While refrigeration equipment is designed to keep menu items at food-safe temperatures, blast chillers quickly draw down the temperature of menu items to food-safe temperatures.
Almost any food item can be blast chilled, including meats, vegetables, casseroles, lasagne and desserts. Not only do operators use blast chillers in cook-chill production, but this equipment can also create ice creams and sorbets and “cryo-shuck” shellfish like clams, mussels and oysters. Blast chillers also quickly cool alcoholic beverages, such as wine and beer, and chill plates for safer handling and temperature consistency.
Operators can set gelatin desserts in a blast chiller as long as the inside air volume doesn’t blow over the product. These capabilities represent a benefit to high-volume operations like schools, which can quickly chill gelatin desserts in about 20 minutes.
In addition, blast chillers store food for extended periods, which helps cut down on waste.
Unlike refrigeration equipment, which is designed to hold food cold, blast chillers can cool food by reducing temperatures from 160 degrees F to 38 degrees F in 90 minutes or less. This reduces the time food is in the danger zone of between 41 degrees F and 135 degrees F.
This equipment forms microcrystals on products, enabling food to retain its quality, appearance, nutritional value and flavor. It also improves shelf life as operators can safely store most blast-chilled product up to five days. Many operators use blast chillers in combination with blast freezers for extended storage needs.
Operators can choose from a number of blast chiller types, including countertop, undercounter, reach-in, roll-in and roll-thru. Roll-in types are the largest and are recommended for high-volume or batch production. Countertops, best suited for smaller kitchens, take up minimal space.
Operators can use blast chillers in conjunction with other back-of-house equipment. Establishments with small footprints can designate space within walk-ins for blast chillers. Some models have rack systems that correlate with cooking equipment, such as combi ovens.
Constructed of stainless steel on the interior and exterior, this equipment uses large compressors to do its job. While some units must be connected to a drain, those with built-in electric defrost capabilities automatically eliminate condensation on the condenser coils.
Blast chillers often require more power than standard refrigeration equipment because of their ability to quickly reduce food temperatures. That said, blast chiller energy use will vary by model. Units that offer two independent cooling compartments may provide greater energy efficiency since they can chill smaller amounts of product in single compartments. Blast chillers with parameter modification modes decrease energy usage since they operate more efficiently.
Options depend on the model. They can include 4-inch-thick panels with CFC-free polyurethane foamed-in-place insulation. Flush-mounted polyurethane-foamed doors ensure a tight seal. Door gasket heaters on some blast chillers help prevent doors from icing over. Surface exterior-mounted control systems provide a digital readout of the unit’s interior ambient temperature, while other options include temperature probes as well as automatic defrost and hold cycles.
Blast chillers provide monitoring technology with data recording capabilities for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) documentation. Operators can choose blast chillers with an ultraviolet light that sanitizes the cabinet’s interior, raising the bar for food safety. Other options include DC connections, printers, extra probes and preprogramming features. Automatic or hands-free cycle start and advanced data management capabilities are options with some blast chiller models.