Hot Dog Steamers Buyers' Guide
A hot dog steamer is a piece of countertop equipment that can potentially pay for itself very quickly with the revenue it generates. Many models can not only cook hot dogs, but also warm buns and keep the food warm until it is served. The compact size and high output that this equipment can achieve makes it ideal for convenience stores, concession stands, and hot dog stands.
Hot dog steamers can hold as few as 33 hot dogs or as many as 230. Most models steam the hot dogs horizontally, but the European-style models steam them vertically in round containers. The European models are the most compact, so they are an ideal choice for locations like concession stands and other operations with little space to work with. While cook times vary depending on the model and capacity, some models can preheat in 20 minutes and cook a batch of hot dogs in as few as 10 minutes.
The steamer models that cook hot dogs horizontally usually also have a bun compartment, so after the hot dogs are done cooking, you can add the buns to keep them warm and moist. Some models have these compartments side-by-side, while others have the buns held on a rack over the hot dogs. The bun capacity for these units ranges from 18 to 80. The bun capacity is always much smaller than the hot dog capacity, so they will have to be restocked more often.
Another capacity that will be important as you are looking at hot dog steamers is the capacity of the water pan, which holds water for the creation of steam. That capacity will determine if you will need to refill the pan throughout the day and, if so, how often. Hot dog steamers have water pan capacities as large as 14 quarts.
Most hot dog steamers are made of stainless steel and feature doors made of the same material. Some models use tempered glass instead, which provides less insulation but allows the steamer to be used as a merchandiser. If you will use your hot dog steamer as a merchandiser in your store or hot dog stand, you may also want to consider a model that features graphics for advertising the product inside.
There are several door configurations available for hot dog steamers. Some models have doors that swing open from the front. The models with front-mounted glass doors sometimes also have doors that open from the rear to allow for restocking. Other models have doors that swing open on top of the equipment. The European-style models feature a wire basket that holds the hot dogs and is lowered into the glass cylinder from the top, with a round lid that seals the cylinder.
In addition to thermostatic controls, many models also feature a humidity control, either for the unit as a whole or just the bun compartment to prevent buns from becoming soggy or dried out. Some of these models can also be used for heating tortillas or other bread products. The European models sometimes have toasting spikes, stainless steel rods that toast rolls or buns from the inside.
A hot dog juice tray sits below the hot dogs to catch any juice that runs off, keeping the water in the pan clean and odor-free. This comes standard on some models, but on others it may be an optional feature. To make cleaning easy, look for a model that features a water-draining valve in a convenient location.