Every restaurateur will tell you: one of the biggest investments you can make is in your kitchen equipment. What you buy and how you maintain it over time could make the difference between years of happy service and struggling with one expense after another.
Is your restaurant working with the right equipment?
In our brand-new eBook, we take an in-depth look at your restaurant equipment, the choices available, and maintenance needs — all with an eye on your bottom line — including:
- Prep and storage: knives, refrigerators, and freezers
- Cooking: ovens, ranges, fryers, and exhaust hoods
- Cleaning: sinks, dishwashers, and sanitizers
Download this free eBook today to make sure the equipment you have is exactly what you need to run an efficient kitchen — and not a drain on your profits.
Excerpt from Chapter One:
The decision about what restaurant equipment you’ll use to prep and store food at your establishment can seem pretty simple — at least compared to all the choices involved in your actual cooking equipment.
However, there are many questions to ask when it comes to picking the right restaurant equipment and keeping it well-maintained over time.
Are you choosing the right types of equipment for the food your staff is preparing? What restaurant equipment is the best investment for your kitchen and your overall bottom line? And how can you balance that with a sustained focus on safety and sanitation?
In terms of restaurant equipment for prep and storage, there are several key areas to address, from knives and slicers, can openers, and storage bins, to the biggest investment of them all: refrigerators and freezers.
What kinds of knives should I have?
Knives are arguably the most crucial tool in any kitchen, commercial or residential. Some of your cooks might bring their own knife kits to work, but you should still provide knives for your kitchen staff to use regardless.
There are a few specific kinds of knives you should have stocked to accommodate the different types of prep done for your menu. The chef knife is the main tool in your cook’s arsenal, but paring knives are great for maneuvering small cuts. A boning knife is frequently used for protein prep, including deskinning fish and trimming off fat from beef. And a serrated knife is most often thought of for slicing bread, but it’s also handy for slicing produce that bruises easily (like tomatoes).
Why is upkeep important?
It comes down to safety and precision. A sharp knife is going to create more precise cuts, which will help your cooks avoid unnecessary prep waste. A sharpened knife is also safer, believe it or not! When you get cut with a sharp knife, it does less damage to your hand than if you’re cut with a dull knife.
Keeping (non-serrated) knives sharp means honing them on a honing steel at least a couple times a shift, and actually sharpening them only a couple times a year. Serrated knives are not honed at all and have to be specially sharpened tooth-by-tooth so as not to wear down the many individual edges.
For these knives — or if you don’t want to worry about sharpening your knives yourself — investigate options for getting them professionally sharpened. Be on the lookout in your area for cutlery shops, kitchen supply stores, and cooking class shops. Many of them even have sharpening services in-house.
Some restaurants and butchers also advertise sharpening services, but it’s becoming more and more common to see businesses that only do knife sharpening. Rates vary, but the average kitchen knife can fall somewhere in the $5-12 range per sharpening.
And one more tip: consider sending them off to be worked on the day before you go on vacation or on a business trip and pick them up when you get back. That way, you don’t have to worry about spending a couple days without one of your most trusted kitchen tools.
Also be aware that in many municipalities and organizations, wearing cut gloves is required when handling knives, but even for those where it is not required? A cut glove can offer a higher level of safety against cuts and nicks regardless of being officially required.
Why are they a good addition to the kitchen?
If your menu has lots of sandwiches and other deli items, having a slicer for your meats and cheeses is essential. It allows you to order full cuts of meat and blocks of cheese instead of the more expensive pre-cut product.
Ordering full cuts of meat also keeps the product fresher for longer. The slicer also helps your cooks do more precise prep work, slicing the meat and cheese exactly the same thickness each time for consistent plating and cost management.
Along those lines, investing in a mandoline to uniformly slice vegetables can also help keep your produce prep running efficiently.
What should I look for in either new or used?
Buying used is an option for slicers, but if you’re going to go with a used slicer, make sure it’s gently used. And if you do buy a used slicer, it’s probably a good idea to replace the blade with a brand new stainless steel one.
No matter what kind of slicer you get, make sure to get one with a safety guard, since the slicer blades are incredibly sharp. The same goes for any mandoline you purchase for your kitchen workers. Safety must come first.
Why is upkeep important?
Cleaning your slicer properly is going to protect your meats and cheese from getting contaminated by leftover bacteria, which is critical to your kitchen’s sanitation and avoiding the spread of foodborne illnesses.
General ongoing maintenance is also important because a broken slicer can be far more expensive to fix or replace than to keep maintained on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is to carefully follow the instructions that come with the slicer. It should tell you the specific ways your slicer can be cleaned and any maintenance that needs to be periodically done.
What should I look for in a can opener?
It might seem like a no-brainer to just buy a can opener, but consumer can openers can cause a lot of strain — on the opener and on your staff’s hands — when used on multiple cans or the much larger cans of product you’ll find in professional kitchens. A heavy-duty restaurant can opener that attaches to your work table and uses a handle, can help avoid the strain of a consumer can opener.
And when your cooks are opening several big cans of products as they prep the food for their shift, the professional can opener will be so much quicker. That being said, having a reliable handheld can opener on hand in case the other one breaks isn’t a bad idea, either.
Why is upkeep important?
As with your prep tables and other restaurant equipment, make sure your team is wiping down and sanitizing your can opener as a regular part of their cleaning duties. Oftentimes the product from a can will splatter or drop on the can opener — or dirty the cutting blade — and you don’t want cross contamination of old product with the next can you’re going to open.