Steam jacketed kettles can be a godsend for high volume cooking operations. These steam kettles heat indirectly by blasting the exterior of the kettle cooking chamber with superheated pressurized steam; heating the kettle thoroughly but avoiding scorching (unless, of course, foods are overcooked). These pieces are incredibly useful in operations that need to produce larger quantities of items like sauces, pastas, soups, or even more delicate food items like melted chocolate. For many, however, a steam kettle may be a new addition to the kitchen, and it can be relatively difficult to pick the proper model. Here are a few tips for first time kettle buyers, or for those just looking to upgrade their current model.
Steam Jacket: Some models of steam kettles have full steam jackets, and others have what is known as a 2/3 jacket. Traditionally, kettles that tilt have a 2/3 jacket. These partial steam jackets still thoroughly heat the steam kettle; however, the 1/3 of the kettle that is not jacketed has a spout that allows the kettle’s contents to be poured easily. Full steam jackets are usually limited to large stationary kettles which have spouts located near the bottom of the chamber intended to drain the kettle’s contents (though there are some tilting kettles that are fully jacketed). Both 2/3 jackets and full jackets heat very well, and tend to be jacketed differently just to accommodate the design of the kettle.
Volume / Size: Steam kettles come in a wide range of sizes to accommodate the varying needs of commercial foodservice operations. There are countertop model steam kettles that start at capacities around five gallons, and there are floor model kettles that have capacities of 150 gallons or more. The size and volume of your business’s ideal steam kettle will vary depending on two factors: 1. the size of batches being cooked, and 2. the frequency at which it will be used. It is of paramount importance that your kettle be able to cook sufficient amounts of food product, however, if it is infrequently used (or used for only one or two items), cooking several batches in a smaller kettle will not only save money on equipment, but can ensure a better quality product. Businesses that lean heavily on their kettle, or use them for a variety of different food products would do well to purchase a larger kettle for larger batches. A larger kettle will allow operations to produce larger reserves; a necessity if your kettle is not available when there is a rush one of your menu items.
Gas or Electric: The age old question for restaurateurs holds true for steam kettles as well. Steam kettles are available in both electric and gas models, and it is mostly a matter of preference. Generally, larger kettles tend to operate on gas since they tend to move around a kitchen less, and operators tend to prefer smaller kettles that operate on electricity to increase their mobility around the kitchen. However, this is not necessarily always the case, and operators should choose their proper kettle on a case by case basis. Energy costs, daily use, and accessibility all play a role in picking the right kettle. For more information on which power source to choose, please refer to our Buyer’s Guide When To Choose Gas & When To Choose Electric Equipment.
Stationary Kettles vs. Tilting Kettles: As stated earlier, the primary distinction that can be made in the variety of steam jacketed kettles is the way they are emptied. This is purely a matter of preference. Though there are both stationary and tilting kettles that have large capacities, all small kettles and countertop kettles are tilting. A tilting kettle can be easier to empty (especially at smaller volumes), however at larger volumes some operators prefer the easy to control flow that the spout of a large stationary kettle offers. Large stationary kettles can at times be easier to clean, though the channel that leads to the spout must be cleaned frequently as well, lest the spout get clogged. Businesses that cook things that feature chunky food products that may clog these spouts should go with tilting kettles.
Steam Kettles vs. Tilting Braising Pans: Tilting braising pans are similar to steam jacketed kettles, except for one major factor: the steam jacket. Tilting braziers are directly heated, and can be used in a similar fashion to steam kettles (though they are more apt to scorch delicate foods). These braising pans, however, can also be used to do things like sauté or braise because they are directly heated. Tilting braising pans are ideal for things like French onion soup or pasta sauce as vegetables or meats can be sautéed, and then stock or water can be added to be simmered and slow cooked. They can be emptied as easily as standard tilting kettles, but don’t necessarily come in sizes as large as tilting kettles.