Cook & Chill Systems: Not Just for Large Operations
Anyone in the Food & Beverage industry knows the importance of mise en place and that it is impossible to prepare everything at the last minute for each order. Chefs need to be able to masterfully prepare food in advance while maintaining near-perfect quality. In many cases, this involves the proper cooking, cooling, and reheating of food. There is an endless supply of equipment available to help, from the well-known and mainstream vacuum/ROP (reduces oxygen) packaging, blast chillers, and rethermalizing warmers to combi ovens and the lesser-known cook and chill systems.
Cook and chill systems have almost exclusively been used to prepare food in larger commercial kitchens. However, the principles can easily be adapted to any size operation. These systems and processes involve cooking food to a safe temperature and then rapidly chilling it to preserve the quality and extend the shelf life. There are many benefits to using cook and chill systems, both for the kitchen staff and the end consumer.
Here are some of the benefits of cook and chill systems:
Cook and chill systems and processes use precise cooking temperature and timing to ensure that food is cooked to a consistent temperature every time. This is especially important as food is prepared in larger quantities and held for longer periods of time.
Proper cooking time, temperatures, and chilling are crucial for food safety. Cook and chill systems and processes ensure that food is cooked to a safe temperature for a specific time and then quickly chilled. This helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and extends the shelf life, and is particularly important when preparing high-risk foods like meats, poultry, and seafood.
Extended Shelf Life
Cook and chill systems help to extend the shelf life of food by reaching the pasteurization temperature or the proper time/temperature ratio and rapidly cooling it after cooking. This means that food can be stored safely for much longer periods of time without sacrificing safety, quality, or taste.
Cook and chill systems can save kitchen staff time by allowing them to prepare larger batches of food during downtime. This translates into the kitchen being able to serve food quickly during busy periods without sacrificing quality or freshness.
Preparing food in a more controlled environment naturally leads to improved quality. The processes also help to preserve the quality and flavor of food.
Food Cost Savings
Cook and chill systems improve food costs by reducing waste, improving yield, and extending shelf life. Preparing large batches of food in advance and storing it safely reduces finishing cooking time and enables kitchens to cook/reheat smaller amounts. This means less unused food, waste, and profit loss. Yield is improved with lower cooking temperatures and precise cooking times. Depending on the item, the shelf life can be three times as long when using cook and chill processes.
Labour Cost Savings
Increasing the amount of food produced naturally reduces labor costs. Productivity increases as cooks prepare food during downtimes and can be redeployed to service the customers during peak periods reducing overtime.
Cook and Chill Equipment
In larger operations, equipment costs are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, cook and chill systems have a very good ROI, and the costs are quickly recovered. Smaller operations can achieve the same result without requiring a significant amount of new equipment if the process and safety measures are achieved.
Equipment ranges include:
- Mixing Steam Kettles
- Vacuum Food Pumps
- Vacuum Clippers
- Tumble Chillers
- Cook/Chill tanks
- Cook Tanks
- Ice builders for supplying cold water needed for chilling
- Hoists, dollies, crates, and a number of supporting pieces of equipment are used to handle the high volume and storage needs.
It is important to note that the increased production will require increased storage. In most cases, there will not be a need to increase refrigeration or freezer storage. With proper planning, raw materials currently stored in these areas will come directly into the kitchen on the day of production, freeing up the existing space.
Cook and chill systems and processes offer many benefits to kitchens of all sizes. The benefits of consistency, safety, extended shelf life, time savings, quality, and cost savings can be quickly realized through improved efficiency, reduced waste, and provide high-quality, safe food to customers.