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CHEF SMARTIPANTI ANSWERS YOUR QUERIES

(Frequently asked questions)

 

Examples of real life situations

This has been compiled from everyday experience and answering queries sent to us through our website.

Please feel free to ask other questions, we'll try our best to provide useful answers!

 

Q.

I recently purchased one of your Tri-Copper pans, which looked absolutely fantastic, but after using it a couple of times it looked as if the copper surface was "peeling". I tried washing it in soapy water but it didn't seem to work. Why?

A.

Don't worry, the copper layer is not peeling. It could be that the cooking temperatures were a tad too high, and a patina can appear which makes it look as if the surface has deteriorated.

To solve the problem, purchase some copper polish (sold in supermarkets, cook shops, or try our "Peek Metal Polish") and follow the instructions on the tin. You'll find that the pan will regain its original high polish finish.

To ensure your Tri-Copper utensils last a lifetime, follow the instructions enclosed with each pan, but especially:

  • Use a moderate heat, and do not allow the contents of the pan to boil dry

  • Do not pour cold water into a hot pan

  • Never, ever, overheat an empty pan - this could easily damage it

  • Never put your Tri-Copper pans through a dishwasher

  • Before first use, clean your utensil with hot soapy water, then dry thoroughly. Clean in the same way each time it is used.

  • Further information and full specification and instructions can be found here.

Q.

So what's a eutectic plate, is it just an ice pack with a fancy name?

A.

Er.. no. What is generally defined as an "ice pack" is normally a plate which is filled with a solution of water and sodium chloride (or "salt" to you and me!). This is available in small sizes in supermarkets and similar retail stores. The sodium chloride lowers the temperature at which the water freezes, and the "ice" will therefore be colder than ordinary water ice.

A eutectic plate is something fairly similar - with two main differences:

The first and most important is that the added chemical will be something similar to glycol, (used as antifreeze) which has a greater temperature reducing effect than salt - the second is that a eutectic plate is normally available in standard catering sizes, like gastronorm.

An ice pack can be perfectly suitable for certain operations and will be considerably cheaper than a eutectic plate. However a eutectic plate will provide peace of mind due to the superior efficiency and will also fit your food carriers properly.

Q

How do your "hot energy cells" work?

A

A hot energy cell works in a similar way to a eutectic plate.

Instead of freezing it down you heat it up in your microwave oven.

The cell is filled with a waxy material which will reach a fairly high temperature (watch your fingers when you handle it!) and will release this heat onto your food during transportation, helping temperature retention.

Q

How long will an insulated container keep temperature?

A

As we stated in Food Transport Tips, there are as many answers to that question as there are different operations, and it raises many more questions: type of menu? hot or cold food? loading time? ambient temperature? bulk or portioned? summer or winter?. The list is endless. But there are guidelines which if followed will ensure that you are compliant.

We try in our "Tips" to provide some guidance, suggestions and a few examples - but exact performance data depends on the container used. However, to provide a general guideline, our insulated containers have been tested by an independent agency and tests have shown compliance with EN 12571 standards.

The tests were carried out using mashed potato for the hot test and water for the chilled test. Containers were completely filled for both tests.

Q

Are insulated containers suitable for direct contact with food, or should inner packaging always be used?

A

Good quality (like the Melform range!) insulated containers are completely food contact safe. Inner packaging can be used whenever convenient and to separate different foods.

We also have Stew/Soup/Gravy containers and beverage dispensers which are designed to hold sauces and liquids and these can be placed directly inside the containers.

Q

I run a catering operation at a Nursing and Old Peoples Home for 120 people. To further utilise the kitchen we would like to start a meals on wheels service. Could you give me some advice on the equipment we would require to deliver up to 160 meals?

A

In theory you could deliver 160 hot meals in 4 Gastronorm size insulated containers approximately 65 litre capacity. Insulated boxes work very well when loaded with food above 80C and are then kept closed.
The problem with meals on wheels is that the containers are being constantly opened and the last half a dozen meals will be nearing 65C.
You can combat this in two ways, use hot energy cells which can be heated in a microwave oven and placed in the bottom of the container under the last meals to be delivered or use a heated insulated container, which will operate from a 12 volts supply and can plug into a cigar lighter.

Q

I have recently purchased a pub and would like to serve hot and cold food "Self-Service" style utilising part of the bar. The bar would need to revert back during the evening for wet sales only.

A

I recommend the Lincat Gastrowell range of heated and refrigerated displays. They are modern in design and would give you a display to tempt your customers.
There are 5 different refrigerated versions and 3 different heated versions, they are fully portable and can be stored away to free up your valuable bar area.

Q

We have been operating our current Meals on Wheels delivery service for just over 12 months. We are using insulated boxes which hold up to 36 complete meals comprising a two-compartment foil for the main meal and a single compartment for hot sweet.

Initially the temperature results were fine, the last meal out was always above 65C, lately the food seems to be losing temperature more quickly, do the insulation properties of the boxes deteriorate in time or could there be other reasons?

A

It is extremely doubtful that the insulation properties of the boxes deteriorated.

It is more probable that the temperature on entering the box is not above 80C or maybe the loading of the box is not being carried out correctly. The box should be filled at one visit, maximum two, to avoid temperature drop. If you ensure that you are adhering to all guidelines, your boxes will maintain the required temperature.

See also the info on Meals on Wheels above

Q

I am storing and transporting samples which need to be maintained at a temperature of +3C over a 24 hour period. Would I be able to achieve this using an insulated container with eutectic plates?

A

It would not be possible to guarantee a fixed constant temperature of +3C in an insulated box using eutectic plates.

I would suggest using a refrigerated insulated container which operates from a 220 volts AC supply and a 12 volts DC supply and can be plugged into an in-car cigar lighter. The electronic digital regulator allows the temperature to be set from +3C to 18C and has a temperature display.

Q

I have 2 insulated boxes which I use mainly to take cold food to small buffets, on the odd occasion that I take hot food I am generally unable to fill the box and hence the food loses temperature quickly. Have you any advice on how this could be avoided in an inexpensive way?

A

Try reducing the amount of empty space in the box by placing inside a heated full size gastronorm stainless steel container and lid, then fill the box with your hot food. If you have the container this will cost nothing, alternatively you could purchase a couple of hot energy cells which are heated in a microwave oven and then placed in the bottom of the container under the hot food, the hot cells are around 24 each.
Its the same for chilled food, eutectic plates or ice packs greatly improve temperature retention.

Q

We run a small catering outlet and will be shortly signing a contract with a local hospital for the supply of Afro-Caribbean ready-meals. These will be chilled or frozen. Initially we may just supply about 50 meals per day, with weekly deliveries if we supply them frozen. We may purchase a refrigerated van for the transportation, but could you advise on what kind of packaging we will need?

A

If you have decided to purchase a refrigerated vehicle, which will set you back a minimum of 9000 for a basic model with only one temperature option, you will only need packaging which complies with hygiene rules and to facilitate loading and unloading.

However, the transportation of 50 meals per day could be safely and economically achieved simply using insulated containers and eutectic plates. This would also work if you make weekly deliveries of 350 frozen meals. You may want to consider this solution, which would involve a much smaller capital outlay (a few hundred pounds) and perhaps upgrade to dual temperature refrigerated vehicles if the business expands and you start supplying several other hospitals.

Q

I am considering adding salad bar facilities to my small catering outlet, but I am a bit confused by all the rules and regulations I would have to follow for this project.

I found plenty of information on equipment, but where can I get hold of guidelines and the actual wording of the rules?

A

The actual body of the law can be found following this link Food Safety Act 1990 but as the law is written in "legalese", I found it of little use and would advise you to check out these links instead, leading to information prepared by the Food Standards Agency: Food Safety Guidelines. A number of other links to useful information can also be found in our Useful Links page on our website.

For further information phone: 01689-820 484