Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Understanding Steam Pans, Sizes and Setup

Pan set up

Excerpt from Ben's Course Book:  "hot dogs saved my life"

Are you confused?

When I first started in the business, I was very confused on the pans, the types, the sizes, etc. It really sounded overwhelming. I am going to give you the hillbilly class on pans, and it will all make perfect sense once I’m done with this chapter.
Hot dog carts use steam pans. This is just a term, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to be steaming anything. Nonetheless, all steam pans, also known as kitchen pans, share a simple sizing set up.
Above you have a full size pan(far left) then you have 1/2 size(top middle), below that you have two 1/4th size, then 1/3rd size(top right), just below two 1/6th size and then three 1/9th size pans.  You could put nine 1/9th size pans in the big pan and three 1/3rd size etc...

A steam table opening is 12” deep, 20” long. Pan depth can be 2 inches, 4 inches or 6 inches. 

You will find many hot dog cart manufacturers that sell carts that only hold 4” deep pans. This may limit you, so please do your homework.
A standard (full size pan) is 12” X 20” and whatever  depth you chose. 

If you are steaming dogs, you can put a full size spillage pan in the cart opening. A spillage pan is what you would use if you were going to steam items; it holds water and is about 6” deep. You would place two inches of water in the bottom, and then place the other pans in this one.
For example: if you were going to only steam, you could put a full size perforated pan inside the spillage pan. Now, the water below in the spillage pan will boil providing steam above in the perforated pan. This process will cook your hot dogs and steam your buns.
You would have a 6” deep spillage pan and a 4” deep perforated pan.  
Don’t panic! Perforated pans come in two common sizes: ½ size and full size. If you were going to use a spillage pan and wanted half for steaming, and then use the other 1/2 for something else you can. You could choose to use the other half with two 1/4th size pans instead of one 1/2 size pan. 1/4th size pans are great for holding kraut and chili or even cheese sauce. They still sit in the hot water, but they keep the food from burning or scorching; they don’t have holes. You can also use one ½ size perforated pan and one ½ size solid pan.
Remember what a full size pan is, right? OK. All of the other pan sizes are a division of the full size pan. This picture represents two ½-size pans.  Removing the spillage pan and using solid pans make it a direct heat set up; I use this method for boiling hot dogs. I purchase a 1/3 size pan that is 6” deep, and I put water inside to boil the dogs.
Here’s an example of using three 1/3 size pans: one for boiling, one for cooking onions and one for steaming. Yup, I said steaming. The trick is to find a 1/3 size pan that is perforated, and a 1/3 size spillage pan. It’s almost impossible. So, they have invented these handy plates to go in the bottom of the pans, called false bottoms. They are slotted, and they allow you to put water in the bottom of the pan; steam comes through the false bottom, thereby turning an individual pan into a steam pan.
You can check out all the options and order different pans from many places. Here’s one of my favorite companies:
If you steam buns, I recommend a dome lid. These allow you to stack food higher and utilize more of the available space. You can imagine a standard 4” deep pan will not hold many buns if you want to put the lid on the pan, but if you get something like this, you will be able to cover an entire full size pan with a dome lid. Pan configuration underneath this doesn’t matter, but this roll top allows you more vertical area to stack buns or dogs.
Pans used for food in the U.S. must be certified ‘compliant’ to food safety laws, and a hinged lid violates the codes of food safety, because bacteria can grow inside the small areas of the hinge. So, as of my writing, there aren’t any Standard 59 compliant hinged lids.
If you have searched for a cart and found hinged pans, they will not meet state standards. The pan and lid may have an NSF or UL stamp, but once the cart manufacturer joins the two by welding a hinge, the compliancy is void. So be careful. I know a man that ordered a cart from a company, paid extra for the cart to be NSF, paid extra for the hinged lids, and when he was inspected in North Carolina, he immediately failed. All he had to do is go buy some new pans and lids, but what a waste of money.
Woooo Hoooo! You have it now! You know what a perforated pan is, a spillage pan and a one 1/3 size pan: you know how deep and all the other good stuff on pans. Right?
Okay. Please be careful when buying pans if the pans say ‘stackable,’ they are typically indented to allow for stacking. These types of pans, though, hinder you when insetting a pan into a spillage pan. You probably won’t have any issues if you will always make sure the spillage pan is not listed as ‘stackable.’

Clear as mud!

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