Consultant Orlando Espinosa, principal at Orlando Espinosa & Associates LLC, Glen Mills, Pa., offers a few factors to weigh when purchasing a steamer.
FE&S: What factors should be considered when choosing the appropriate steamer for an operation?
OE: Operators need to identify those items currently on the menu that are steamed and those they will add. In addition to style of service and current menu items, considerations include portion sizes required per serving; number of servings required during production cycle per pan and per compartment; current production time for steamed items on the menu with the current steamer; desired production time for steamed items on the menu with the steamer; and how many two-inch-deep pans are needed per compartment to produce the number of
portions/servings per pan.
FE&S: What are the advantages and disadvantages of a pressure steamer?
OE: Pressure steamers cook at a higher heat and pressure and are faster than a convection steamer. These units also cook large quantities of food, so they are mainly used for large foodservice operations. Pressure steamers work well with starchy foods, such as potatoes and meats. The downside is that this steamer type is more expensive than convection steamers and is larger and more difficult to use. This type also is not as sensitive to delicate foods like vegetables as a convection steamer can be and cannot be opened while cooking because of high pressure in the cavity.
FE&S: What are the advantages and disadvantages of a convection steamer?
OE: Convection steamers are capable of producing higher-quality results due to lower cooking temperatures, which can preserve more of the nutrients, moisture and texture of food cooking in the steamer. This type also has no taste transfer, has a lower initial cost to obtain and operate, and can be opened during operation to check food, add other products or adjust items. The disadvantages include longer cooking times and, in some cases, smaller capacities.
FE&S: What type of operations would benefit from using a boiler steamer?
OE: High-volume kitchens with frequently steamed products during serving hours would benefit from a steamer with a boiler. This equipment has the ability to steam large quantities of product in shorter time periods.
FE&S: When is it best to use a boilerless steamer?
OE: Small-volume operations or kitchens with low-volume steaming needs would benefit from a boilerless steamer. Lower labor, maintenance and utility costs are benefits of these units.