Production Knowledge Guide: Cooking Utensils

Cooking utensils can be loosely defined as any kitchen accessory that aids in the cooking process. This includes spatulas, spoons, ladles, tongs and whisks. There also are also some high-heat plastic food pans that operators use to prepare and hold food at temperature.

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Common Applications

  • Handling food before, during and after the cooking process
  • Stirring
  • Turning and flipping
  • Portioning ingredients and finished products

Specifying Considerations

  • Is this tool designed and made of a material that is compatible with the equipment?
  • Is it NSF listed? This listing is an assurance that the item is easily cleanable and is made of materials that are safe to come in contact with food.
  • Is it designed for the type of food and cooking methods that will be employed? Some utensils and materials are better designed for steam applications than others. Some work well in fryers while others will melt.

Specifying Mistakes to Avoid

  • Operators may consider using retail utensils, but this could be a mistake. While there are some interesting gadgets available on the retail market, few are designed to withstand the rigors of commercial use.
  • Making a decision exclusively on price can backfire. Added weight and durability is usually worth paying a little extra.

New & Notable Features

  • The use of plastics that can withstand high heat and silicone have become more commonplace. These tools tend to be lighter and easier to use than their metal counterparts, and won't scratch delicate surfaces like non-stick coatings on pans. Some items are even rated for use in temperatures up to 600 degrees F.
  • Color coding for safety is a newer feature. Color-coding systems were traditionally used to support HACCP programs in a kitchen. Tools used to handle or clean raw meat would be red, cheese and dairy tools would be white, and so on. This could help reduce the risk of cross contamination. Recently, however, color coding has been expanded to help support allergen segregation.
  • Portion control cooking utensils can help manage food costs. Food cost and food waste are always great concerns of operators. Portion control utensils can aid in preparation, cooking and serving to maintain product consistency and reduce food waste.

When to Replace

  • Breakdown of material: For plastic utensils, brittleness, melted edges, breakage or distortion indicate that the cooking utensil should be replaced. For metal utensils, broken welds, bending and distortion are signs that the utensil needs to be out of use.

Maintenance Musts

  • Most utensils are dishwasher safe, so they are pretty easy to maintain.
  • A medium-bristle hand scrub will loosen any dried on foods.
  • Operators should hang utensils for storage instead of using a drawer whenever possible. This will help keep any residual dust or debris from accumulating on the tool. Most tools have a convenient hanging hole.
  • It's best to have a specific place for each tool. Small items can be easily misplaced. By having a designated spot for each tool, the operator can always know where to find a tool when it is needed and immediately notice when a tool is missing.
  • The typical life of these tools varies but most should be usable for several years. Utensils used in frying or grilling will have a shorter lifespan. It is more common for a utensil to be lost or misplaced than it is for it to be broken in normal use.
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