Hot holding cabinets are temperature maintenance units in the same vein as refrigeration equipment. And though they are heated, foodservice operators do not use this equipment for cooking.
Hot Holding cabinets prolong the time operators can hold food fresh and flavorful before beings served. When high-volume demand requires a short window of delivery/service time, like school lunch and banquet services, the need to prepare ahead and hold the food becomes paramount. Also, operations that serve high food volumes that require longer cooking times, like barbecue joints, rotisserie cooked foods, etc., will require the ability to cook in advance.
Insulated cabinets and those configured to hold foods at higher temperatures can keep menu items out of food danger zones for longer time periods. Foods must be held at temperatures at least 141 degrees F for proper food safety. Operators will often set the internal cabinet temperatures about 10 degrees F higher than the desired internal food to compensate for door openings and heat loss during standard daily business.
This equipment category includes stationary, reach-in and roll-in rack systems or mobile cabinets for transporting heated foods. Factories typically differentiate hot holding cabinets by heat systems and the different size trays or pans the units will hold.
Most manufacturers either have a top- or bottom-mounted heat system, which consists of a heating element and, depending on the manufacturer, some type of air movement inside the cabinet. Humidity controls can help improve holding conditions for foods more prone to drying out during holding. Available heating systems include convected air with fan-driven circulation, radiant heat with no mechanical air movement and humidity control systems with thermostatically controlled air temperatures from ambient up to 200 degrees F and humidity generated from ambient to 95 RH.
Cabinets may come insulated, often with Energy Star approvals, and non-insulated for economy and short-term holding needs. Cabinets are typically constructed of aluminum, stainless steel or a combination of both.
In many instances, electricity powers hot food holding units. Single cabinets require 1200 to 1500 watts of electrical power, while double cabinets may use 1800 to 2000 watts. One- and two-drawer warmers may be equipped with dual-wattage controls of 600 watts to 1200 watts for more precise temperature control. Canned fuel heat in a variety of fuel sources and sizes has been supporting the efforts to keep foods safe and at serving temperatures. Caterers do have the option of propane units for a mobile energy source. Rental companies carry propane equipment for those in need.
Controls for temperature adjustment and display are standard on these units. Bumpers, push/pull handles, welded and riveted construction with a tubular base frame or solid one-piece extended bases are common. Thermometer and operational range thermostats that go from 90 to 190 degrees F are included with most cabinets. Some units provide an infinite thermostat, which has settings from low to high or 1 to 9.
Cabinet doors usually feature stainless-steel or aluminum construction and come with positive or magnetic latches in one- or two-door configurations. Some units come with tempered glass windows. Dutch doors on full-size units are common to deter heat loss. Right- or left-hand hinged doors add convenience and allow for more flexibility when installing the unit. Some units come with field-reversible doors, a convenient feature when operators need to relocate or move cabinets at a later date. Pass-through and half-door configurations are also available.
Many holding cabinet models are stackable. Locking casters provide added stability. Space-saving single and multi-drawer units hold different foods within proper temperature ranges prior to serving. Rear panel outlets allow multiple single-drawer units to be conveniently powered from one electrical source. Power cords can be rear- or side-mounted.
Options for these units include door locks, bumper systems, window doors, push/pull handles, towing systems and casters to handle specific terrain. Color treatments and vinyl wraps of graphics are available. Countdown timer systems, in addition to humidity display and control systems, are other optional features. Some units provide electrical options and security features, in addition to tray/pan/plate holding shelves and/or slides.