Tilting Skillets Buyers' Guide
Tilting skillets, also called tilt skillets or braising pans, are some of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can have in your kitchen. A tilt skillet can braise, sauté, boil, fry, proof, hold, simmer, melt, and steam food. That versatility makes owning one a benefit to nearly every foodservice operation, and the wide variety of options available makes it possible to find one to fit every kitchen.
Power and Sizing
Tilting skillets are all powered by either electricity or gas. Electric models range in power from 6 to 18 kW and are more energy efficient than those powered by gas. On the other hand, gas units, which range in power from 6 to 120 BTU per hour, are known for heating faster, so the loss of energy efficiency might be worth it in a kitchen where time is of the essence.
There is a braising pan in a size to fit nearly every kitchen's needs. The smallest countertop models start at a 10-gallon capacity and go up to 15 gallons, with widths as narrow as 24 inches to fit in kitchens with limited space. Mid-sized units require a table or cart to sit on, with capacities ranging from 15 to 30 gallons. The largest versions are floor models, holding 30 to 40 gallons.
The size of the tilt skillet will play a role in the tilting mechanism the machine uses. Most of the smaller skillets rely on a simple manual lever for tilting, while many of the larger skillets offer a hand wheel for manual tilting or an electric motor for power tilting. Tilting the skillet with a hand wheel can sometimes be a little jerky, with sudden stops and starts that can lead to food sloshing over the edge. An electric motor may be more expensive, but can often pay for itself with what it saves you in labor and reduced product loss.
Most models will include a safety switch that turns off the burners once the pan begins to tilt past a certain angle. You should be aware of what that angle is and whether that's a desirable feature to have for your intended uses. Cooking on a very slight angle can be helpful for managing grease runoff for burgers or other greasy meats.
Tilting the pan for distributing food is made easier by the pour spout included on most models. Depending on how you will use your tilt skillet, you may also want to check for models that include a receiving pan support or pour strainer.
There are several smaller options that may influence your buying decision when considering braising pans. Controls are usually either digital or solid-state, but some brands go as high-tech as offering touch-screen controls. Etched or embossed measurement markings on the inside of the pan can make cooking simpler. Some of the larger tilt skillets will include a draw-off valve at the bottom of the pan, to allow you to drain off liquids without having to tilt the pan.
The way the lid is designed can have a big impact on your cooking operations. For large tilting skillets, some handles may be short, while others that span the length of the lid may offer easier handling. Some models feature lids that will stay in place, which allows for vented cooking. If you will be doing vented cooking often, you may instead consider a lid with an adjustable vent built in.
Braising Pans Food Service Technology Center. Accessed September 2015.