There are some wide variations between individual pan racks that might not be obvious at first glance, so it's very important that you take time to select the right one. The first thing you need to consider when purchasing is what pans and items you'll be using with it. Slide spacing and pan compatibility deal with this.
Slide spacing is the distance between each pan slide on the rack, so these dictate how close pans will be placed next to each. The deeper the pans you're using or the taller the items you'll be preparing, the further apart you'll need your slides to be.
Sometimes called a bun pan rack or a sheet pan rack, individual models have different pan compatibility. Each will hold one of three different types of pans: sheet and bun pans, steam table and hotel pans, or specialty items like serving trays. Because each type of pan has a different width, depth, and height, you need to make sure that you choose the right rack to fit your pans.
You can purchase one of these models with either a lip-load or bottom-load slide type. On a lip-load model, the rack holds the pan solely by the lip that flares out around the top of the pan. While this is the most common type, not all pans have lips. For example, a baking pan has a very minimal lip that may not be able to support it on a rack. To accommodate pans such as this, bottom-load models are available. These support pans by the bottom, instead of by the lip. Neither type of rack can be used to accommodate the other type of pan, though there are combination units that can.
Number of Levels
You can purchase a pan rack with as few as five levels or one with as many as 40. With 40 levels, a pan rack is almost six feet tall. If you need space for more than 40 racks, consider purchasing a model that can hold two trays per level. These models are twice as deep as regular models, allowing them to hold up to 80 trays.
You can access pans in one of two ways: from the front on an end-load model or from the side on a side-load model. Many establishments prefer end load because they are generally easier to load and unload. However, you may choose a side-load model if you wish to place the long side of the unit against a wall to save space.
Pan racks are available that can accommodate either half-size or full-size pans. Because of the difference in size, most racks designed to hold one will not be able to hold the other type, but you will find universal models that can hold both.
You can purchase these models assembled or knocked down. Assembled ones are ready to use when they arrive at your door and will generally provide a stronger and more stable unit. Knockdown models require some assembly, but can save you money on shipping costs since they can fit in a smaller box.
- Corner bumpers and perimeter bumpers are available to prevent damage to walls of storage rooms or walk-ins. No matter how you plan on using your unit or where you plan on putting it, these can be a valuable option.
- Many models offer pan stops. These prevent pans from sliding off the opposite rack side from where they are being inserted. This makes transport easier and can be especially useful for side-load models where the open side is larger. However, you'll want to be sure not to try to load the unit on the side that has the stops.
- Several different heights are available. If you plan on placing your model in a roll-in, make sure to purchase a model that has a roll-in height. Half-height and three-quarter-height models are also available.
- A pan rack that holds serving trays stores round or oval trays. Several of these models can also hold standard-size pans as well.
- Units with a work surface on top are also available. This option is only available on racks with a low profile, such as half-height models. They allow you to store pans beneath the surface while giving you a broad, flat work area on top.