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What makes a Combi?

In recent years there has been a legitimate debate over the virtues of boiler and boilerless combis. Each basic design has its advantages and flaws. Often, the quality of the combi and its results depend on how its manufacturer has balanced one against the other.

 

Most people already know that combis or combi-steamers are ovens that have the ability to cook with dry heat, moist heat or a combination of the two. Cooking with at least some moisture added to heated air is nothing new. Convection ovens with steam injection features have been around for a long time. What makes an oven a combi is the ability to generate enough steam in the cabinet to cook at 212°F (100°C.)

 

Boiler

The basic advantage of boiler combis is performance. A boiler combi can give the operator a full cabinet of steam already at temperature very quickly. In the case of steam-only “mode”, dry heat elements are not needed at all. This energy-saving aspect is balanced against the energy required to preheat and operate the boiler at all times, whether steam is required or not. The first combi-steamers created steam through separate boilers and then circulated it throughout the oven cabinet with a fan. By introducing dry convection heat, the oven temperature could be raised beyond steaming-only temperature and thus cook with super-heated steam. This provided hot, humid conditions that cooked food quickly without drying it out. “Wet” foods were started out with dry heat only, using moisture from the food to achieve a hot humid environment. Steam from the boiler could be introduced later in the cycle if needed, to maintain these conditions. Compared to boilerless combis, maintenance and replacement costs associated with the boiler itself increase the cost of ownership and operation. Water usage in boiler combis is also very high.

 

Boilerless

While many improvements to combi-ovens were made over the years, the fundamental design of a water fed reservoir with separately heated boiler is still used today in many units. However, another type of oven was developed that claimed combi status without the use of a boiler. These “boilerless” or steam injection combis were based on the idea that cold water could simply be run into the unit and sprayed on the oven’s heating elements to produce steam as needed. No need for the reservoir and the additional heating element required to generate steam separately. This design made it more difficult to cook with steam only, especially for long periods of time. But without the boiler, these combis occupy a smaller footprint, use less water and are less expensive to buy and maintain.

 

DynaSteam2­ The best of both

Our patented Dynasteam2 effectively bridges the gap between boiler and conventional boilerless designs. This unit has no boiler and so avoids the maintenance and repair issues. Yet the design concept produces as much steam as needed almost instantly while preserving the efficiencies of both heating element and heat exchanger. How? By spraying water onto a specially designed rim that rotates with the fan. This rim is positioned toward the outer edge of the fan, taking advantage of high “circumferential” speeds to “mist” water evenly into the heated cooking chamber. Water droplets below a certain size are instantly turned to steam.

 

Humidity control

Another resulting difference among combi-steamers has to do with the ability of the operator to control the amount of moisture in the cooking cabinet at any given time. With the technology described above, steam can be added at any time and in varying amounts. But how does anyone know how much is enough or how much is too much? Precise control of humidity in the cooking environment depends on two additional functions: the ability to release or vent excess steam when required, and the ability to measure the relative humidity in real time. A few manufacturers have developed the digital control technology necessary for an operator to select a humidity level and have the machine measure conditions in the cabinet and add or remove moisture automatically as needed. Combis with true humidity control have increased flexibility and productivity by an order of magnitude. Delicate baking, low-temperature steaming, overnight roasting, high temperature grilling, and perfect retherming are just a few examples of what can be done in a single oven with this kind of control over the cooking process.

 

Which Combi is for You?

 It can be challenging to determine which combi is ideal for your kitchen, especially when buying one for the first time. Our Navigator Tool helps narrow down all the options by asking questions specific to your operation. Click here to try it out and identify the solution that will best fit your unique needs!

How Henny Penny SmartHold Brings Value to the Kitchen

Henny Penny SmartHold Heated Holding Cabinets feature precise automatic humidity control. This gives operators the ability to hold nearly any hot food item longer and with significantly improved food value than any other heated holding cabinet. A patented system lets the user:

  • Hold at any humidity level between 10% and 90% relative humidity, and at any temperature from 80°F (27-°C) to 210°F (99°C).
  • Select or adjust humidity level in one percent increments.
  • Generate and maintain the precise desired level throughout the holding cycle automatically.
  • Proof and hold in the same piece of equipment (yes, you read that right).

This level of control is achieved by the capability to also remove humidity automatically through a sensor controlled venting system, a feature quite rare among holding cabinets. Sensor feedback control also does a much better job than conventional thermostats of maintaining precise temperatures throughout the cabinet. One major advantage that emerges is the ability to hold at temperatures under 150°F (65°C). This is the “proofing mode” that allows the SmartHold cabinets to proof bread and other bakery items.

Why Upgrade to SmartHold?

The most basic function of insulated heated holding cabinets is keeping cooked foods at specific internal temperatures prior to serving. At the end of the day, holding equipment should be doing much more than simply maintaining constant heat. Without controlled humidity, a heated environment will quickly cause fresh product to become dry and unappetizing. Food loses value when it must be thrown away instead of served. Humidity in basic thermostat-controlled holding cabinets comes from the heated product itself. However, maintaining food value for longer periods requires some semblance of control over the amount of humidity in the cabinet at any given time.

Relative humidity inside a holding cabinet can vary a great deal, depending on the type and quantity of food being held, how it was cooked, how long it has been held and how often new products are added into the cabinet and how often the doors are opened and closed. Most “dry” heated holding cabinets have a manual slide vent that allows moist air to escape when humidity builds to an undesired level. “Humidified” models also have water pans—particularly those that use fans to circulate heat—offering a passive means of adding humidity though evaporation. This combination of evaporation, moving air and external venting is intended to maintain some degree of humidity control in the holding environment.

For limited menu applications or operations that simply don’t require holding times much beyond an hour, this level of technology is all that’s needed. Obtaining the benefits of longer holding times requires the ability to measure and maintain the relative humidity inside the holding environment in a much more precise way.

Advances in holding technology incorporate humidity control sensors to monitor conditions in the cabinet. “Smart” cabinets, like our SmartHold series take control a step further by using the measurement of relative humidity to control the introduction or venting of moisture in order to maintain a desired level. (Curious about the ideal relative humidity levels for different menu items? Click here to read our blog on that.)

The SmartHold Payoff

The overwhelming advantage to precise humidity control in a holding cabinet is that foods no longer have to dry out, shrink, or turn soggy over a period of time in exchange for staying hot. Operators can create the perfect holding environment for any type of food simply by selecting the right temperature and humidity level.

Such technology isn’t particularly cheap, but well-worth the initial investment for demanding kitchens. It’s important to gauge the holding needs of your operation honestly to see if such control is worth more than it costs. On the other hand, it’s hard to overestimate the benefits this quantum leap in control has to offer over conventional hot boxes.

Here’s how SmartHold brings value and shows ROI in the form of savings:

SmartHold has the potential to hold many popular items almost indefinitely. Holding times measured in hours, rather than minutes. This extra time comes cheap in terms of labor—the programmable process is completely automated. Countdown timers also help employees keep track of holding times for individual trays of food.

The precise control of temperature and humidity means you can hold just about any item for a long time. This is a major benefit, because conventional wisdom says many items simply can’t be held for long, if at all. The gains in productivity can accrue across your entire menu.

A smart holding cabinet can provide holding and proofing capabilities with one piece of equipment. You’ll save on the expense and floor space of a separate proofing cabinet. Increased utilization, alone, can pay for the unit.

A cook/hold component in foodservice production has the effect of smoothing out the production process. Having plenty of high-value food ready to serve eliminates spikes in production during busy periods or when in-shop, carryout and delivery orders are piling up.

Cooking in large batches well ahead of time also reduces the need for scarce skilled labor, such as chefs, to be present throughout the day as is the case with cook-to-order production.

Increased demand can be met utilizing normal food prep and service conditions with no additional labor and little disruption to existing employee functions. On average, this results in fewer staff hours and lower labor costs. Over time, these savings represent a considerable return on investment.

Could SmartHold make a difference in your kitchen? Click here to learn more.

Why Holding Equipment is Vital to the “New Normal” in Foodservice

To say that the novel coronavirus pandemic has made a significant impact on the foodservice industry would be an understatement. Well-established norms and what little predictability we had before is now long forgotten.

While we’ve seen a decrease in traditional dining out, the demand for takeout and delivery has increased significantly this year.

The increased demand for takeout and delivery options isn’t projected to die down soon. The timeline for how long COVID-19 will continue to be a concern is still uncertain. Additionally, customers have become accustomed to this new way of eating, preferring the convenience of takeout and delivery options. But if there’s one thing the foodservice industry does well, it’s roll with the punches. Holding equipment is one tool that can help restaurants adjust to this “new normal.”

Food safety

Food safety is a concern that’s becoming increasingly important to both restaurant operators and consumers, and not just during this climate. In fact, 50% of consumers say sanitation will be their primary consideration when selecting a restaurant to visit after the time of coronavirus, according to Datassential. Holding cabinets can play a significant role in helping maintain food safety levels.

Holding cabinets enclose food in controlled environments with tightly sealed doors, keeping cooked food safe from airborne pathogens. Because food can be removed from ovens or fryer baskets and placed directly into holding cabinets, these units can also play a key role in reducing product handling.

Demand uncertainty

In this ever-changing environment, it can be tough to predict volume or demand. You’re not alone. Datassential reports 55% of restaurant operators don’t know how many orders will come in and when, making it tough to prep for the day. And 54% say it’s hard to figure out how much staff they need to keep up with demand. Holding cabinets can help mitigate this uncertainty, allowing food to be cooked before anticipated peak periods. This advantage is particularly useful if you’re working with a limited staff.

Utilizing holding cabinets can make the entire cooking sequence more economical. Holding a variety of foods for different lengths of time can help kitchen staff plan their cooking sequence for efficiency rather than necessity. Many holding cabinet models offer countdown timers, which display how much time food can continue to be held while maintaining food quality, helping make monitoring simple. Using holding cabinets can help streamline complicated kitchen processes during this time of demand uncertainty.

Operating costs

Holding cabinets can also help restaurants save on operating costs by keeping food at safe temperatures for longer and reducing food waste. Fans that circulate hot moist air evenly throughout the cabinet help maintain both safe temperatures and food quality, ensuring your restaurant retains its reputation for consistency.

Holding cabinets are better for preserving cooked food safely for long periods than other options, such as heated display cases or even warming lights. With extended food life, your restaurant can sell more and throw away less over the course of the day, helping save money on food and operating costs.

Henny Penny’s holding cabinets offer precise humidity control to provide longer hold times and are designed to help your restaurant thrive. Take a look at our holding solutions for your company.

SmartHold Proofing & Holding

High-quality insulated heated holding cabinets—particularly those with appropriate humidity control—offer foodservice operators significant opportunities to improve food value, throughput and productivity. The ability to hold a wide variety of foods for long periods of time is like putting production time in the bank. The reduction in waste, alone, becomes a major justification. The key to achieving these advantages lies in equipment that offers more precise control of the holding environment. The flavors, textures and moisture content of various cooked foods react differently to heat and humidity. The ability to set and maintain ideal holding conditions for popular menu items can mean the difference between twenty minutes and two hours. This translates into smoother production schedules, better equipment utilization throughout the kitchen, and lower labor and operating costs.

Recently, we’ve talked about the science behind holding and how to buy time with holding cabinets. Today, we’re taking a closer look at proofing and holding with Henny Penny SmartHold cabinets.

Since a SmartHold cabinet can create and maintain the perfect holding environment, food is better left uncovered inside. This helps reduce labor and clean-up time.

The following chart shows optimal SmartHold cabinet settings for common menu items. In general, settings for a particular item can be applied to similar menu items not shown here. For specific recommendations, please send inquiries to info@hennypenny.com.

Keep in mind that some foods are more durable than others. When holding a variety of items at the same time, choose temperature and humidity settings closer to those suggested for the more sensitive foods or midway between foods with similar durability.

Food temperatures must remain above the minimum required safe holding temperatures. The USA minimum is 140°F (60°C). If the cabinet door(s) is opened frequently, temperature should be set slightly above the minimum required safe holding temperature.

Based on Henny Penny HHC 900 and SmartHold holding cabinets. Results will vary for other manufacturers.

Want to learn more about our SmartHold solutions? Click here.

The Science Behind Holding

Reliable holding equipment preserves quality, keeps food ready to serve, and allows employees to prepare for peak hours while offering additional benefits (click here to read our blog about how kitchens can “buy” extra operations time with heated holding solutions). Getting the most out of your holding equipment is easier said than done, which is why it is important to understand the science behind it.

One of the first things every aspiring chef learns is that cooking is a function of time, temperature and moisture. This is also true of holding with a few important differences. When food is cooked it undergoes rapid and continuous change as it is subjected to extreme conditions. The finished or “done” state is simply a point to be reached along the path of change. To maintain this state for any length of time requires conditions that are much more subtle in relation to those of the food itself. Ideal holding conditions are those that cause very little in the way of further dynamic changes in the food and prevent changes from taking place naturally. Most simple heated cabinets can do this for short periods. However, different foods react differently to periods of extended holding. Most fried and baked products, for instance, tend to dry out. Other foods become soggy as excess humidity builds up from covered dishes or “wetter” foods and forces the re-absorption of oils, juices or sauces that were released during cooking. The structure and flavor of casseroles, hot sandwiches or other multi-textured foods will begin to breakdown as drying and absorption affect ingredients differently.

Size and cut makes a big difference in how long meats, poultry and fish can be held. Large whole or half joints, which are typically cooked in a slower process, usually hold well. The combination of crust and high ratio of volume to surface area make it easier to preserve flavor and texture in a heated holding environment. For this reason, also, thick fish steaks can be held longer than thin fillets, which do not hold well at all. With proper humidity control, longer holding times improve the flavor and consistency of certain meats, such as ribs. What is essentially a low-temperature, slow-cooking environment continues to breakdown proteins in a gentle way, making the meat more tender. The absorption of seasonings and sauces into the product in this case, enhances the desired flavor and texture. With the number of variables in play, the goal of holding—to suspend the results of cooking at their peak indefinitely—remains elusive. But the benefits of being able to hold a wide range of foods for hours rather than minutes would be significant.

The below chart shows popular menu items grouped by common holding temperature ranges.* Items in the same temperature range can generally be held together. Holding times will vary depending on the durability of the item and humidity in the cabinet. The Humidity column shows ideal relative humidity. With a controlled humidity holding cabinet, much longer holding times can be achieved.

*Based on Henny Penny HHC 900 and SmartHold holding cabinets. Results will vary for other manufacturers.

At Henny Penny, we provide holding equipment and support to some of the world’s largest restaurant chains — and we’re proud to manufacture everything in-house, right down to the control panel. Click here to learn more about the line of holding equipment that gives operators the options they need and the quality they expect.

WIN at Takeout with a Henny Penny EPC

Grocery shopping and grabbing meals on-the-go aren’t as simple in a world changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, people are looking for ways to make their lives easier. As a result, takeout has become increasingly popular and fast-food or dine-in restaurants aren’t the only places that can capitalize on this rise in demand. Imagine the relief of a grocery shopper who needs to pick up dinner on the way home when they come across a display containing rows of fresh chicken and sides while approaching checkout. At a counter service restaurant with frequent carryout orders, guests will be thrilled to see hot and ready-to-purchase dishes when they walk in to place an order. With a Henny Penny Express Profit Center (EPC), various business concepts with diverse menus can maximize takeout sales.

Conventional self-serve heated merchandisers can’t avoid letting hot air out and cool air in. With Henny Penny, the FreshLock™ air curtain creates a thin wall of moving air that separates cool air in your store from hot food items in the unit. The result? Evenly heated products throughout the cabinet that keep their freshness and appeal for up to four hours! *

We never take a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to our customers. Different sizes, different widths, different shelf configurations… all the options that help you take advantage of impulse purchases throughout the store. Place EPC units as aisle end caps, along walls, or freestanding near checkout lanes.

Sustainable solid-state LED lighting offers brilliant product presentation with bright warm-white light, no flicker or buzz. Highly energy efficient, durable, safe to dispose but almost never need replacing. Other features include:

– Heated shelves and deck with independent temperature controls

– Black matte finish and stainless steel, with clear side panels for visibility

– Easy mobility with available casters, 120 V compact plug-and-play unit

EPCs are a perfect example of how various operations can win at takeout – it’s all about convenience and delicious food. Join the thousands of satisfied restaurant owners who trust Henny Penny quality and 24/7 global customer support.

 

 

*Safe holding times may vary depending on product

 

Buying Time with Holding Cabinets

Restaurants, delis and other retail foodservice operations put a great deal of resources into equipment and procedures that produce food with the consistent flavor, texture and appearance their customers have come to expect. Yet without some means to preserve fresh product for a reasonable amount of time, the effort—along with a significant portion of food—is wasted. This is more important than ever with the rising demand for delivery and take-out. You now need to be even more efficient in your kitchen and that is where holding cabinets come in.

Heated holding cabinets are typically used to keep extra quantities of food hot and tasty until it is time to fill orders or re-supply a display or warmed assembly station. But when we think a little harder about this function, it’s easy to see that what holding cabinets really do is produce extra time in the operation of your kitchen. This extra time—a function of how long foods can be held at acceptable quality— can be used in many ways to increase the utilization of equipment and improve the efficiency of processes and workers. Depending on the type of food and the quality of your holding equipment, the productivity potential can be significant.

“Buying” extra operations time with heated holding cabinets allows you to:

Cook well before the mealtime rush. “Cooking to hold” results in more efficient production that often eliminates the need for additional cooking equipment and accessories. You can also reduce energy expense by cooking during off-peak hours. Employees are free to focus on service, so more orders can be taken and served during peak mealtimes.

Cook in higher volume. Cooking ahead of time allows operators to better utilize existing cooking equipment by cooking a series of full loads, rather than partial loads to order. Using higher capacity equipment that produces more product per load from the same floor space will save even more money.

Reduce product handling. Full size holding cabinets can become a key part of a “reduced-touch” production process. Pans or grids of food can be removed from ovens or fryer baskets and placed directly into holding cabinets without re-racking for pick and pack staging, or as part of a cook/chill production process.

Reduce product waste. Properly integrated holding capabilities preserve cooked food safely for significantly longer periods than heated display cases or warming lights. This enables you to sell more and throw away less over the course of the day.

Efficient menu production. Using holding cabinets to hold a wide variety of foods for different lengths of time can help you plan your cooking sequence for the best utilization of equipment, labor and time.

These are just a few examples of how the general principle of heated holding can extend beyond simply keeping something warm until you need it. In every case, the benefits grow with the length of time that food can be acceptably held – that’s why at Henny Penny, we developed our line of SmartHold cabinets to keep food fresh for up to 2x longer than the average cabinet. Click here to learn more about the various holding cabinet solutions we have to offer.

The NAFEM Challenge: Give Us Your Feedback

Every two years we look forward to NAFEM. Not only is this show a great opportunity to show off our innovative products to industry peers, partners and customers, but it’s an even better opportunity to meet with those stakeholders and learn what is on their minds. If we can understand their challenges and what they need to make their operations more efficient and profitable, we can then make products that better suit those needs.

This year, we’d like to do more of exactly that — hear from you. We have three new products that we will be introducing at NAFEM, as well as our latest frying innovation, and we’re interested in your feedback.

Combination combi ovens offer optimum flexibility, utility and operation (2 separate controls) in an integrated format.  We are introducing two new products in this platform.

Our FlexFusion Team Combi takes efficiency to a whole new level. With two separate cooking chambers, operators now can cook completely different items simultaneously, despite specific humidity, temperature and cook time requirements in each unit — without risking any flavor transfer.

The Space$aver Plus Team Combi, another option with two separate cooking chambers offers the same separate cavity design allowing similar flexibility in a compact footprint with integrated hood.  Perfect for kitchens where space is a premium, this model’s integrated hood system has a 4 stage filtration system the serves both chambers.

The FlexFusion Smoker combi helps further expand your combi oven’s versatility. Sitting outside/on top of the cooking chamber, the smoker maximizes floor space and gives operators a combi that can now be used to cook in more ways than ever before. From meats to fish to vegetables, the FlexFusion Smoker is a game-changer for any operation looking to mix up their flavor profiles .

Last year we introduced our F5 open fryer to the market, and now it makes its first NAFEM appearance. With an incredibly simple design, complete with built-in help guides and icon and picture-based touch screen controls, the F5 makes frying easier than ever. Its kitchenproof design is constructed around an ultra-efficient internal system that features 3-minute filtration and sets new standards for a low oil volume fryer.

If you’re interested in these products but aren’t sure what makes them different, when you visit our booth feel free ask questions. Some that might help you understand these products better are:

  • What is a combi “team” and what can it do better or differently than a regular combi?
  • I’d love to include smoked meats to my menu, but I’m not sure what items to add. Is there anyone that can help me with this process?
  • How can I reduce the amount of oil I use in a week?
  • I’ve heard about your touch-screen fryer and have never used one. Can I try it out?

So, if you are in Orlando and visiting the NAFEM Show, we challenge you to swing by booth #1804. Come experience these three new pieces of equipment, give us your honest feedback and ask questions. We look forward to seeing you here in Orlando.

Make Moving to a 30 lb. Fryer Your 2019 Resolution

In 2019, consider extending a New Year’s resolution to your kitchen equipment. If you’re still using a 50-lb. fryer, it may be time to consider evaluating the benefits of a 30-lb. fryer.

Operators can expect three advantages over a 50-lb. fryer:

Oil Savings — A drop in 20 lbs. means 40 percent less oil is needed to cook the same amount of product. Additionally, a 30-lb. fryer, can provide twice the oil life than a 50 lb. unit, meaning greater, hard savings in oil costs. Less oil, more frequent filtration and auto top off combine to create maximum oil extension.

Better and More Consistent Product Quality —With frequent filtration and automatic top-off, the oil “sweet spot” will last longer, creating a more ideal environment for frying food and creating a higher quality product, consistently.  By maintaining a constant level of oil (which is managed by vat sensors) operators will also achieve a higher quality of fried coverage around the product and a more consistent product coming out of the fryer.

Henny Penny’s Evolution Elite open fryers use 40% less oil.

Extended oil life has positive health ramifications for customers, as well. Often with a 50-lb. fryer, operators will try to push their oil life beyond its natural expiration time. In extreme cases, if extended too long, oil can even produce carcinogens and increase food’s cholesterol levels. With a 30-lb. fryer, oil savings will drive pro-active oil management.  Having a team that watches oil quality and reacts to it will translate into better tasting and safer oil.

Ease of Use — By transitioning to a 30-lb fryer, gone are the days of manually opening and closing of multiple drain valves and turning on/off pump motors just to filter the fryer’s oil. Instead, with the push of a button, oil is filtered automatically in just four minutes. This easy processes, mean simpler training for your team and creates less interruptions for regular cooking operations.

Interested in a Henny Penny low-oil-volume fryer? Take a look at our Evolution Elite, or connect with your local distributor to find the right fryer for your operation.

Know Your Fryer’s Features: Load Comp

If each day at your restaurant was exactly the same — from the number of people that show up to the items they order — running a restaurant would be easy. But we all know, this has never been the case and will never be the case. The difficulty of not knowing what will happen each day is a challenge preventing you from being able to eliminate waste and produce consistent high-quality products.

Luckily you can use equipment to take some of the guesswork out of the equation. A timer on an oven, for example, helps you maintain consistency. A timer, however, doesn’t consider volume. If the volume changes, the timer is less effective.

A standard fryer is open to the same subjective cooking. With no way to account for volume, you cannot be sure a standard level of consistency is being met despite the quantity being cooked.

Henny Penny fryers feature a tool specifically for this job. Our fryers, both open and pressure, include a load compensation feature, incorporated to drive consistent quality and reduce waste. Whether you’re a high-volume franchise or a single location this feature will work for you.

The feature works simply; enter a value and it will duplicate your product accounting for changes in volume. To create your own values, follow these directions. After cooking an item for the first time, enter the cook time and average cooking temperature of its normal or average-sized load. Then add information for its biggest load into the equation. After entering this information, the equipment’s load comp setting will determine the cooking speed for any size load.

No matter how much you cook, the Load Comp feature will consistently ensure perfect quality.

If a half-sized load is added, the clock will speed up to cook faster to ensure consistency. This feature even accounts for adjustments to load temperature, such as fresh items or items out of a freezer.

Load comp helps you take the guesswork out of frying by calculating the additional or subtracted cooking time required. Less guessing means fewer failed batches, which means far less waste. With every batch of fries, chicken fingers or mozzarella sticks coming out of your fryer comes the consistent quality your customers expect.

Whether you are looking for consistency across varying large orders, or you just want to throw a single order of fries in every now and then, the load comp setting is great for operations both large and small.

Be sure to visit our complete frying line up to see all of the Henny Penny fryer options that feature load comp in their programming.