Commercial food warmers are an integral part of food prep and service. Heated holding cabinets can hold food until cooking or service or for the final phase of cooking. These cabinets should not be used for the entire cooking process, which increases the risk of food-borne illness.
Heated cabinets are incredibly versatile, making transporting food easy for caterers and advanced food prep possible during heavy times in restaurants. Because of the diverse functions these cabinets serve, heated holding cabinets are specifically manufactured for different uses, such as:
- Mobile heated holding cabinets (typically for moving food from one area to another)
- Humidified holding cabinet (built for food that can dry out without humidified heat or for increased storage times with a moist heat)
- Proofing cabinet (with settings prime for rising baked goods)
There are other units produced for specific functions; a knowledgeable food service equipment professional can assist with selecting the right heated holding cabinet for a business. In general, choosing the right heated holding cabinet should be based on several factors.
The right heated holding cabinet fits into the space allotted for the equipment. Heated holding cabinets range in size from countertop units to floor-to-ceiling units. Some models are stackable, allowing for two holding cabinets that can each hold a different food at a different temperature. Typically, models are countertop, half-size, three quarters size, full-size, or double wide.
For mobility, most holding cabinets come with casters (though not all). There are units made for additional mobility, such as if food needs to be used between spaces or buildings.
The right heated holding cabinet not only fits into the footprint, but also has the capacity to hold the amount of food needed during heavy serving times. Choosing the right holding cabinet with a heavy capacity can be invaluable for businesses that need to keep food warm to shorten customer waiting times. A large heated holding cabinet can be perfect for businesses that need food held at an ideal temperature for easy warm-up (that is shorter than cooking frozen foods) or needs warm food that can be pulled and served.
Moist or Dry Heat
Humidified cabinets are ideal for storing foods that need moisture to avoid drying out. In some cases, humidified cabinets can increase the food storage time for hours. These cabinets are perfect for storing proteins, such as fried chicken, pork, and ribs. Humidified cabinets typically have water pans that need to be manually-filled. Some units come with an auto-fill option that requires less maintenance. Humidified heated cabinets usually use more energy that non-humidified cabinets.
Heated holding cabinets with dry heat are manufactured for foods that don’t lose moisture during storage. These dry heat units are ideal for crispy and fried items that can get soggy from moisture. Heated holding cabinets typically use less energy than humidified cabinets.
Reach-in or Pass-through
The type and location of the heated holding cabinet door(s) play a large role in function. Heated holding cabinets come with solid or glass doors; some heating holding cabinets come with a half-door for easy access and low heat loss.
To determine if a heated holding cabinet is best for the space, consider where employees or customers need to access the food. Some cabinets offer reach-in access on one side while others are pass-throughs that can be accessed on both sides.
The features of a heated holding cabinet are only part of the decision. Heated holding cabinets are typically constructed of stainless or aluminum. Stainless steel holding cabinets are usually more durable than aluminum, though aluminum may be suitable for lighter heating. Some holding cabinets are insulated for efficient heating. Again, this feature is a benefit though may not be necessary and cost-efficient for cabinets that aren’t used frequently or for heavy-duty food warming.