Kitchen Equipment Innovation Gathers Momentum
Anyone reviewing the list of the NRA’s 2012 Kitchen Innovation award winners (published on February 13 on TSR) will be struck by how many of these new products feature technologies that were all but unknown in the industry just a few years ago. The application of infrared and induction energy sources in equipment such as char broilers and griddles provides additional, convincing evidence that manufacturers are continuing to step up the pace of change and helping end-users and specifiers save time, labor and natural resources in their daily operations.
Even established cooking technologies are now receiving significant new upgrades, such as “on demand” gas burners that operate similarly to induction ranges by releasing energy only when a cooking vessel is placed on the grate. Another example is a of combi oven model whose controls can sense the amount and type of foods loaded into the cooking cavity and direct an optimized heat flow towards the products by setting the fan’s direction and speed to achieve high and even energy density. Induction and infrared energy have been combined by yet another equipment maker to create a new type of food holding cabinet that provides an alternative to steam or traditional dry heat. The result is said to be better preservation of food quality and a lower rate of energy consumption than previous models.
Devices designed to lower the cost of cooking-grease disposal and sanitize ice machines more effectively also made this year’s KI awards list, as did a new line of fryers that incorporates an updated frypot configuration that reduces oil and energy usage by 15% and at least 25%, respectively, according to the manufacturer.
Once derided for its slow and conservative approach to new product development, the U.S. foodservice equipment manufacturing community is offering evidence of a more dynamic attitude with products that support sustainability, speed production, enhance food quality and safety, and reduce operating costs. This year’s crop of KI award winners is among the most impressive on record, making all of us concerned with kitchen productivity and efficiency hopeful that this manufacturing renaissance is just beginning to gather momentum.