Written by: J. Vigotsky
Owners spend countless hours researching restaurant equipment before deciding what’s right for their commercial kitchens. When their new equipment arrives, it’s like the kitchen chefs have a shiny new toy to play with. But soon that initial excitement wears off. And that equipment becomes just another tool in the kitchen. If not cared for properly, the unit will start to break down. Instead of ceasing operation completely, it might just become less efficient. The equipment will work harder to compensate, and this can lead to a more expensive electric bill as well as some more serious issues.
When restaurant equipment stops operating, it often requires repairs that are quite pricy. And if that’s not bad enough, restaurants can also lose significant revenue from the break down. Consider a walk-in freezer full of steaks. If the unit breaks down and the steaks spoil, that restaurant will be fighting an uphill battle to recover those lost profits. A restaurant might even need to close down temporarily until its equipment is back up and running.
Thankfully, there’s a way to minimize the risk of equipment failure. This post will cover 7 restaurant equipment maintenance tips that will keep your commercial kitchen operating at its full potential.
Commercial Refrigeration Equipment
Whether you’re maintaining a commercial refrigerator or a freezer, protocol is going to be similar. Here are a couple of maintenance tips that will help you get the most out of your refrigeration equipment:
Gaskets – Gaskets are the part of a freezer or refrigerator that provide a tight seal when the unit is closed. They help keep cold air inside the unit and prevent it from escaping. If gaskets start to weaken over time, the refrigerator will have to work harder to keep its temperature cold. Regularly inspect your gaskets for splits or cracks and replace them as necessary. You’ll also want to keep your gaskets clean, as dirt and grease can cause problems down the line. It’s common for restaurants to pay services that come in and regularly replace gaskets. But if you want to save some money, you can also change gaskets yourself.
Coils – Condenser coils are what keep your refrigerator or freezer cold. They do so by taking any hot air inside the unit and blowing it out. This is why it’s often hot right outside a refrigerator’s condenser. If a condenser gets clogged with dust and other debris, your refrigerator will struggle to maintain lower temperatures. This is one of the most common reasons why commercial refrigeration units malfunction and require maintenance. And it’s why you should try to clean your refrigerator’s condenser coils once every 3 months.
Cleaning your commercial fryer not only prolongs its lifespan, but it also ensures your fried foods taste better. Furthermore, allowing excessive grease to pile up in your gas floor fryer can result in contaminated fried food. Something you certainly don’t want.
Daily Cleanings – At the end of each night, wipe down the exterior of your commercial gas deep fryer and clean its baskets of any lingering grease. The best way to do this is by simply running the baskets through your dishwasher. Always make sure that the fryer baskets are completely dry before they’re returned to the tank.
Boil Outs – To remove the stubborn fat that adheres to your fryer’s tank, you’ll need to execute a complete boil out. Protocol for boil outs vary from unit to unit. So be sure to reference your owner’s manual before performing one.
Similar to fryers, restaurant ranges have different designs and should be maintained according to what’s outlined in the owner’s manual. That said, here are a few cleaning tips that every range owner can follow.
Burner Maintenance - If grease gathers in the burner of a commercial gas range, it can lead to incomplete combustion. This results in your range functioning less efficiently and an increased risk of a carbon monoxide leak. A lethal gas that’s both scentless and odorless, carbon monoxide is the last thing you want in your kitchen. And that’s why it’s so important to clean your ranges’ burners on a daily basis.
Clean the Grates – A build-up of stubborn grease will often form on your ranges’ grates. If a simple wipe down does not remove the grease, you’ll have to soak the grates in warm soapy water. And if that doesn’t work, you might have to use something stronger like ammonia and let the grates soak for a few hours. Grates that are left dirty can prematurely age your unit and also present a fire hazard.
Check Your Exhaust Hoods – If too much grease builds up in the exhaust hood, your kitchen will not ventilate properly. Its air will be thick, and your chefs will be uncomfortable. Even worse, a greasy exhaust hood will lead to an increased risk of a kitchen fire. Depending on the amount of cooking you do, an exhaust hood should be cleaned once every 30-90 days.
Knowledge can be helpful when it comes to restaurant equipment maintenance. But the only thing that really matters is that you’re diligent about taking care of your equipment. It takes hard work to maintain a thriving commercial kitchen. And getting educated is just the first step. Now it’s time to roll your sleeves up and put your knowledge to work!