Tilting Kettles Buyers' Guide
Tilting kettles offer a way to cook large amounts of soups, stews, and sauces with less supervision than a stock pot requires. Tilting kettles use a steam-jacketed design to apply heat evenly to the food inside, eliminating the worry of food scorching to the bottom of the pot due to the concentrated heat there.
1. Decide Which Size You Need
Tilting kettles are available in a wide range of sizes. At the lower end, they start with countertop models, with capacities as small as six gallons. These smaller models usually feature a lever for tilting, but as the kettles get larger, a hand wheel becomes necessary. Floor models of tilting kettles come in sizes up to 150 gallons, many of which have hydraulic tilt mechanisms to ease strain on the operator.
The size can also help determine whether the kettle sits on a tri-leg, quad-leg, cabinet, or pedestal base, but there is some overlap so you can often choose the base you prefer for the size you need. The larger kettles usually have a reinforced rim to help prevent dents, which could alter the steam pressure or prevent the lid from fitting.
The size you need will be determined primarily by the batch size you intend to cook with your new kettle. You may simply be transitioning to a kettle from using stock pots on a range to prepare the same batch sizes, but keep in mind that you may be able to streamline your processes by preparing all at once what you once had to cook in batches.
2. Find the Right Heating Method
There are two different heating methods available for tilting kettles, but some kitchens can only accommodate one of them. Nearly any kitchen can use a self-contained tilting kettle. The jacket on a self-contained kettle is factory-filled with distilled water, which is then heated to steam by either an electric or gas boiler. These are the more expensive option, but because the steam is made in the jacket, kitchens that do not have access to an external boiler can still have one.
Large kitchens that have an external boiler can make use of direct steam kettles. These use steam from that external boiler to fill the jacket and heat the food. While the design for these kettles is simpler than that of the self-contained kettles, they require more maintenance, as condensate will build up in the steam supply line. In most cases, this must be cleaned manually as often as several times per day, but some models do have automatic systems to clean the condensate out.
No matter which heating method is used, insulation is an important thing to consider. Some tilting kettles have no insulation at all, while others insulate the kettle to prevent ambient heat loss. Insulated kettles are better for operator comfort because they stay cooler to the touch and don't add as much heat to the kitchen. Insulated kettles can also save money through energy efficiency.
The kettles can also be either 2/3 or fully jacketed. A full-jacketed kettle applies steam all the way up to the rim, while 2/3-jacketed kettles only have steam for the bottom 2/3 of the kettle. The 2/3 jacketed models require less power and water, but will not heat quite as evenly and quickly as full-jacketed kettles.
3. Select Your Controls
Most tilting kettles have solid-state controls, usually including a thermostat, timer, pressure limit switch, and safety valve. However, some manufacturers have begun using electronic controls instead. Electronic controls often include features for programming cooking and chilling operation, as well as pressure and temperature limits. Smaller kettles tend to use thermostatic controls, while larger tilting kettles usually have a pressure sensor in the jacket instead. Large tilting kettles have different pressure ratings, and you should be familiar with that level before use.
4. Look for Special Features for Added Convenience
There are several features that some tilting kettle manufacturers make available for added convenience. Some tilting kettles have additional water connections, so that cold water can fill the jacket once the food is done cooking. For food that is not going to be served right away, this can help kitchens meet food temperature regulations by getting foods ready to be held in a refrigerator.
Many kettles will also include etched or embossed measurement markings on the inside of the pot, which can make adding the right amount of ingredients simple. Embossed is usually preferred over etched, as they are easier to clean.
Pan supports brace the pan below the pour spout to make dispensing food easier and safer. Some large kettles also include the option for a faucet bracket, so you can connect a faucet to your kettle to add water as needed. The large kettles also often include a draw-off valve, usually with a strainer to prevent clogs. This inclusion can help you remove stock to prevent splashing when you pour, or help you remove some liquids if you have too much in the pot.