Blast Chiller Basics

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  • Most blast chillers have four different modes, though the terms for each may vary from one manufacturer to the next. These are blast chilling, soft chilling, shock freezing and holding.
  • Blast chilling typically generates minus single-digit temperatures to bring foods through the danger zone in 90 minutes to two hours and is suitable for cooling most foods. Soft chilling, which also generally takes around two hours, is designed to cool more delicate foods such as meringues and custards. The temperatures used in a soft chilling cycle are not as cold as standard blast chilling, making the process easier on the food being treated.
  • Shock freezing uses temperatures of approximately -40 °F. to chill foods. This cycle is complete when a product's core temperature is at 0 °F. or below, as opposed to the high 30s °F. that food achieves when blast or soft chilled. By cooling food both at and to a lower temperature, shock freezing eliminates pathogens faster, allows items to be stored for longer periods of time and helps to prevent the formation of large ice crystals in products.
  • Blast chillers generally come in four varieties: under-counter, which holds about 50 lbs. of food; reach-in, which handles up to 200 lbs.; and roll-in and roll-through, which each hold up to 400 lbs.
  • Roll-in and roll-through units are well-suited to high-volume cook/chill programs since they make the transfer of food from blast chiller to freezer easier. (Roll-though units, in fact, are typically connected to or constructed inside walk-in freezers.) Conversely, reach-in and undercounter units usually best serve small operations that do not regularly produce large volumes of food.
  • Almost all operators who purchase blast chillers do so for food safety reasons. Choose a blast chiller with a performance reporting feature, which will allow managers to monitor and record the conditions of their products more closely.
  • Blast chillers can also be labor-savers. Since blast chilling allows foods to be stored longer than if they were cooled in a standard refrigerator or freezer, items can be produced in larger batches. This reduces the number of batches that need to be prepared in a given period, which, in turn, reduces labor requirements.
  • In addition, because they reduce labor requirements and allow foods to be held longer, operators can also choose to create new revenue-generating menu programs using the labor that has been saved. Similarly, since blast chillers increase foods' holding times, products can be chilled and reused later, helping to reduce waste.
  • Some professional chefs may worry that blast chillers require special recipes. Foods prepared according to most recipes are suitable for blast chilling. In addition, by acting as a labor-saving device, blast chillers can give chefs more time to create new dishes.
  • The purpose of a blast chiller is to lower a product's core temperature as quickly as possible, as such several factors can influence cooling time, including a product's thickness, density and moisture content.
  • In order to bring foods through the danger zone quickly, blast chillers have significantly more powerful compressors than refrigeration units of similar size. Because these generate heat and noise, ordering units with remote compressors can make the work environment more comfortable.
  • Like all compressors, a blast chiller's should be cleaned on a regular basis to ensure proper operation.
  • Relative to many other pieces of equipment, operating a blast chiller at its most efficient level can be a complicated task. For this reason, DSRs are encouraged to call on manufacturers' representatives to assist in operator training.
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