Commercial toasters are featured in more than just diners and coffee shops. A variety of different toasters have homes in commercial kitchens; each of these types of toasters has its own niche, and as always, varying menus call for different equipment. Before shopping, it is important to know the functions and differences of these units to ensure that the toaster you pick will be the right one for your needs. Let’s take a look at the main varieties of toaster that call the commercial kitchen home, and some of the factors to consider when purchasing each.
Pop-Up Toasters: The standard for toasters, commercial pop-up toasters operate similarly to the ones found in most homes. Sliced bread is placed in the slots, lowered into the toasting chamber, and is it browned on either side by heating elements. The dials on pop-up toasters control an internal timer which adjusts how long bread is in the chamber, and once the internal time is up, the toast pops up. Most commercial pop-up toasters have larger slots to accommodate large slices or bagels. Commercial operations tend to have multiple types of bread that go into their toaster, and commercial pop-ups are (for the most part) designed to fit items such as bagels. These toasters can usually fit approximately 4 slices (in either 2 or 4 slots), and bread is usually toasted faster than in residential toasters.
Conveyor Toasters: Commercial conveyor toasters are one step beyond the pop-up toaster. Conveyor toasters are designed for high volume operations that have a need for quicker toaster turnaround. These toasters have the capability to brown anywhere from 300 to around 1,600 slices of every hour (varies by model), and like their pop-up counterparts have heating elements on both sides of the toasting chamber. Unlike pop-up toasters, however, conveyor toasters have a stainless steel belt that carries bread through the chamber at a continuous pace; ensuring an even toast each time. These toasters still have a dial to adjust how dark or lightly foods are browned, and run constantly to service operations that are constantly in need of toasted bread or bagels.
Vertical / Bun Toasters: Bun toasters are, in essence, specialty conveyor toasters used at burger / sandwich shops. These toasters have conveyors that usually run vertically, and have a roller on top to apply butter or margarine before buns go in to toast. They operate identically to traditional conveyor toasters, however before each shift a piece of heat resistant vinyl is often placed on the belt to shield the elements from butter and potential grease flare ups.
Sandwich Toasters / Mini-Impingers: There are a number of various sandwich shops that now offer toasted sandwiches for customers. There are two primary types of equipment used for toasting sandwiches. The first is the mini-impinger oven. Mini-impingers are small conveyor ovens that act as finishing ovens. They operate similarly to conveyor toasters, but operate at much higher temperatures. These ovens can be used for finishing other products as well (such as potato skins or nachos), but are often found in sandwich shops. The second type of sandwich toaster commonly used in sandwich shops is the microwave convection oven. Microwave convection ovens combine microwave cooking power, forced air convection heating, and in some instances, toaster oven heating elements to drastically decrease cook times, while still holding onto the ability to crisp and brown. Microwave convection ovens cook in a fraction of the time of a standard convection, and some can cook a 12” frozen pizza in less than three minutes. Many sandwich chains utilize these machines because they toast and heat sandwiches thoroughly in a matter of seconds.
Tips For Shopping: Understanding the differences between the main varieties of toasters will no doubt help make shopping easier. There are, however, a few more things that should be examined before a purchase is to be made. These factors are equally important, and will serve to fine tune your eye when shopping for the right toaster for your operation.
- Slot Spacing / Conveyor Spacing – It is important to know that everything you need to fit in the toaster will fit no problem. Many operations that need a toaster will be toasting a variety of different bread products, including texas toast or bagels, which do not always fit in toasters. This does not only hold true for pop-up toasters, but also for conveyors as well. Though vertical toasters usually have an adjustable conveyor to fit larger buns, there are some standard conveyor toasters built with larger tracks to accommodate bagels or larger slices of bread. Sandwich toasters should also be examined by the size of their baking chambers, as one would not do well to buy a sandwich toaster that can’t fit a full sandwich in it.
- Turnover – Most, if not all, toasters nowadays will toast both sides of the bread; this use of the term “turnover” refers to the actual cook time turnover. Small diners may do well with just a 4-slot pop-up toaster, whereas a large breakfast establishment may require a large, high volume conveyor bagel toaster to keep up with rush time demands. All toasters have adjustable heat, so large machines can be turned down to suit lighter volumes, however light volume machines can’t be turned up to be machines they aren’t. And remember, just because a machine has a higher volume output per hour, does not mean it will toast two pieces of bread faster; these machines will just cook more per hour, consistently, but may take the same time (roughly) to cook just two pieces of toast.
- Counter Space – Different toasters take up different amounts of always valuable kitchen space. Mini-impingers are relatively large pieces of equipment, and even then a microwave convection oven may be smaller, they tend to have a footprint larger than a square foot. The same can be said for conveyor and pop-up toasters. Conveyors have a significantly larger footprint than pop-ups, so the need for a high volume machine should surpass the need for extra space (at least with this piece of equipment).
- Electrical Configuration / Output – Most residential toasters will operate on standard 120 V electricity, and many commercial pop-ups will have 120 V models as well; however, many commercial pop-ups will have 208/240 V counterparts. The same can be said for conveyor toasters, although most conveyor toasters that operate on 120 V are low volume. Since high volume machines use more electricity, they will usually be made 208 or 240 V, as to limit their energy expenditure. There are not any mini-impingers or microwave convections that will have the option to run on 120 V.