By Jennifer Hicks
Building A Better Braising Pan
Easier to use, just as versatile. Today’s sleek
braising pans fit in tighter spaces, offer more
ergonomic benefits, and give you all the cooking
options you expect.
you think “braising pan,” you pretty much think
“volume feeding.” Hospitals and prisons and
such. After all, the typical braising pan is a
cooking behemoth, able to griddle, fry, braise,
steam, roast, hold and boil just about anything in
last few years have ushered in design changes that
make today’s braising pans a more accessible and
useful piece of equipment for commercial operations.
More chains than ever before—Bahama Breeze,
Carrabba’s and Macaroni Grill, for example—are
signing on the dotted line and hauling in midsize
The reasons boil down to smaller footprints and
better ergonomics in a piece of equipment that can
do almost anything. Plus, modern energy-efficient
technology helps keep operating costs within the
budget constraints facing all commercial operations.
To The Drawing Board
It’s a chicken-and-egg question: Did commercial
demand for more streamlined braising pans come
first, or has newer equipment triggered commercial
sales? Hard to say. Suppliers insist the mighty
braising pan remains mighty because it’s still a
kingpin in institutional settings, but some of those
same suppliers also report 25% to 45% of pan sales
coming from full-service chains and casinos like our
cover shoot site, Casino Rouge in Baton Rouge, La.
With this commercial interest creeping into a
traditionally institutional equipment category,
manufacturers have focused on several elements to
make a braising pan the right choice for a chain
Space efficiency. Snug spaces require sleeker
Ergonomics. Pan tilting mechanisms, pouring rim
heights and other features should ease the handling
of large volumes of product.
High performance. Pans must adapt to ongoing menu
changes, easily handle batch or a la carte
production, and turn out quality food, fast.
Cost of ownership. Low maintenance, good durability
and long product life top the list of “must-haves”
for commercial kitchens.
Smaller Size, Great Capacity
Smaller footprints are a hallmark of the
new-millennium braising pan. Our chart focuses on
30- and 40-gal. pans, as these mid-range models have
seen the greatest design changes since 2001.
You’ll see on page 39 that among the six major
suppliers—Cleveland Range/Enodis, Groen/DI
Foodservice, Legion Industries, Market Forge
Industries, Southbend/Middleby and Vulcan-Hart
Co.—there are now 30-gal. models that come in at
just 36” wide, and 40-gal. options at 39” and 40”
wide. So if your restaurant chain cries out for the
versatility of a midsize braising pan but you’re
worried about squeezing it into your cooking
equipment lineup, think again.
Of course, you’ll want to think first about your
volume and your pan’s capacity. No sense in
overwhelming your kitchens with equipment that won’t
be fully utilized. If you’re batch cooking, a
30-gal. unit will turn out about 27 gals. of
product, and a 40 will produce roughly 36 gals., say
manufacturers. That’s accounting for pan room you’ll
need to stir product, or allow it to boil.
Next, figure how many portions you can produce in a
batch. Say you’re whipping up a stew and want to
serve 2-oz. portions. You’ll likely get 1,700
portions per batch out of your 30-gal. unit, 2,300
portions from a 40-gal. model.
Let’s say you only need one batch a day. Fine. The
braising pan is so versatile you can use it for many
other products the rest of the day, including
griddling eggs, frying burgers, and roasting and
holding meats. The list of capabilities is virtually
And remember, if these numbers look way too high for
your operation but you still want a braising pan’s
versatility, you can always choose a smaller 10-,
16- or 23-gal. pan.
Ergo, They’re Easier To Use
Next up: ergonomic evolution. In addition to
narrower footprints, suppliers have also focused on
pan rim heights and tilting mechanisms.
While pan rims traditionally have reached a height
of 40” or more, a few suppliers have in recent years
reduced that height. Cleveland’s PowerPan models
come with a rim height of 35”; Groen’s new Eclipse
models offer a height of 37”; and Legion’s Combi-Pan
has a rim height of 36”. This emphasis on lower rim
and working heights makes the handling of liquid
product safer, eases the leaning required for
griddling, and makes cleaning easier.
As for tilting mechanisms, every supplier in the
group offers both manual and powered tilt
capabilities. Manufacturers have worked to make
tilting action smoother than in past models, and
some units offer mechanisms that cannot be
overcranked, which increases reliability. Most
electric tilt units feature manual override.
Energy Efficiency Gets The Spotlight
Braising pans typically have thermostatic controls,
so they don’t draw energy at a constant rate. Your
pan may have a Btu rating of 80,000 to 145,000 or a
kilowatt rating of 12 to 16, but in normal operation
it probably uses about half that much energy as it
cycles on and off to maintain constant temperature.
Your energy cost to operate a braising pan will
depend on the efficiency of the unit, its size and
the way your operate it.
Who knows about efficiency? Besides asking suppliers
to cough up energy usage details, you can turn to
the Food Service Technology Center in San Ramon,
Calif., for answers. The FSTC techs have developed
an ASTM standard test method for braising pans that
reports several parameters of performance, including
maximum input rate, production capacity,
cooking-energy efficiency, and rate of energy use
So the lab guys can certainly give you some guidance
when you’re looking at pans. They’ve also tested
several suppliers’ models in recent years and have
hard performance data. You can reach the FSTC via
its Web site, www.fishnick.com.
The FSTC says that among gas braising pans, heat
exchange technology goes a long way toward boosting
energy efficiency, and that technology can take a
simple form. Groen and Market Forge, for example,
each offer a type of fins welded to the bottom of
pans, to aid heat transfer.
Some examples of efficient burners include
Cleveland’s “Power Burner” forced-air gas combustion
system, which the company says is 90% efficient and
offers a heat-to-product efficiency of 70%. Groen
provides a gas burner designed with an insulated
combustion chamber to increase cooking efficiency.
And Legion offers what it calls a high-efficiency
infrared burner with electronic ignition.
Braising pans spend much of their time holding,
proofing and simmering. If the lid is open and food
is losing moisture, as much as half the energy going
into the appliance is working to evaporate water.
Thus, the FSTC says closing the lid can reduce
energy use by a whopping 40% to 60%.
With the lid down, the major energy loss is just
radiant heat lost to the room, and insulation can
help here. Legion in particular is known for
insulating its Combi-Pan’s sides and underbody. This
means the Combi-Pan remains cool to the touch with
Here are a few other details to look for that will
please any staffer assigned to braising pan duty:
Sealed controls. This is a big one. Naturally
much of the product churned out by braising pans
comes in a liquid base, and you’ll find it’s vital
to have controls that are entirely water-resistant.
One operator told us that when water got into one of
his braising pan control boxes, the unit went down
for weeks while he waited for a replacement control
box and installation. So go for units that seal off
Coved corners and bead-blasted pan interiors.
When it comes time to clean your pan, staffers will
thank you for choosing a unit that doesn’t let food
hide in corners, and one that helps keep food from
Clear gallon markings. Once you’re loaded up,
you’ll need to know how much product is in the pan.
Most suppliers offer clear markings, but some
operators have complained that over time markings
can wear off, leaving them clueless as to capacity.
One supplier in particular, Vulcan-Hart, has
responded by embossing its markings so they never
Fill faucets. Most suppliers offer mounted
faucets as an option to help you get water into your
pan for cooking and cleaning.
If the alternative is dragging a hose across the
kitchen to fill up your pan, go for the faucet.
It’ll make life easier.
Draw-off valves. Here’s another option you
might not think about until the braising pan’s
installed. A draw-off valve will help drain the last
vestiges of grease and product before you start
Cleveland Range/Enodis, a
long-time leader in large-scale steam cooking
equipment, introduced its PowerPan Series of 30- and
40-gal. gas and electric braising pans in 2001. The
series joined a vast array of braising pans and
kettles offered by the company.
Cleveland relied heavily on previously successful
technology when designing PowerPan. For example, the
gas model uses a forced-air gas combustion system,
or what the company calls its “Power Burner” design.
The burner is 90% efficient and offers a
heat-to-product efficiency of 70%, says Cleveland.
You also get two power settings with the Power
Burner, normal and high. The company says the high
setting is a boon to high-volume operations looking
for fast recovery and cooking.
On both gas and electric models, PowerPan offers a
feature that allows you to tilt the unit that far
without having it shut off. Manual tilt comes
standard; power tilt with manual override is an
Controls are splash proof, says Cleveland, and the
pouring rim height comes to 35”. Inside the pan, a
bead-blasted surface prevents food from sticking.
And the spring-assisted cover comes with a vent.
For more information on the PowerPan, contact
Cleveland Range at
www.clevelandrange.com or call 800/338-2204.
engineers at Groen/DI Foodservice gathered
’round the drawing board determined to catapult the
design of Groen braising pans to the next level. The
effort paid off in the form of the new Eclipse
Ergonomic Braising Pan, a sleeker, smaller, open-leg
unit that comes in gas and electric 30- and 40-gal.
The new-think design starts from the ground up.
First, both models shave nearly 10” off their widths
to make them more suitable for tight spaces. The
30-gal. model comes in at just 39” wide, and the 40
stretches to 48” wide. And Eclipse’s center-tilt
design maximizes floor and aisle space while
optimizing the path for pouring, says Groen.
Second, keen attention was paid to the cover.
Eclipse’s improved, counter-balanced cover design
ensures ease of assembly and easier cleaning to NSF
standards. Plus, the counter-balanced cover allows
you to control steam venting more easily during
cooking, and adjustable cooking vents control
condensate formed during cooking.
Other Eclipse features include power or manual tilt;
and one centrally located, water-resistant control
box. Pouring rim height reaches 37”.
For information on the Eclipse pan, contact Groen/DI
www.unifiedbrands.net or call 800/676-9040.
its collection of classic braising pan models,
Legion Industries offers the Combi-Pan Tilting
Skillet, a kind of super braising pan.
In addition to traditional braising pan
functions—griddling, roasting, warming, steaming,
proofing, holding, etc.—Combi-Pan is rated to ANSI
standards as a deep-fat fryer.
In addition to gas and electric options, Combi-Pan
comes in a direct-steam version, which means you can
roast with or without steam, depending on your
model. You get quite a choice of pan options, too:
Combi-Pan capacities range from 15 to 62 gals.
As for functionality, Combi-Pan offers a pan rim
height of 36”. There’s also a 10º
tilt and a standard pan rack, which all work
together to make product and grease handling
Legion also says its patented heating system heats
100% of the pan’s cooking surface right up to the
sidewalls, and full insulation means the exterior of
the unit stays cool to the touch.
Combi-Pan offers welded and polished seams
throughout, so there are no screws or fasteners
anywhere to trap food or bacteria. Each unit is
completely serviceable from the front, and a 180º
pan body rotation makes all cleaning or servicing
For more information on the Combi-Pan, contact
Legion Industries at
www.legionindustries.com or call 800/833-9803.
Forge Industries steps up with its UniVerse
Tilting Skillet in 30- and 40-gal. capacities, gas
and electric. Units come in open-leg and closed-base
models, and with manual or power-tilt capabilities.
Heat exchange gets a boost with designs that apply
heat directly to the bottoms of pans. Gas models
feature finned aluminum extrusions bolted to pan
bottoms, and gas flames are applied directly to the
extrusions. Electric models have tubular heating
elements applied directly to the undersides of pans.
All models offer a feature that cuts gas or power to
the electric elements when a pan is tilted more than
from normal horizontal cooking position.
The counterbalanced cover is pivoted from the frame
using gas shocks, and the cover comes with a
The company says its control housing is
water-resistant, and the controls come with a
one-hour mechanical timer. The temperature
controller is solid-state. Options include a 1 1/2”
tangent draw-off valve and 12” pan holder insert.
Market Forge also offers countertop skillets in 10-
and 16-gal. sizes.
For more information on UniVerse, contact Market
www.marketforge.com or call 617/387-4100.
Southbend/Middleby’s line of SteamMaster
braising pans offers you a variety of
capacities—from 12 gals. to 40 gals.—plus the choice
of gas or electric and manual, electric or
SteamMaster manual-tilt models come with an open-leg
design, while the hydraulic-tilt models sit on
modular cabinets. All feature a one-piece,
coved-corner, 10-gauge stainless steel pan with
satin finish exterior and polished interior.
Cabinet models provide a 5/8”-thick stainless steel
clad bottom for each pan, and this bottom
efficiently conducts heat throughout the whole pan.
Gas models get bar burner treatment, while electric
units have tube-style elements clamped to the pan
bottom. The cabinet design itself conforms to other
Southbend cooking equipment and is equipped with 6”
The open-leg, electric model features heating
elements that are embedded into 1 1/2”-thick
aluminum castings, which themselves are clamped to
the underside of the pan. Heating is
thermostatically controlled and distributed
uniformly across the pan surface.
SteamMaster also offers a spring-assisted stainless
cover and a tilt safety switch. For more information
on the SteamMaster line, contact Southbend at
www.southbendnc.com or call 800/348-2558.
Series hit the market in September 2002 with a
downsized footprint and added features to make the
pan more user friendly.
Vulcan-Hart’s V Series offers 12-, 30- and
40-gal. models, with gas, electric, manual tilt and
power tilt options. Sizing of the floor models is
key for those with tight kitchens: The 30-gal. unit
runs 36” wide, and the 40 is 46” wide.
Cleaning gets a boost with a coved-corner interior
that sports a bead-blasted finish. And inside,
embossed gallon markings mean that for the life of
the unit, you’ll always know what capacity you’re
dealing with just by looking; markings won’t wear
off. Also, Vulcan’s water-tight controls are
designed to NEMA 4X standards.
User-friendly features include a 4”-wide return
flange with a pouring lip, in a design that keeps
product from spilling out over the lip. That means
higher yield for you, says Vulcan. Plus, a standard
receiving pan support mounts under the lip, and when
you don’t need the support, it drops away.
Other standards include a spring-assisted,
warp-resisting cover that stays open in any
For information on the V Series, contact Vulcan-Hart
www.vulcanhart.com or call 800/814-2028.