Choosing Your Refrigerated Prep Table - Buying Guide
Refrigerated prep tables are essential to your restaurant. Choosing the right one might be difficult. There are two basic styles of prep tables in restaurants which offer different sizes, styles, and methods of chilling food. Determine which one is right for your restaurant and seek out the convenience for space and features you need.
Two Main Styles
Salad/Sandwich Prep Table:
The most common style is the sandwich/salad prep table top. This type of unit is flat with a prep surface next to wells indented into the surface. It features an enhanced refrigeration system, new and improved grille system for better airflow management and uniform temperature distribution throughout the cabinet. Pans are cooled from the bottom. Airflow assures that food in the open containers is kept below 5°C and above freezing, giving an increased shelf life and giving food a better appearance. The construction of the cabinet is heavy-duty stainless steel finish on the front, sides, top, door(s) and grill. The cutting board supplied is 10 inches wide constructed of high-density white polyethylene plastic, which is readily removable to clean.
Pizza Prep Tables:
Pizza prep tables are similar to sandwich prep tables and can also vary in several ways. The all-purpose, commonly known, “ raised rail,” deli/pizza prep table assures that condiments are held below 5°C and above freezing. It eliminates the chance of freezing the product with lids open or closed. The refrigerated area rests usually around 4-8 inches above the worktop to allow making and dropping ingredients on a pizza easier. The cutting board supplied with the cabinet is 19 inches wide, nearly twice as large of a sandwich prep table, to support the largest of pizzas. It is constructed of high-density white polyethylene plastic and readily removable for cleaning. Forced air from the evaporator is discharged and recirculated slightly over and mostly under the pans, which are recessed approximately 3 inches from the top of the raised raid into the cabinet directly.
Recirculated, forced air from the evaporator is discharged in three ways. Slightly over and mostly under the pans which are recessed approximately three inches from top of the raised rail and into the cabinet directly. The construction is the same as the salad/sandwich prep table.
Pizza prep units and sandwich prep units are the two varieties of refrigerated prep tables. All models fit into these main two categories, however, there are a number of variable features that will make models distinctly different. Here are a few of those variable features, along with a few other factors to examine when shopping for a refrigerated prep table.
- Size – The most important determining factor of finding the right prep unit is the size. Size not only determines the amount of storage area on both the surface and the cabinet of the cooler but also how it will fit in your operation. A large prep unit can be a godsend in some lines that have lots of refrigerated ingredients and can help direct flow on the line. A wrong size cooler, however, can adversely affect kitchen flow as much as the right one can direct it. It is important that size and the accessibility of the unit’s contents by all cooks using it be examined when shopping.
- Lid – Most standard prep units will come with insulated stainless steel lids. These lids are easy to clean and are adequate at conserving electricity and keeping food refrigerated. There are some models that can be purchased with varying styles of lids. Though pizza prep units only come with one standard style of lid, sandwich/salad prep units can be equipped with flat closing glass doors with hydraulics, pass-thru lids that can be opened from either side (perfect for food expo stations), or can even be purchased without attached lids so they can be used more like a salad bar.
- Pan Capacity – Pizza prep units will have an arbitrary capacity for 1/3 size hotel pans that will vary by model and manufacturer. Though the capacity may be different from brand to brand, each size pizza prep unit will only have one configuration per size. Sandwich and salad prep units, however, will have a number of different pan configurations. Each size table can come with a number of various pan configurations/capacities to choose from. These tables’ hold 1/9 size hotel pans standard, and storage capacities should be chosen to accommodate the number of ingredients needed on your line. The varying capacity tops will fit the same cooler worktops but will leave less space on the sides of the unit (and in some instances may have a smaller cutting board area). The coolers with larger capacities draw slightly more energy, and it is best to find one that fits your needs but will not waste electricity.
- Drawers – Just like undercounter or worktop refrigerators, refrigerated prep tables are available with drawers in lieu of a hinged door. More often than not, refrigerated prep tables are available to be configured with two drawers to replace each door the cooler has. So, for example, a standard 60” sandwich prep unit (depending on make and model) will traditionally be available with two hinged doors, one hinged door, and two refrigerated drawers, or four refrigerated drawers.
- Cutting Board – A white poly cutting board comes standard with most refrigerated prep tables, along with pegs to hold them in place, but it should be noted this is not always the case. There are often times optional cutting board upgrades, such as composite wood-plastic boards or additional poly boards that can be purchased along with coolers.
- Optional Upgrades – On top of additional cutting boards and different lids, a number of refrigerated prep units have additional upgrades or add-ons that can be chosen when shopping. Things like overhead shelves, extra interior wire shelving (for the cabinet), plastic hotel pans (not all units come with them), sneeze guards, and other options that vary by make and model. These add-ons can, in some instances, replace other pieces of equipment, or can help conserve valuable space in the back-of-the-house.
Follow these tips to make shopping for your prep table a little easier:
CONSIDER WHAT TYPES OF FOOD YOU WILL BE STORING.
Does your business primarily make pizzas or sandwiches? Does your head chef need a space of his own to prep high-end dishes for the dinner crowd? The type of food you serve makes a big difference on what type of prep table you require. Refrigerated prep tables have a variety of included features. Considering your inventory will help you decide which table is best.
THINK ABOUT WHAT TYPE OF FOOD PREPARATION HAPPENS IN YOUR KITCHEN.
There are different storage configurations in different types of prep tables. Does your menu require you to store many types of raw meat or do you just need space for a few different garnishes? The size of the cutting board varies depending on the type of prep tables and the location of pans changes as well.
DETERMINE THE VOLUME OF FOOD THAT WILL BE PASSING THROUGH YOUR KITCHEN EACH DAY.
How many customers does your business serve each day? Are you open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or do you only offer certain meals? Does your staff need to prep food for the dinner rush during lunch? It is important to consider how many ingredients need to be easily accessible and stored in your refrigerated prep table at any given time. You also need to think about how many employees may need to use the prep table at once. Longer prep tables are a better choice for kitchens that require multiple employees to prep food.
RESEARCH SPECIAL FEATURES THAT MAY BE OF USE TO YOUR KITCHEN STAFF.
Most prep tables feature removable cutting boards. There are also different types of storage options such as pull out drawers, insulated cabinets, and additional wire shelves. These are things that can be added on as additional features when you are purchasing your refrigerated prep table.
FIND OUT THE TEMPERATURE RANGE YOUR INVENTORY NEEDS TO BE STORED AT.
Most refrigerated prep tables offer temperatures from 0.55°C to 5°C. Some refrigerated prep tables feature adjustable controls so you can have a variety of temperatures in one prep unit. This allows ingredients to be stored at multiple temperatures.
At OzCoolers we offer many different types of pizza prep tables, sandwich, and salad prep tables, as well as refrigerated chef bases. Our refrigerated prep tables come in a variety of sizes and most are easy to move to different areas of the kitchen so space doesn’t have to be an issue. Feel free to contact us today if you need further guidance about choosing a refrigerated prep table for your kitchen.