Choosing and Maintaining a Blast Chiller

Choosing and Maintaining a Blast Chiller

A blast chiller can add convenience and play an important role in your commercial kitchen. The ability to flash freeze foods allows you to preserve ingredients and reduce waste all without affecting the quality of your food.

What is a Blast Chiller?

A blast chiller freezer works to quickly lower the temperature of the food. Also known as a blast cooler, it is designed to have multiple shelves to hold sheets and food pans.

Products are chilled at extremely low temperatures by blowing cold air inside the freezer. Most chillers have different settings that can be selected based on whether the food is hot, cold, or room temperature.

The rapid chilling process decreases the amount of ice crystals that form on the food. With conventional freezing, large ice crystals form that, when melted, release excess moisture that can affect the taste and texture of the food.

Blast chillers:

  • Retain nutrients in the food
  • Maintain the quality of products
  • Prevent bacteria growth
  • Preserve freshness
  • Allow foods to cool down quickly when cooking

How Does a Blast Chiller Work?

The goal of a blast chiller is to cool foods at a rapid pace. Most machines can reduce temperatures from 160 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower in just 90 minutes.

The speed at which the chiller cools depends on the food temperature, the blast chiller temperature settings, and whether you’re just cooling or freezing the food.

How to Choose a Commercial Blast Chiller

There are several things that you need to consider when choosing a blast chiller for your restaurant, including:

Freezer Type

There are different types of blast chillers to choose from:

  • Countertop: Ideal for small batch freezing and chilled desserts. Some models have shelf space underneath to make room for other equipment.
  • Roll-In: Suited for larger quantities of food (200lbs+). These freezers have mobile tray racks and may allow for easy transfer of pans from the oven to the freezer unit.
  • Reach-In: Just as the name suggests, these freezers have a reach-in design. Interior permanent racks can accommodate full-size or hotel-size sheet pans. Reach-in models are ideal for high-volume operations, such as hotels, cafeterias, and institutions.
  • Top-Mount: With this type of freezer, the evaporator, condenser, and compressor are all situated above the cavity of the freezer. The expelled heat moves above the unit instead of around the work area. Shelves are easier to reach, but the coils are harder to keep clean. These units are ideal for dry storage areas and where staff needs to work near the freezer.
  • Bottom-Mount: These freezers separate the condenser and evaporator. The intake is situated below the cavity, while the evaporator sits above. These units are ideal for hotter working areas near cooking lines.

The unit you choose must have the capacity to meet your volume needs, but still be able to fit inside of your kitchen without getting in the way of staff or making the workspace uncomfortable.

Capacity

Another important consideration with a blast chiller is its capacity. It refers to the number of trays it can hold at any given time.

If you only have a handful of items that you need to freeze at a time, you may want to consider a model that allows you to freeze multiple types of food without over-freezing the items.

If you have a high volume of foods to freeze, look for a freezer that can handle your capacity. The product description should indicate how many trays the unit can hold.

Rate of Chilling

Blast coolers drop temperatures at different rates. It’s important to make sure that you choose a unit that will be able to freeze your foods quickly enough.

Look at the wattage for each unit you consider purchasing just to make sure that it can meet your performance standards.

Size

Size is always a concern when buying any new appliance for your commercial kitchen. How much space will you have for the freezer? Should you invest in one large unit (if you need a high-capacity freezer), or should you invest in several smaller units?

New models are much more compact compared to older and significantly smaller than walk-in freezers. Find a model that fits well in your kitchen and won’t impede on your kitchen’s efficiency.

Type of Chilling

Blast coolers can perform different types of chilling, including:

  • Hard: A quick process that brings food temperatures down to nearly frozen. Hard chilling is ideal for hearty foods, meats, and dense products.
  • Soft: A slightly longer freezing process that brings food temperatures down to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit gradually. This type of chilling is ideal for vegetables, rice, and baked goods.
  • Shock Freeze: As the name implies, shock freezing is a very quick process that brings food temperatures to zero or less for storage in the freezer. This type of cooling is ideal for shipping, frozen pizzas, or foods that need to be delivered.

Consider the types of foods that you will be chilling. If it’s a mixture of food, you may need more than one unit, or you may have to invest more in a unit that can perform more than one type.

Extra Features

Blast chillers may have extra features that can benefit your kitchen and staff, such as:

  • DC connections: Built-in data ports can be used for uploading reports to a PC or a USB drive. This makes it easy to keep an eye on your food and the performance of your freezer.
  • Electric defrost: Eliminates condensation to reduce labor and maintenance costs.
  • Ultraviolet light: Sanitizes the interior of the unit.
  • Probes: Larger units may have multiple probes to monitor different food types at the same time.

When choosing a blast chiller, keep these points in mind to find a unit that will meet your needs and performance standards.

How to Maintain a Blast Chiller

Like any other equipment in your restaurant kitchen, a blast chiller must be maintained and cared for properly to ensure it runs optimally. It’s not uncommon for units to last 20 years or more.

Here’s how to maintain your blast chiller:

  • Condenser coils should be kept clean. Clean coils will keep the unit running efficiently and ensure that it cools properly.
  • Chiller probes should also be kept clean of food products.
  • Interiors and exteriors should be wiped down and cleaned with mild soap and water.
  • Door gaskets should be properly cleaned to ensure a tight seal. It’s important to prevent moisture and warm air from getting inside the unit. This will make the freezer work harder to maintain its set temperature.
  • Drain lines, if available, should also be kept clear of condensate water to avoid backups.
  • Every week, check the seals on the chiller to ensure they’re working properly. Cracks in the seals may release air, making the unit work harder to maintain its temperature.

Proper cleaning and maintenance can help keep your blast chiller running optimally for years.

A blast chiller is a great addition to a restaurant kitchen. It allows you to cool and preserve foods while preventing bacteria growth and maintaining food quality. Choosing a chiller is not a decision that should be rushed. Weigh your options and consider all of the points above when making your choice.

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