While they look very much like deep fryers and even use a similar cooking process, these use water where fryers use oil. Baskets of product, from noodles to vegetables, are lowered into the vat to cook, with the boiling water providing a relatively hands-off type of cooking. Whether you have a high-volume Italian kitchen that requires a floor model cooker or a smaller kitchen that only serves the occasional pasta dish, there are quite a few options to consider when purchasing one of these units.
Water capacity is one of the most critical considerations when purchasing a cooker like this, as it will dictate how much food you can cook at once. Smaller venues or ones offering limited pasta dishes may prefer a countertop model that holds around 2 to 3 gallons of water. Larger restaurants that yield a large amount of pasta dishes may prefer a floor model that can hold approximately 12 gallons.
Number of Vats
Another option to consider is the number of vats you'll need. Whether you're boiling huge amounts of pasta or cooking various types of vegetables, having more than one vat can be crucial to a busy establishment because it enables you to cook more than one product at once without the risk of flavor transfer. You might also consider having one vat to cook the pasta and a second vat, simmering at a lower temperature, to reheat pasta that is already cooked.
A number of specialty options are available for your commercial pasta cooker, many of which automate common tasks to free up labor.
- Down draft systems can help address ventilation requirements. Grease, fumes, and odors are pulled down and away from the cooker, eliminating the need for an additional vent hood in most areas. Check local codes to ensure these can be used without ventilation in your area.
- An auto drain feature allows water to overflow the vat into a separate container, causing the used water to go down the drain.
- Units with the auto fill option allow excess starch to drain out of the tank by automatically topping off the tank. That means your pasta cooks in fresh water all the time and shouldn't be gummy.
- Basket lifts ensure proper cook times without constant monitoring by pulling the food up and out of the hot water after a cook time you set. That frees up employees to work on other tasks and saves you money by preventing product loss from overcooking.
- A rinse station is available on many units. This allows the operator to rinse the pasta quickly, cooling it and stopping the cooking process.
Computerized controls are an option on many cookers. These give the operator precise control over time and temperature, and also allow cooking procedures to be programmed for individual dishes. These, along with an auto water level control option can be especially helpful in restaurants with high employee turnover rates, because they make operation simple and automatic.
Commercial pasta cookers come in electric and gas models. Electric units tend to be more convenient, because most restaurants are already wired for electricity. Many cooks, however, tend to prefer the quick, powerful, and more controllable heat of gas.
As with most commercial-grade kitchen equipment, gas pasta cookers are designed to be operated using either liquid propane (LP) or natural gas (NG). While natural gas is often more economical than liquid propane, it is not always readily available. Check with your local utilities provider before making your choice. You might also consider that propane is a greener choice, as it is not considered a greenhouse gas.