Braising Pans and Steam Kettles Buyers' Guide
Steam kettles and braising pans allow you to cook large batches of food. These units are popular in large cafeterias and commissaries, where many gallons of soup or sauce are often cooked at once. The addition of a steam kettle or braising pan to your kitchen can help you streamline production by allowing you to cook larger batches at once and freeing up your range for cooking other items. Learn more about these helpful pieces of equipment to determine if your commercial kitchen will benefit from adding one or both of them.
A braising pan, also known as a tilt skillet, is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can have in a commercial kitchen. It has the ability to braise, sauté, boil, fry, and simmer food. These skillets are powered by electricity, which is more energy-efficient, or gas, which heats faster.
Braising pans are available in a wide range of sizes, with countertop models starting at 10 gallons and the largest floor models holding as much as 40 gallons. To make distributing large amounts of food easier, each of these pans has a pouring spout and a tilting mechanism, which may be a lever, hand wheel, or electric motor.
Some tilt skillets will have a removable strainer in the pour spout to allow more flexibility in deciding what to dispense. For example, if you made soup and wanted to pull off some of the broth without losing any of the meat or vegetables, you could insert the strainer before opening the spout. Some models will also include a draw-off valve at the bottom of the pan for draining grease or liquids. The inside walls of the braising pan may have etched or embossed measurement markings to make adding the right amount of ingredients simple. Most tilt skillets come with lids, some of which will have a built-in adjustable vent to let you control the humidity in the pan.
Steam kettles use a steam-jacket design to heat the food inside the kettle. The jacketed design allows you to heat the food evenly with little supervision, with no hot spots scorching food. There are two options for creating the steam in the jacket:
- Self-contained kettles feature jackets that are factory-filled with distilled water. An electric element or gas burner heats the water into steam. Because no external boiler is needed, this type can be used in any kitchen with access to the required power source.
- Direct-steam kettles use steam from an external source to fill the jacket. This simpler design is more economical, but it can only be used in kitchens with external boilers or steam generators, and will require more maintenance than self-contained kettles. Some direct-steam units have an additional water connection for cold water, to help cool food quickly to meet temperature regulations.
Steam kettles come in sizes as small as 6 gallons, which are countertop units with a hand lever for tilting, or as large as 150-gallon capacity floor models, most of which have a hydraulic tilt mechanism to prevent injury to the operator.
To make dispensing food simple, steam kettles come with a pour spout, and most large models include a draw-off valve at the bottom of the kettle. Most models also include etched or embossed measurement markings inside the kettle to make adding ingredients simple.