A Guide to Heated Moisture Holding
Moisturized cabinets, holding foods for longer with confidence
Faced with new and ever-changing challenges, the need for innovative solutions in the foodservice industry is at an all-time high. Foodservice operators have always needed to know how to “dance the dance” to keep from being scorched by the heat of our trade, but today’s foodservice industry is faced with its most erratic and perhaps the toughest uphill battle yet. Having the right equipment is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity.
Let’s be honest. The sexy part is putting your finished product on the plate. The fun part is managing to get all the pieces in the right place to make that happen. But, at the heart of it all is that moment in the middle. When everything must be balanced and you can see the forest from the trees. When everything you and your team have worked tirelessly to perfect, must do what we all hate doing – STOP and WAIT.
It is during this time your efforts are put to the ultimate test. Have you calculated correctly? Is your “mis en place” in order? Every operator asks themselves these questions endlessly throughout the day. The last thing you need is to deal with equipment that just doesn’t “meat the mustard.”
Ensuring you are serving your customers the highest quality cuisine, no matter the circumstances, is when choosing the right holding equipment becomes a necessity. But you may come to realize that choosing the right equipment is a bit more complicated than you thought.
Does my product need moisture or not, if so, how much? If you find yourself asking these questions, we are here to help. In this article, we will hopefully answer some of these common questions and help guide you to making the right decision. Here are a few of the topics we will be covering:
Heated moisture holding is the process in which humidity is added to an enclosed space, typically using a heated pan of water, to prevent cooked products
from drying out and retaining their optimal “just-cooked” quality. Moisture holding is primarily utilized when an operator is preparing products in anticipation of their busiest hours, staging food, or any other situation where products will need to be held for extended periods of time.
Heated moisture holding has a significant impact in today’s foodservice industry Whether it’s helping the operator insulate their business from the effects of the worldwide labor shortage, helping alleviate the high cost of raw ingredients by reducing waste, or helping operators capitalize on new ways to generate revenue such as higher demand for “grab and go” and delivery. The need for high-quality holding equipment may be at its pinnacle, and when it comes to heated holding, FWE offers solutions unmatched by the competition.
Knowing you can prepare any type of cuisine and keep it at “fresh out of the kitchen” quality for hours, gives the operator not only an unequaled advantage but the peace of mind knowing your product is being served at its peak quality, from your first patron of the day till your last.
There are multiple types, styles, and configurations of heated moisture holding equipment, but they all fall into one of three categories:
It is critical to maintaining the appropriate moisture level for the product that is being held. Getting it right can have a very positive impact on the bottom line but getting this wrong can have adverse effects. From unhappy customers to outrageous food costs, these issues can be avoided by selecting the right equipment for the job.
An easy example of this would be fried chicken. If fried chicken is held with too much humidity, that crispy exterior the customer expects becomes soggy and rubbery. When it is held in an environment with too little moisture the exterior becomes rock hard, and the nice moist interior dries out and becomes chewy and tough. Either scenario equals a displeased customer, but once you get that holding environment just right, your fried chicken will hold and retain that freshly cooked crunch that customers expect with fried chicken.
Fried chicken is only one corn in the peppermill of your food holding possibilities. While there are almost limitless uses for moisturized heated holding cabinets, the premise is simple. Being able to extend the holding times of your prepared products is good for the bottom line. Now, let’s discuss the pros and cons of the three styles of moisturized cabinets.
The first and simplest of the three styles is passive humidity. One of our most popular models, the UHS-12, utilizes this passive moisture heating system. FWE’s Humi-Temp models, including our UHS-12, utilizes this heating system, by pushing heated air across the surface of a water filled pan. The movement of this air captures moisture from the water pan and is distributed throughout the cabinet.
While this is far better than the dry, static environment produced in some competitor cabinets and can help extend the servable life and quality of your held food products, there are limitations to this style of cabinet. While passive moisture holding cabinets like FWE’s Humi-Temp series can give the operator a much-needed buffer from preparation to service time. Perhaps the two biggest limitations are the length of time you can hold product at high quality and there is no way to actively control the amount of moisture being produced in the cabinet.
When holding certain types of products like center of plate proteins, expensive specialty items, products that must be prepared and held long before they are served, and/or products that need to maintain their moisture for best quality, this is an investment you may want to carefully consider.
Next, we have adjustable humidity. This system is known as “Moisture-Temp” by FWE and can be found in our MTU-12. This heating system is an upgrade to the passive humidity system, as there is an easy-to-use control that adjusts the level of humidity within. This gives the operator notable control over the humidity levels within the cabinet and allows more consistent moisture holding. This style of cabinet is designed for medium to long-term holding depending on the type of food you hold within it.
Additionally, the adjustable control and the ability to amplify the relative humidity, even at relatively low temperatures, are ideal for proofing. When having the right environment is absolutely crucial for the product, even before it actually baked, the ability to control the moisture level is critical for just about any type of dough.
While being able to adjust the humidity level within the cabinet is a giant leap from passive humidity models, adjustable humidity holding cabinets do have their limitations.
To start, adjustable humidity is just that. The operator can adjust the control, which will increase or decrease the humidity in the cabinet, however, there is no effective way to dial in the precise moisture level. The humidity controls are only capable of being controlled to levels, from 1 to 6. This is great again for proofing dough. Once you achieve the desired environment, the operator can replicate this time after time by using the corresponding settings.
However, this does not allow you to set the unit to specific relative humidity levels that many foods require. While it is great at creating a user-controlled environment, it is not capable of setting exact temperature points, setting exact humidity, and maintaining both within the cabinet. Dialing in exact temperature and humidity and maintaining them is what you will find in the third style of moisture control cabinets, that we will discuss next.
The final and most complete style of heated moisture holding is precision humidity. Precision humidity is the apex of all moisture holding systems. From banquets for the rich and famous, to feeding the future in our schools, or making sure your customers get the best damn brisket plate in the county, there is no substitute for precision.
Alone, at the top of this bar is FWE’s PHTT series holding cabinet. Clymate IQ technology gives any operator peace of mind when there is no option for failure. They can count on the crown jewel in heated holding, FWE’s PHTT-12, The PHTT is the most advanced and precise style of moisture holding unit on the market. As such, you can expect these units to hold food at freshly cooked quality for the most extended time periods. This is achieved by the equipment’s computer constantly measuring and adjusting the active humidity within. This helps prevent human error and allows for a “set and forget” operation.
Another important feature is the equipment’s impeccable recovery times. Holding cabinets are opened and closed frequently, often during peak volume, when staff must be in and out of the cabinet which can be problematic for other heat systems. However, the Clymate IQ, can sense the change in temperature and humidity and will immediately begin making the proper adjustments to recover the correct operating levels. This is achieved by placing the heating element directly into the water bath and directing the airflow throughout the cabinet using a series of fans.
The precise levels of relative humidity that this unit can achieve can be improved upon again by adding a controlled vent to the unit. The “CV” option is connected to the controller, allowing a top-mounted vent to actuate so excess moisture can escape. This is useful when you are holding food that naturally releases its own moisture such as fried chicken and various other products.
Nothing compares to that warm piece of banana bread spread with sweet cream butter right out of the oven or a crispy piece of bacon just pulled off the cast iron still glistening in its own rendered fat or slicing into that 28-day dry-aged prime porterhouse right off the grill and seeing just the perfect hue of pink. Oh yea! Moisture holding, sorry we’re foodies at heart and waistline!
More often than not we all have distractions that keep us from these delicious indulgences, but by choosing the right heated holding solution, foodservice operators can give their customers this same quality anytime, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The up-front cost may be more than other options, but we maintain the return on investment with precision holding, from reducing waste and reducing food costs to the peace of mind of knowing your product will be in prime serving condition when your customer takes that first bite is well worth a second look.
Passive moisture systems are for holding items for a short duration, that do not require a specialized environment.
Adjustable moisture systems are for creating an environment within a range that has a moderate amount of control. This is great for proofing dough or holding semi-sensitive foods for a medium-term within the cabinet.
Precision moisture systems with controlled venting are great for holding the most sensitive foods for long durations and keeping them within serving quality. This helps to give your kitchen the longest buffer time possible between the food being cooked and being served. While more expensive, they contribute to paying for themselves the most by cutting down on food waste within a kitchen.
To begin, starting with a good, solid foundation is essential for any product. The foundation of our heated holding cabinets starts with our, industry-best, base frame. FWE’s base is constructed using stainless steel tubing, formed, and fully welded into a frame. This base is fully insulated, eliminating heat loss from the bottom of the cabinet, being more efficient, and saving you money on utilities. Each caster is mounted to a stainless-steel stress plate that has been welded to this industry’s best frame. We then mount rubber bumper mounts to the base frame with a reinforced design to help reinforce the structural integrity of the entire unit.
The solid construction doesn’t stop there. The rugged stainless-steel body is fixed to the frame after being outfitted with each category’s designated insulation package. Top, bottom, and side to side, 360° of insulation maintains product quality better than any cabinet on the market today.
As with the majority of FWE’s products, from refrigeration, no hood needed cooking platforms, rethermalizers, mobile bars, and from dry to passive to precise moisture control heated holding, we have an arsenal of custom solutions. It’s not just a tagline, it’s OUR foundation. IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, WE CAN BUILD IT.
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