Kitchen Equipment: When its time to replace or invest in key items

Buying one piece of equipment, like the Pacojet could make a big difference to your kitchen, but do your research before you buy any new equipment says CESA

Installing a completely new kitchen is great if you have the funds and the time to do it, but for many, a dream kitchen can remain just that.

However, replacing one or two key items, or bringing in a brand new piece of kit could revolutionise how your kitchen works without hitting your pocket quite as hard as it would with a complete refurbishment.

In the second instalment of our Kitchen Equipment Special Feature we look at how to make one key piece work for you and what to look for when you’re buying to ensure every penny counts.

Small change

As mentioned in yesterday's kitchen refurbishment article, moving to a new site is a sensible time to think about a complete refurbishment of a kitchen because you won't have to disrupt trade by closing, but if the kitchen you inherit is perfectly serviceable, then why pay out on a complete refit?
Alyn Williams thought just that when he opened his first restaurant Alyn Williams at The Westbury in London last November. A front-of-house refurbishment was needed to the restaurant, which was formerly occupied by Artisan, but Williams was pleased with the kitchen set-up.

However, there was just one piece of equipment he decided to treat himself to which he felt would bring more efficiency to his kitchen - The Hatco Quick-Therm Salamander (available for around £2,500).

Key benefits of the grill are that it only switches on when a plate or pan is placed underneath, heats up in seconds and can not only grill food but can cook and reheat.

"I knew I would need a top quality grill," says Williams. "Not only can I use it for all my grilling needs, but I can use it for a number of other purposes such as glazing and caramelising. I make a fillet of hake as part of our lunch menu. which comes with seaweed butter. The Salamander is great to caramelise the butter. It's also great for warming dishes through."

Big impact

For a similar cost to the Salamander, business partners Alex Rushmer and Ben Maude were able to buy a Pacojet for the kitchen of their Cambridgeshire pub the Hole in the Wall. As a first-time chef-patron, Rushmer, who made the finals of Masterchef in 2010, had asked advice from established chefs in the area and a main tip was to invest in a machine.

"Our preconception was that it was an ice cream maker, but it does so much more than that as we continue to discover," says Maude: “We were impressed by the advice we received and we found out for ourselves what a difference the Pacojet makes to the natural colour of the ingredients and the texture it imparts can only be described as divine."

The pair have found that the Pacojet is not only good for making purées as bases for numerous dishes - both savoury and sweet, but also helps cut waste. Misshapes of scallops, which would have been thrown away, are put through the machine which turns the ingredients into a filling for Maude's Scallop Ravioli. Overripe fruit and unused pieces of vegetables are also able to be used as ingredients once processed. Before they would have been thrown away, leading Maude to believe that some of the ingredients 'are practically free'.

Multi-function

While investing a few thousand pounds in a new piece of equipment you've never had before could take your kitchen in a new direction, there will always need to be fully-functioning core items. If ovens are constantly breaking down or kit becomes dated, inevitably the time will come to replace them.

However, you may not need to replace every component. New multi-function equipment that has come to the market recently, removes the need to pay out on a whole new suite and could effectively 'downsize' your kitchen.

“A multi-functional unit will not stand idle and takes up far less space than separate pieces of equipment,” says Vic Brown of FRIMA UK, which recently launched the VarioCooking Center Multificiency.

The machine is a fryer, griddle, bratt pan, kettle, titling pans and pressure cooker in one and claims to use 40 per cent less energy than conventional cooking appliances.

MKN's FlexiChef, another multi-functional unit can be individually built to meet each business's needs and one machine can grill, roast, fry, boil and simmer at the same time while Rational has created the SelfCookingCenter whitefficiency - a combi steamer which can cook roasts, breads, vegetables and more at the touch of a button.

“These days operators looking to replace traditional equipment need to consider a combi steamer. Increasingly it’s a ‘must have’ because it offers a variety of cooking processes in small footprint,” says Lee Norton of Rational.

Sourcing

So when you're checking out equipment, what should you be looking for to ensure you're getting the best deal?

Price will inevitably be important, so shop around. New catering equipment price comparison site improvethatprice.com was set up by a trio of entrepreneurs with experience in the hospitality industry to make it easier for people to do just that.

The site, which aims to make sourcing equipment more transparent, currently lists 6,700 products and is growing its number of suppliers involved.

However, the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA) warns that if a price seems too good to be true - it probably is.

"Buy a reputable brand from a reputable supplier. A cheap product that breaks down and then can't be repaired, because there are no spare parts, is an expensive piece of equipment," says CESA chair Mick Shaddock.

You should also take time to read up on an equipment's spec. While most new equipment will purport to be efficient, it isn't all about energy, according to CESA who recommends checking the running costs of every aspect of the kit.

"Equipment ‘efficiency’ isn’t only about energy – it’s also about conserving resources such as water and chemicals," says Shaddock.

Once that's sorted, you need to consider its reliability. "It's essential that the equipment you buy is maintained and serviced regularly – a PPM (planned preventative maintenance) scheme is best," he adds.

"It will ensure the equipment keeps working at optimum efficiency, as well as minimising down time. Plus, if it’s looked after properly it will last longer. so ensure that your supplier offers appropriate after sales support, including a ready supply of spare parts."

For all our articles on Kitchen Equipment, click here.

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