In pizza operations, commercial blenders can aid with food prep activities such as making sauces. For eateries with more diverse menus, a blender can perform the functions of a food processor.
Factors When Purchasing
Start by determining how the operation will use the blender. This information will help determine the blender speed the operation requires and how the unit will fit within a work station. “Blenders with different speeds can be more versatile,” says Monica Thesing, senior equipment specialist at Rippe Associates, based in Minnetonka, Minn. “Pulse features are best for making chunkier sauces, for instance.”
When using a blender in a takeout pizza operation or closed kitchen, noise is less of a consideration compared with operating it in the front of the house. The higher the horsepower, the more noise the blender will produce. Items that blend more slowly don’t need a lot of power and will be quieter than items that blend at higher speeds. When noise becomes an issue, consider covered blenders.
“For tasks where a higher horsepower is needed, a food processor should be considered instead of a
blender,” says Thesing.
Because blenders work with electromagnetic waves, this equipment emits heat, which may cause issues in a small space. Without the proper ventilation, this heat may transfer back to the blender, causing damage. “Consider the blender’s location, which is dependent on how production will be set up and the flow through the kitchen as well as where the prep work and cooking will be accomplished,” says Thesing.
When building a blender into a workstation, operators should consider the production cycle, speed of service and ergonomics. Other key factors to weigh include placement of the ingredients that will require blending as well as the sink that staff will use to rinse out the blender.
Container capacity is another factor when selecting a blender. “The 1-gallon container is the most popular in the pizza segment,”
Also consider the construction of this equipment since tomato sauce is acidic and can damage various components over time. “We recommend using a stainless-steel base for blenders in high-volume operations,” says Thesing. “Polycarbonate or clear plastic containers are not recommended for preparing red sauces.”
Rather than calculate the blender capacity, focus on the ingredients staff will blend and the timing of this activity in regard to the production process. Some items may come pre-blended, while staff will prepare others when necessary.
The most difficult task in terms of speed is blending to order. In the case of high-volume pizza operations, operators need to account for how many total blenders are necessary to keep up with the demand during peak periods as well as account for blending time. Or they may need to consider pre-blending ahead of time to keep up with the volume.
“The number of blenders needed depends on the operation’s size,” says Thesing. “However, larger operations may buy ready-made sauce and just need a blender for mixing. In this case, an immersion blender would be recommended to incorporate tomatoes, spices and cheese into a pre-prepared sauce.”
Blenders typically have a service life ranging from 10 to 15 years for heavy-duty models. When these units stop working, it is generally time for a new one.
“Most blender parts are modularized or sold as
assemblies,” says John Schwindt, vice president of operations/general manager at Hawkins Commercial Appliance Service Co. in Englewood, Colo. “The sad part is that the units rarely wear out but instead are taken out of commission from neglect or bad decisions from the operators. A little common sense and time and these mixers will last much longer.”
Keeping up with cleaning and maintenance will help ensure the blender works consistently and enjoys a long service life. Although these units’ sealed motors usually require no maintenance, operators can take some simple steps to keep blenders running smoothly.
Keep all components as clean as possible. This entails regularly wiping down the exterior with soap and water.
Refrain from using a hose or any water pressure, as this can damage the motor and impact its operation. Blender bases are not dishwasher safe nor should staff submerse the base in water. “I can’t even count how many times I have seen this over the years,” says Schwindt. “Wipe the motor base down with a damp cloth and a soapy solution on a regular basis or right after each use or spill. Most spills are caused by the user going too fast, pulling off the blender container too quickly or trying to put too much product in at one time.”
With older blenders or in high-volume operations, routinely check the container for cracks. The blades should turn easily with just slight resistance. Clean the blades often to ensure the quality of the blend.
Use food-grade lubricant, rather than vegetable-based oils, to grease lubrication points to avoid gumming up the mechanism and gears freezing. “Containers can be easily cleaned by putting a mild soapy solution into the container and running it for a minute, then rinsing in a sink,” says Schwindt.
Service is rare for blenders since the upper bearings are sealed. The biggest issues that occur with this equipment are if there is excessive play with the bowl’s cutter assembly. This can cause liquid seepage into the bearings and motor, creating major issues and leading to an expensive fix. Signs that service is needed include unusual or excessive noises, abnormal vibrations or leakage.
“There are seals on the bottom of the containers that need to be checked and/or replaced on a regular basis,” says Schwindt. “Having product leak out on top of the motor isn’t good because not only are you making a mess but there is now a cavity where bacteria can grow and contaminate your product.”
Some of the mistakes a lot of operators make occur when pulling the container off the motor base before it stops rotating completely or trying to put it back on while it is still running. “This damages the drive couplings,” says Schwindt. “Also, overfilling a container with hard product before the blender is started can jam the blade assembly and tear up the drive coupling as well.”
For blending harder products, it is recommended that the blade assembly is always covered with liquid. Start the unit at a low speed, and add the harder product a little at a time so as not to overwhelm the blades. “Blade assemblies do wear out and can leak down into the motor assembly as well,” notes Schwindt. “A quick sign of this happening is the sound or vibration that the blender makes when running. If it doesn’t sound right, it isn’t right.”