Common Questions About Commercial Steamers
Should I buy a boiler-based or a boilerless restaurant Steamer?
Boilerless steamers have either a pan of water that is heated to produce steam or a mechanism that sprays water onto a hot metal surface so it becomes a vapor. These methods produce an extremely wet steam that extends the required cooking time, which means these commercial steamers generally aren't as good for high-volume, all-day production as boiler-based steamers.
Boiler-based restaurant steamers have an enclosed pot inside the unit that heats water and distributes the resulting steam throughout the cooking chamber. This type of commercial food steamer produces constant steam to keep up with high-volume demand while providing a drier environment through a drain that pulls moisture out of the unit after the steam releases heat into the food.
What is the difference between gas and electric steamers?
Food steamers are available in models that generate heat with LP or natural gas and electricity, including voltages from 120 to 480. Gas steamers are preferred by some for their higher heat output capabilities, which can enable them to achieve cooking temperatures more quickly at startup and then recover them quickly after the door is opened. In many parts of the country, gas is also the cheaper energy source.
In areas where gas is either unavailable or very expensive, electric steamers are the obvious choice. These units are prized for their typically lower upfront costs and their efficiency, which is owed to the fact that their heating elements are submerged in the water for a nearly complete heat transfer. Both types of commercial food steamers are notably energy efficient, giving them a reputation as some of the highest-performing units among restaurant equipment.
What should I do to maintain my steamer?
To maintain and upkeep your steamer, wipe down all surfaces every day, as small particles of food can promote bacteria growth. It's particularly important that the drain cover – if there is one – be wiped down daily because that's where food particles are most likely to gather. It is also important to ensure debris isn't pushed down the drain as it can cause significant problems if it gets stuck inside the commercial steamer's condensate system.
Manufacturer recommendations and your local water conditions will dictate how frequently you need to descale your steamer. For some models, a specific port is dedicated to adding descaler, while others accept the cleaner in other ways. Pay particular attention to which valves and chambers should be left open or closed, and be sure the system is fully flushed with plenty of clean water to remove chemical residue. Some complex systems have a single button that activates the cycle, enabling this critical task to continue when no one is around, such as after business hours.
Water impurities alter the taste of food and can lead to scaling or corrosion on the steamer. Better filters provide better-tasting food and reduce liming and corrosion. Investing in one may pay long-term dividends in protecting your commercial steamer and other equipment while saving water.
Regularly inspect your commercial food steamer for steam or water leaks, as those mishaps will cause your system to work harder, drive up energy bills, and reduce efficiency. The extra strain can also significantly shorten the unit's life. Door gaskets and valves should also be visually inspected and replaced whenever they show cracks or wear.