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David Sealfon

An Introduction to Food Steamers - Commercial, Industrial and Restaurant Steamers

What Is a Food Steamer?

Steamers are a workhorse in any professional kitchen – most often utilized in K-12, casino, lodging, healthcare, independent restaurant, and college/university operations. A commercial food steamer is used to quickly and efficiently cook menu items such as shellfish, rice and vegetables, steamers are reliable and easy-to-use.

Steam cooking enables operators to reduce both labor and overall operating costs and eliminates the need for kitchen staff to lift heavy stock pots – all in a reduced footprint.


How Do Food Steamers Work?

There are largely two types of steamers: boilerless/connectionless and a la carte. The former is ideal for operations looking to batch cook large volumes of food quickly, while the latter is appropriate as a restaurant food steamer, facilitating cook to order items.

Traditional boilerless steamers require less frequent water maintenance and de-scaling, but cook times tend to be significantly longer when compared to a la carte steamers. Conversely, traditional a la carte steamers cook quickly, but also consume a greater volume of water and energy.

However, these distinctions are evolving. Advancements in industrial steamer technology are revolutionizing the a la carte steamer category. Traditional steamers use 55 gallons of water/hour. New commercial food steamer offerings are reducing the amount of water used to as little as 4.29 gallons of water/hour. These new units reduce water usage by 90%, cutting an operator’s water bill significantly.

With less water being used, the filter in the commercial food steamer is not working as hard as it used to. Therefore, filters only need to be changed once per year, compared to twice per year with traditional steam equipment. Not only will the operator save on filter costs, but the associated maintenance costs with de-scaling and changing the filter as well. These benefits will extend the life of the steamer.

New units are also reducing an operator’s energy usage by 50%. Only the necessary amount of steam to cook the menu items is kept in the cavity. This is compared to steamers of the past which make steam at a constant rate, regardless of which part of the cooking cycle the menu items are in. This combination of less water and less energy have resulted in ENERGY STAR® qualification for these units, enabling operators with the opportunity to qualify for utility rebates – resulting in additional savings. In the past, only boilerless steamers have met the ENERGY STAR® qualification.

Even better and perhaps most importantly, the cooking performance with new a la carte steamers is not compromised – these new efficient units boast the same cooking performance as the less efficient traditional steamers.

Explore what’s new in the a la carte steamer industry and you will find steamers with the following results:

  • Less unused steam wasted down the drain
  • Less drain-tempering water
  • Less water to be filtered
  • Less energy required
  • Same steam cooking time

Want to know which commercial steamer is right for your operation? Try our Kitchen Equipment Buying Guide.

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