Foodservice Equipment Reports

Rotos Running Right

True story: There once was an operator who considered swapping out an entire fleet of rotisserie ovens when he found himself making repeated calls to his service agent to fix thermostats that “weren’t working.”

Fortunately, Mark LeBerte, president of ATECH Inc. of Nashville, Tenn., discovered the real cause of the rotisserie dilemma and knew how to solve it without replacing any ovens. Something simple—dirty thermometers—had sabotaged temperature readings over time.

Few things are worse, says LeBerte, than assuming your thermostat is off when really you’ve neglected to clean your in-unit thermometers. “Daily cleaning is the most important preventive maintenance you can do for a rotisserie, and when you don’t, that’s where most of the issues come up.”

LeBerte says operators can do themselves—and their staffs—a favor by scheduling daily cleaning for rotisseries, whose operation rotates hot grease pretty much everywhere inside a unit.

Now, if you have a self-cleaning rotisserie, cleaning will likely not be as big a challenge. Typically all you need to do is push a button and watch as a cleaning cycle begins to scour the interior of the oven. Afterward, the oven drains, the grease hose is flushed and a heat cycle dries the interior. Some models even have auto shut-off features that stop the cleaning cycle if doors are opened.

But if you’re like most operators, your traditional rotisseries—whether gas or electric—will need all your efforts to keep them spinning at peak performance. Read on for LeBerte’s tips.

Clean Glass Doors
Consider the maintenance you do at the end of a cooking cycle the prep for the beginning of the next. For example, at the end of every cycle your staff should be methodically wiping down the inside of the glass doors after foods are removed, using a damp cloth or towel. Wiping the glass doors prevents grease from hardening after successive cooking cycles.

More importantly, residual grease eventually leads to carbon buildup, which is very difficult to remove later. Poor door cleaning is easy to spot, says LeBerte: When he sees scratches in the glass, he knows a staffer tried to scrape off baked-in grease.

Cover Central Shaft
LeBerte advises wrapping the central shaft of a rotisserie with aluminum foil. Grease splattering from rotating foods tends to coat the shaft, so the foil becomes an easy barrier to protect it. At the end of the day, the greasy foil can be removed and replaced. LeBerte says any method that safely protects surfaces from being drenched with grease will greatly simplify daily cleaning.

Empty Drip Pans Often
This seems like a no-brainer, as drip pans continuously catch moisture and grease. LeBerte says pans should be emptied often during the work day, and at day’s end they should be washed in hot water.

Busy kitchen conditions often mean the drip pan goes unemptied cycle after cycle, which in turn means more greasy challenges await at the end of the day when it comes time for a final emptying.

Cool Down Before Cleaning
At the end of the day, LeBerte advises allowing the oven to cool until warm enough to touch. Starting any cleaning while the unit is still too hot can result in serious damage to delicate components, primarily ceramic burners and igniters, he says.

Spray The Interior
Once the oven is warm, spray the interior sides of the oven with an approved cleaning solution. Every rotisserie manufacturer recommends a cleaning agent. LeBerte says this seemingly simple task is often a huge source of problems.

“I can’t tell you how many cleaning issues start with spraying down equipment too much,” LeBerte says. Dousing with cleansers can damage burners and igniters. Introducing too much moisture makes it more difficult to wipe out, he adds. Front panel controls should only be wiped with a damp—not wet—cloth to
keep water from seeping behind the panel and damaging electronics.

LeBerte says once the cleaning solution has been allowed to penetrate—about 10 minutes—and the residue wiped away, the oven should be turned on again to medium-high heat.

“Heating for 10 to 15 minutes will dry out the oven,” he says. And just before the kitchen closes for the night, there’s one more task: keep rotisserie doors open. LeBerte says airing out the units overnight ensures that moisture is not trapped inside after the cycle of cooling and heating during cleaning.

“Most morning failure problems are due to humidity, which can build up overnight and keep the igniters from lighting,” LeBerte says. “All you need to do is leave the doors open.”

When To Call Your Servicer

Of course, some maintenance will have to be done by your service agent. This typically includes checking gearbox lubrication, inner drum seals, speed control monitors, and switch-dust and moisture covers.

LeBerte says you should help your staffs become more familiar with their rotisserie equipment and how it works. A lack of knowledge can lead to faulty cleaning procedures and otherwise unnecessary service calls.

“You should ask servicers to show your staffs where key components are, so they can avoid damaging them,” he says.

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