November 2000 (Updated March 2002)
By Beth Lorenzini
The Hot Sheet On
Reach-In Blast Chillers
Sure, food safety’s the best-known reason to
blast chill. But savings in labor and food costs,
plus better food quality, are big-time benefits,
is going down in the blast chiller business.
When we first covered these high-speed uberchillers
back in February 1997 (undercounter versions that
time), maybe three dozen makers around the world
were producing a blaster of one size or another. Not
a huge group, really. Now, less than four years
later, it’s a decidedly more crowded market.
E-stroll over to www.fermag.com, for example,
and you’ll find a whopping 62 blast-chill sources
worldwide gracing the electronic Buyers Guide
section there—including 23 that appear when you
click on “U.S.A.” sourcing.
Narrow the field again—say, 90- to 120-lb. capacity
reach-in blasters for this story—and we find fully 9
makers have anted up with models that fit the
criteria (see note below).
Seven of the biggest players, in terms of market
share only, appear here in the main feature. They
are Alto-Shaam, Cres Cor, Hobart Corp., Randell
Mfg., Servolift Eastern, Traulsen & Co. and Victory.
Five more makers appeared in a sidebar when this
article first ran; now they appear in a more
detailed sidebar on page 31. They are Cleveland
Range/Enodis, Delfield Co./Enodis, Elliott-Williams
Co., Giles Foodservice Equipment and Henny Penny
Why such a cornucopia of suppliers now, compared to
a few years back? Demand. The buzz that first began
on the noncommercial side of foodservice is
spreading. And this particular size category, which
has sold like party platters in supermarket delis as
well as in small hospitals, schools and small
hotels, now is showing up in commercial chains. In
fact, almost every manufacturer we’ve spoken with
has said chain inquiries are coming in fast.
Ask most users why they bought a blast chiller, and
the leading answer is food safety. According to FDA
recommendations, you’ve got two hours to get your
hot food down to 70°F and an additional four hours
to get it to 40°F to adequately stall microbial
action. To do that, blast chilling is your only
Ice baths work when they’re done right, but they’re
a royal pain in the neck and hugely labor intensive.
Ice paddles are nifty—but again, someone’s got to
stand there and stir, and you’re really only talking
soup, sauce and stock applications.
And forget about using the walk-in or freezer to
chill down foods. We know it happens, and we’re
afraid to ask for a show of hands. But it’s horribly
risky business. Done incorrectly, it takes about 12
to 18 hours or more and compromises temps of
adjacent stored foods—a class-A dangerous idea.
On the other hand, a blast chiller—from any of these
makers—will chill your product down to under 40°F in
two to two and a half hours or so even in a
worst-case scenario; in a best case it’s 90 minutes.
And the chill process is automatic. You won’t need
employees to physically monitor temps. The system
will warn you if the chill-down is interrupted for
any reason, and, depending on the model, it’ll give
you a temperature log printout for your records.
Other pluses: The same reduction in microbial
activity that improves food safety also improves
shelf life. Blast chilled foods have a solid
five-day shelf life, compared to the two to three
days walk-ins afford you.
The extended shelf life means your higher-priced
cooks can produce seven days’ worth of foods in
three or four days, and you get a consistent product
because the master is cooking it.
As for food quality: Leftovers are truly usable.
Remember that in any slower chilling method, cell
damage occurs. That’s why all the juices from your
roasts are sitting in the pan rather than staying in
the roast. In blast chilling, cell damage doesn’t
have the chance to occur so quickly. Leftover foods
are seriously as good as the day you made them.
Blast chilling stops the cooking process
immediately. Cooks can par cook items ahead of time
and finish them off during the rush in a fraction of
the time it would take to cook them from scratch.
With blast chilling, there are no more long waits
for items—like chicken for your Caesars—to get cold,
which means you get a big boost in production and
Which is not to say these bennies accrue cheaply. A
100-lb. capacity unit is going to run you anywhere
between $14,000 and $18,000, street level, and that
can be a tough line item to add to already tight
equipment budgets. Tight footprints, too, can make
it a challenge to find a spot for these units in the
kitchen layout. And if you’re going to take
advantage of the high-volume batch chilling these
units give you, you better make sure you’ve got the
walk-in space to hold that chilled food. Still, the
payoff—and the pay back—is clearly there for a lot
Blow By Blow By Make
That said, on to the units. First up, Alto-Shaam’s
QC-40 lays claim to the largest capacity at 120 lbs.
of product per cycle in a unit that’s a little
smaller than many of the competitors. The chiller
features three fans to blow air and three probes for
multiple product loads. Alto-Shaam is one of just
two makers equipping its units with a
dual-compressor setup. One larger one runs the blast
chilling function while a smaller one kicks in to
cycle on and off during the hold mode. Both
companies reason that the small backup compressor
saves wear and tear on its bigger sibling. Other
handy features: an optional Spanish-language control
board and an optional pan rack trolley that matches
the company’s combination oven.
The CCBC-12-UA-100 from Cres Cor markets ease of use
as a key selling point. With a control panel that’s
literally marked 1-2-3, the company says any
$6-an-hour employee can easily run the unit. With
three probes, multiple product chilling is not a
problem, and the unit actually displays all three
temperatures simultaneously on the front control
panel—so there’s no need to scroll through LED
displays. This enables employees to easily monitor
and remove items as they reach temperature and cuts
down on the possibility of leaving the quickest
chilled item in too long. An onboard printer is
standard and universal pan slides are another plus.
Four fans move the air in the unit.
Hobart’s 100-pounder, the HQC90, has an airflow
design that’s different from others. The unit
features two fans located on the right side of the
back panel and an air outtake on the left side of
the back panel. The reason for the design? To create
what the company calls a whirlwind or tornado air
circulation pattern. Like most of the competitors,
the HQC90 comes with three probes and an onboard
printer standard. The HQC90 takes 12” x 20” hotel
pans but accommodates 18” x 26” pans with an
optional shelf kit.
Randell’s BC-10 has several claims to fame. The
biggest is the design of the airflow from two fans,
which draw air out of the chamber first and then
recirculate it, chilled, through a perforated
stainless steel plenum. The company says the plenum
efficiently directs the air completely around each
and every pan, side, bottom and top. Referring to
the pattern as a “kinder, gentler” air flow, Randell
says you’re less likely to see freezing on the edge
of product. Company marketing folks say the airflow
is what enables Randell, unlike any other
manufacturer, to recommend covering food with
stainless steel covers, which it says protects foods
from the effects of the blast chilled air. Most
makers suggest placing plastic wrap or foil in
contact with the food, or forgoing covers
altogether. Pan slides, in the form of two racks per
side, are universal.
With the Servolift Eastern HCM 141-50 you get hard
and soft chill modes (also available on the Cres Cor,
Hobart, Traulsen and Victory) but you also get a
A quick explanation: Hard chill generates air
temperatures around -4°F to -14°F, depending on the
make, that gradually get warmer as the product
temperature drops. In soft chill, the air
temperature never goes into the negatives, but
instead chills in the 28°F to 32°F range so that
more delicate or less dense items, from pastries to
vegetables, are chilled more gently. In flash freeze
or shock freeze mode, air temps reach -40°F; to get
product to 0°F.
Back to Servolift: Two large fans centered in the
back of the unit draw heat out first and recirculate
cold air at a velocity that’s higher than many of
the competitors. Servolift is the only supplier of
the big seven to recommend no covers during chilling
because its unit’s indirect airflow does not damage
food product. A standard UV light sanitizer is
unique to Servolift, too. After a wipe down of the
interior, the light eliminates the need for
sanitizing solution. An onboard printer and wire
shelves come standard, and the shelves can be
configured to accommodate 18” x 26” pans.
Traulsen’s RBC 100 is the only other unit of the
seven to feature a freeze mode in addition to hard
and soft chills. The unit achieves very efficient
chilling times, Traulsen says, thanks to a fan and
airflow assembly unique among the competitors. While
most other makes feature anywhere from two to four
axial fans (axials look like desk fans), Traulsen’s
two fans are scroll styles (many-bladed, cylinder
shape) that are located in the bottom right hand
corner of the unit. Air is drawn from the cabinet,
directed over the cooling coil and blown back in
through slotted plenums. For those of you keen on
record keeping, Traulsen’s is the only unit to allow
employees to enter an employee identification code
when running a program. Three probes, universal pan
slides and onboard printer are standard.
Victory’s VBC-100, like the Cres Cor, features a
simple 1-2-3 operation and LED displays for each of
three probes. Four fans, located on the left side
and fronted with a screen, blow air left to right.
The onboard printer, like the Traulsen and Cres Cor,
uses adding machine paper instead of the thermal
paper used in some models. Why? Adding machine
paper, say users, is less likely to smudge in the
kitchen environment. Universal slides and onboard
printer are standard.
Bottom line, every one of these blast chillers is
going chill your food down to 40°F well within the
time limit recommended. But there are feature and
function differences worth weighing depending on the
needs of your operation.
First up, a lot of these chillers are imported from
Europe. On one hand, this is a good thing, as Europe
has been blast chilling for 25 years or so and has
gained a lot of expertise in the field. The only
caveat to foreign-born units is parts availability.
Does the stateside importer have a full inventory on
hand? If not, how long will it take and what will it
cost to get parts sent from abroad? Check it out.
Next, consider capacity. These units do 100 lbs. in
about two to two and half hours, so we’re talking
about 300 to 400 lbs. in an eight-hour shift. Is
that enough or too little?
How many probes do you need? Most of these units
come standard with three, which can be a nice
feature for a couple of reasons. One, if you’re
chilling multiple products that chill at different
rates (moisture content, thickness, initial heat
going in all play a part in the chill time), you can
tell when each different product is at temp and pull
it out. Also, on those units with printers, you’ll
have records of the chill time of each product.
Finally, should a probe fail, you have backups.
Several of these makers get you standard onboard
printers, too. Others, who believe the grease and
humidity of the kitchen is not friendly to printers,
feature optional ports to plug in portable printers.
Either way, you want printed proof of the time/temp
Way The Wind Blows, Or Draws
Airflow theory is a hot topic in this category.
You’ll find a variety of airflow configurations in
these units. Of the seven models featured here, only
the Randell, Servolift and Traulsen units initially
pull or draw air across the product; all the others
blow cold air across the product.
Draw proponents say it’s more efficient to pull heat
away from the product first, and that drawing is
gentler and less drying on the product. Those makers
whose units blow air claim that in such a contained
space, it’s six of one, half a dozen of another.
What’s important is that the air moves throughout
the cabinet, in and out and around those pans at a
high enough velocity, to bring the product down
within the guideline spec.
Chill functions are another consideration. If you’re
planning to chill a wide variety of foods, the soft
and hard chill modes make sense. If you’re going to
use the unit for a limited and specific dense
product application, like sauces or chili, for
example, hard chill is all you need.
Servolift and Traulsen, as we mentioned, also
feature a freeze mode, an excellent option if you’re
producing volume baked goods, including filled
pastries, cakes, breads and the like, or if you have
a huge catering business. Frozen items hold for a
month, according to the company chefs we talked
with, and the items are as fresh tasting as the day
they were made.
There’s more you can find out about these units, and
any of the companies we’ve featured will be happy to
share. But we hope you’ve got the basics you need
should you decide to go for the blast.
And don’t forget to turn the page for info on five
more chiller models from Cleveland Range/Enodis,
Delfield Co./Enodis, Elliott-Williams Co., Giles
Foodservice Equipment and Henny Penny Corp.
When this story first went to press, several
suppliers had blast chillers on the drawing board or
were preparing to import them. Since then, five
companies—Cleveland Range/Enodis, Delfield Co./Enodis,
Elliott-Williams, Giles Foodservice Equipment and
Henny Penny Corp.—have introduced 100-lb. blast
chillers to the market.
Due to space constraints, we are unable to rewrite
this entire story with the five new companies added.
But if you turn to page 31 of this story, you’ll see
photos of the five additional models, as well as
brief descriptions of their capabilities.—Ed
The companies listed below all have quick-chilling
equipment in varying configurations.
Bally Refrigerated Boxes
Elliott Williams Co.
Giles Foodservice Equipment
Henny Penny Corp.
Lang Mfg. Co.
Thermodyne Foodservice Products|
Traulsen & Co.
Victory Refrigeration/Aga Foodservice