Mary Lou Henry's K-12 Braising Pan Wisdom
Braising Pan (Tilt Skillet)(The most versatile piece of equipment in the kitchen)
Braising pans or tilt skillets are large pans with deep sides and an attached lid. They are used to grill, fry, simmer, and braise large quantities of food. They can be tilted from the normal horizontal position for emptying cooked foods and cleaning.
The braising pan can handle most any type of cooking task. It is available in both gas and electric models, in multiple sizes and volume capacities; it can be used as a: grill, steamer, pasta cooker, pan fryer, stock pot and soup kettle. It can also be used to thaw, poach, blanch, heat canned foods, or it can act as a proof box or oven, and store hot bakery products The braising pan is likely the most versatile piece of equipment you can have in your kitchen. The possibilities for use are limited only to your imagination.
Braising pans are available in sizes ranging from 10-40 gallons and are constructed with a pouring lip and thermostatic controls. Choose from gas braising pans with 30,000-120,000 BTU or Electric with 7.5-9kw. They are made to withstand prolonged heating. Electric and gas braising pans have virtually the same preheating capabilities, with both reaching a cooking temperature of 300°F in about 10 minutes.
An electric braising pan unit costs an average of 20 to 25% less than similar gas models.
Electric braising pans use less energy than their gas equivalents. The average efficiency of electric models is about 80%, while gas model efficiency is just over 50%. This higher efficiency translates into less heat into the kitchen, which lowers cooling requirements from the HVAC system.
Generally speaking, electric braising pans are much easier to clean and maintain than gas models.
Labor & Cost Savings
Cooking with a braising pan in a kitchen where labor and floor space are limited and a menu item can be prepared entirely in a single pan (such as chili, spaghetti, beef and noodles), a food operation can realize a 50% or greater labor savings over conventional top or stock pot methods (mostly because of reduced cleaning requirements). It can also substitute for numerous other pieces of kitchen cookware or equipment.
Braising Pan Types
There are table model braising pans and floor model braising pans (mounted on a set of open legs or a cabinet base). The cooking capacity of a braising pan is rated by its manufacturer. Table models range from 10 to 15 gallons. Floor models typically range from 19 to 40 gallons.
Braising Pan Components
Braising pans are typically made of stainless steel over aluminum block, or a steel griddle base. On gas heated units, aluminum baffles are added to the bottom to promote even heating.
All units are equipped with both a hinged lid and a tilting mechanism. The lid or cover holds heat in the pan. Tilting mechanisms for braising pans come in three types: manual, hand crank, and electric. The hand crank with a self-locking worm gear is the most popular. The tilting mechanism tilts past 90 degrees so an operator can pour foods out of the pan and clean the unit easily. The pouring side of the pan usually has a notched spout.
The cover should fit tightly and be counterbalanced with springs so it doesn't shut on an operator's hand. Lifting handles typically run the length of the pan front (but an operator should also be able to raise the cover from the side to avoid a blast of steam on their hand). Most covers are available with a condensate drip shield and a vent.
Controls for the braising pan include a power off switch and a 100° to 450°F thermostat. Some units include a 60 minute timer and buzzer.
With the exception of 15-gallon models, braising pan units are generally rectangular. One manufacturer produces a round, 15-gallon model. Also, some models contain infrared coils in the pan cover to accommodate special tasks such as baking and top browning.
Braising pans may offer useful accessories that add versatility and labor savings, including:
- Hot and cold water spray hoses.
- Food receptor pan supports, hinged to facilitate tilting.
- Casters for greater mobility.
- Pan racks that hold 12 by 20 inch steaming pans.
- An electronic ignition on gas units.
- Food strainers that slip on and off the pouring spout.
- Steamer racks, pasta baskets, and poaching pans.
- A drain valve and hose.
In summary, the value of such a versatile unit is easy to see. Commercial kitchens are growing more and more complex. Kitchen space is expensive, and demands for more flexible menus and quicker preparation strains both, staff and equipment. The braising pan can completely replace or serve as a backup for several pieces of cooking equipment.
Anyone building or renovating schools that involve kitchens, serving areas or dining areas; please contact me at MaryLou@KaTom.com or 865-223-1150; or KaTom direct at (800-541-8683 or 423-586-5839). We would be grateful for the opportunity to provide quotes or respond to bids or RFP’s on any and all items needed.
Mary Lou Henry