food is in the danger zone of between 41 degrees F and 135 degrees F. Because this chilling method forms microcrystals on products, food retains its quality, appearance, nutritional value and flavor.
Operators can safely store most blast-chilled products for up to five days.
Foodservice operators generally use this equipment in cook-chill production. Almost any food item can be blast chilled, including meat, vegetables, casseroles and desserts. This equipment can perform other roles, including functioning as a plate chiller for serving cold dishes like salad, a quick chiller for beverages such as beer and as a component of gelatin production. In addition, these units can provide the means for storing menu items for extended periods, helping to cut down on food waste.
Available blast chiller models include countertop, undercounter, reach-in, roll-in and roll-thru. Instead of incorporating a stand-alone blast chiller, operations with smaller footprints may designate space within walk-ins for this equipment. Operators can also use blast chillers in combination with blast freezers.
Most blast chillers utilize 2-inch-deep pans that accommodate about 10 pounds of food product at one time. Some models have rack systems that correlate with cooking equipment, such as combi ovens. Blast chiller capacities range from about 35 to as much as 1,300 pounds.
Both the exterior and interior of this equipment typically feature stainless-steel construction. Standard blast chillers use either self-contained or remote condensing units. While some units must connect to a drain, those with built-in electric defrost capabilities eliminate condensation on the condenser coils.
Operators can choose from a variety of options and features, depending on the blast chiller model. Features may include 4-inch-thick panels with CFC-free polyurethane foamed-in-place insulation, a remote refrigeration system sized to match the specific application, flush-mounted doors with polyurethane foam for a tight 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.
Some types provide automatic defrost and hold cycles and an ultraviolet light that sanitizes the cabinet’s interior. Operators can also choose units with DC connections, printers, extra probes and preprogramming features. The monitoring technology with these units has improved throughout the years with data recording capabilities for Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) documentation.
Blast chiller energy use varies, depending on the model. These units may utilize more power than standard refrigeration equipment but blast chillers reduce product temperatures more quickly. Units that offer two independent cooling compartments, though, may provide greater energy efficiency since they can chill smaller amounts of food in single compartments. A smaller chill area can lead to greater efficiency.